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Florida State football v. Syracuse: Preview and prediction

The Carrier Dome has no A/C but is named after a company that makes A/C units. The Syracuse mascot is an orange but oranges do not grow in New York. The North is a strange place. FOOTBALL!!!

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

After posting 2 wins in as many games to start the season, Syracuse has struggled. The Orange lost their next three games to Maryland, Notre Dame and Louisville and now must host the Seminoles without their starting quarterback and a new offensive coordinator. They lost every game against Power 5 competition by double digits.

On the other hand, FSU has Notre Dame on deck in what is an obvious lookahead spot. What could go wrong?

Time: 12:00 ET | Line: FSU -24 | O/U 54

V. Syracuse's Defense

Syracuse runs an attacking defense that looks to create turnovers and when it's working it works well. Against Notre Dame the 'Cuse racked up 5 turnovers, but at the same time they gave up quite a few big plays en route to a 31-15 loss. With a defense like that you take the good with the bad.

Syracuse does defend the run pretty well and that's about what you'd expect from a mostly senior laden line. They shoot gaps and take chances, which leads to tackles for loss but also big plays.

FSU will likely come out throwing against the 'Cuse while the Orange will likely come out blitzing. Syracuse has done a great job of pulling in turnovers this year and will need to continue to do that to keep the game close against FSU. FSU's line has pass protected quite well this year but can be tested by Syracuse's Cam Lynch. Lynch is certainly the focal point of the 'Cuse pass rush but if FSU can handle the senior outside linebacker the Orange do not present any other threats.

The younger FSU receivers have been getting more playing time as the season has worn on and could get quite a bit more if Rashad Greene isn't cleared to play. The Noles shouldn't need their best receiver to beat Syracuse but it does remove a safety blanket for Winston as he's the only receiver that with enough experience to be where he's supposed to be on every play. FSU will be without Karlos Williams so Mario Pender, Dalvin Cook and Ryan Green will be looked at to carry the load at running back. Their success, or failure, on blitz protection could stymie this offense.

The FSU offense may struggle early with gaining consistent yardage against Syracuse but should have many opportunities for big plays against the Orange secondary. The secondary isn't awful by any means but due to the nature of the defensive scheme run and the talent discrepancy between the defenders and the receivers Syracuse has played they are prone to give up big plays. Ultimately, the Syracuse defense probably looks worse than they should due to the Syracuse offense (it's like northern Wake Forest!).


  • More than 7.0 yards a play before garbage time (350 yards on 50 plays, 420 yards on 60 plays, 490 yards on 70 plays)
  • No more than 1 turnover
  • 66% or greater TDs in the red zone

V. Syracuse's Offense

George McDonald was Syracuse's offensive coordinator until he wasn't. After a failed mayoral election bid for NYC McDonald took the reigns of the Syracuse offense but the offense never got on track (by S&P standards they are marginally better than Florida) and Scott Shafer decided to demote McDonald and promote quarterbacks coach Tim Lester.  What better time to introduce a new quarterback?

Syracuse will likely use a two-headed quarterback attack against FSU at least until (if?) one of them separates himself from the other. On one hand (head?) you have redshirt freshmen Austin Wilson who has a good arm but lacks injured quarterback Terrel Hunt's mobility and on the other you have true freshman A.J. Long who better fits the dual-threat quarterback Syracuse is looking for but is a bit undersized and may not know the offense.

The bigger issue for Syracuse is finding help for whatever quarterback they play. Running backs Prince-Tyson Gulley and Adonis Ameen-Moore are fine but they run behind a line that has struggled to match it's competition. It's not a bad line by any means and they tend to hit their assignments correctly but they lack the required talent and technique to keep the offense moving. The Orange's receivers are not particularly threatening either as both senior starters Adrian Flemming and Steve Ishmael have never showed much game breaking ability.

The Syracuse offense might see a bit of success early as FSU coaches won't be completely certain what Syracuse will run. The plays will largely be the same as they have all year but concentration of what plays are used could change based on a new offensive coordinator and new quarterbacks with differing skills. Lester comes from a west coast offense background so expect more of a short passing game with Wilson in the game but more quarterback run looks while Long is in. Either way Syracuse is going to have to run the ball with their backs to stay on schedule.

The goal for the FSU defense is simple: stack the box to stop the run and force the young quarterbacks to win the game. This will put the corner backs and safeties on more of an island but that's not a bad thing. Jimbo Fisher has said both Ronald Darby and PJ Williams are back to 100% and practicing with the team while Tyler Hunter is starting to round back into his 2012 form meaning the better defensive results against Wake Forest might not completely be due to Wake's poor offense.

Before the season, FSU fans were very worried about the lack of proven depth along the defensive line and while FSU has sustained some injuries there, the younger players have stepped up quite admirably. One of those is defensive end Lorenzo Featherston who has used his length and speed to disrupt plays in the backfield. One thing Featherston does need to improve on before the Notre Dame game is getting sucked inside and losing contain (it hasn't really bit him yet because of his physical gifts).


  • Less than 4.5 yards/play allowed before garbage time (225 yards on 50 plays, 270 yards on 60 plays, 315 yards on 70 plays).
  • Force 2 turnovers
  • Less than 50-percent touchdowns allowed in the red zone.

Special Teams

Remember the last thing we wrote about FSU's special teams? Yeah, it's the same.

Syracuse Punter Riley Dixon is an okay punter who might be the Orange's best offensive threat. Freshman Cole Murphy took over kicking duties from senior Ryan Norton during the 3rd game of the season and has performed well with a long of 49. Murphy also handles the kick offs but doesn't get many touchbacks. All of this is to say that once again, FSU should have a good opportunity to make noise in the return game (they've been a block away from a big gain a few times now).


Much like last week there isn't much reason to believe Syracuse has much of a chance. It's possible this game is much closer than it should be due to FSU looking ahead a week to the Notre Dame game but it's not likely. Once more talent differential should give the Noles an easy W.

Florida State 42, Syracuse 9 | Chance of winning: 99%

Bud: Florida State 34, Syracuse 9

Staff Predictions

PhenomeNole: 35-3 Noles sleep walk but still roll. Just stay healthy.

TimScribble: FSU struggles and the game goes down to the wire. FSU 42-12

Kyle Griffs: Syracuse is a total mess right now, having just fired its offensive coordinator and now having to play without its starting QB. Meanwhile, FSU is dealing with injuries of its own and could be overlooking Syracuse for Notre Dame. All things considered, with the way FSU has played the last few weeks, I expect another similar performance to last week: a rather ugly game with FSU pulling away in the second half. FSU 38-10.

ricobert1: 48-9, FSU. Running clock in the 2nd half.

Fsued: I'm tired of overestimating this team. FSU 27 Syracuse 12

Andy Wright:

Onebarrelrum: Cuse is in turmoil right now. Nothing is going right. Coaches getting demoted, QB is out, pets heads are falling off. But this is a big look ahead game for FSU. I don't expect much planning will go into this game, nor expect to see a high level of execution. Fans will spend another week wondering what this team is capable of going into the Notre Dame game. FSU pulls away in the 3rd in another sloppy game and gives up some late scores to lose the cover. Noles win 34-20.

Matt Minnick: FSU - 41    Team in Orange and Blue - 16. One of the freshman receivers goes over 100 yards.

Dustin Tackett: Syracuse is dealing with its own set of issues with new QB and OC, so it's an uphill battle for the Orange. FSU defense smothers. FSU, with all its injuries, manages the best rushing performance of the year with Mario Pender getting the starting nod. 'Noles win 48-3.

NoleThruandThru: Good guys: 41 Yankees: 10 Game is uglier than the final score dictates.

Michael Rogner: Noles continue to struggle, win 41-0

The K-man: Still waiting for the weather to turn. Keep waiting. Continuing Bud's theme of cinema bad guys who win, the The Ring's Samara brings evil to whomever watches her videotape. "Horror" is best description for the gold letters on white jerseys. Have you seen these terrible things on TV or in the flesh? Pain always follows. 31 points in Texas, 41 points in Carolina...and I fear 23 more points in gloomy New York. Poor Winston will have to put up 45 of his own to temporarily escape the wrath. When does the nightmare end? 7 days later in Tallahassee we might be wearing black... Noles 45 Syracurse 23

pbysh: 34-10, ESPN headline reads "FSU escapes Syracuse"

Dylan Kidd: I think the offense runs through Greene to an extent a lot of people don't quite realize right now. I think that becomes a bit more clear in a 27-10 FSU victory, in what may ultimately end up being a good experience for younger guys forced into primary roles as the year goes forward.



nolesblogger: 30-13 Noles

Alan Mundy: 34-6

jmnpb996: 37-10, Noles cover, defense does well with corners now actually practicing.