clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Opponent Blogger Q&A: Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician

John Cassillo of TNIAAM tries to make sense of a week of calamities for Syracuse ahead of hosting the Seminoles.

Jeff Zelevansky

We're very fortunate to have the SB Nation network of blogs to work with during game weeks. This week has quickly become a favorite for us, as we're able to interact with Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician. As many of you already know, TNIAAM is a fantastic site. One of its managers, John Cassillo, is with us this week to try to figure out what to expect from the Orange in the Carrier Dome on Saturday.

TN: Syracuse sits at 2-3 and is coming off of a 28-6 home loss to Louisville. What's the feeling among ‘Cuse fans regarding the 2014 team right now? What were your expectations for the team entering the season, and what are they for the rest of the year?

TNIAAM: Ummm... you guys have been to TNIAAM this week, right? Well, things are "interesting" and we feel like we've been tossed into a dumpster fire, what with offensive coordinator demotions and QB injuries. Our expectations coming into the season were that this was a veteran team (true) that could probably win six or seven games against a very tough schedule. For the rest of the season, we're much less optimistic. It's largely the same team, but with some poor coaching and play-calling thus far, what could've been a 3-2 or better start was derailed into a nightmare. There are winnable games left, sure, but unless something surprising happens, our third straight bowl trip is very much in doubt.

TN: Quarterback Terrel Hunt will miss Saturday's game with a fractured fibula. On top of that, offensive coordinator George McDonald was demoted following last Saturday's game. Do you have any idea what we should expect to see from Syracuse on offense against the ‘Noles?

TNIAAM: No idea in the slightest, actually! Tim Lester moves up from QB coach to OC this week, and with that would probably come a re-emphasis on balance within this offense and a more straight-forward, traditional passing game. But without Hunt, all of that's up in the air now. Backups A.J. Long and Austin Wilson should both contend for snaps, but they're also very different passers. Long's the exciting, dual-threat recruit who hasn't take a snap all season, while Wilson is more traditional yet has already seen the field in 2014. I expect them to split early until one or the other asserts himself, though it's likely we're seeing a heavy dose of the SU ground attack in any case.

TN: If there's hope for success for the Orange against FSU's defense, in which individual or position group match-up do you see it?

TNIAAM: Oh, there isn't much. I'll be honest there. But the one place where we've at least seen some success is with the running game (as long as we commit to it, that is). Even beyond Hunt -- who was crucially important to that run game -- Ervin Phillips, Prince-Tyson Gulley, Adonis Ameen-Moore and George Morris are all very different backs who can keep a D-line on its toes (and keep fresh legs in for SU). If you see any real ball movement, it will be due to a steady variation between these four.

TN: The Syracuse defense has looked a bit better than its offense so far. Have the Orange remained aggressive on this side of the ball in 2014? How aggressive do you think they'll be against the Seminole offense on Saturday?

TNIAAM: That aggressiveness is the only thing keeping Syracuse together right now, so as much as it also lets up big plays (as is typical), it's also generated a lot of turnovers -- even more so than last year. If the Orange stand any chance at all against FSU (full disclosure: nope), they'll need to consistently apply pressure, get into the backfield and do whatever they can to force mistakes. We know Jameis Winston does pretty well under duress, but what's the alternative? Siting back and letting him just complete 40-yard bombs against our overmatched secondary? Blitz away, Syracuse!

TN: Which SU defenders will need to have big games in order for the Orange to have a chance to pull the upset?

TNIAAM: Cam Lynch, first and foremost. He's been a terror through five games (28 tackles, 6.5 TFLs, 5.5 sacks, one FF), and that will have to continue if the Orange want to keep this one close for more than a quarter. He's the most important piece of the Syracuse pass-rush, and even when he can't get into the backfield himself, the attention he brings certainly opens some holes for others (in particular, Eric Crume and Marqez Hodge on the interior). The secondary's still a mess, just like the last time the 'Noles faced SU, but Durell Eskridge should still factor in when FSU tries to stretch the field. He's an NFL prospect, and it would certainly behoove him to put in a strong showing against Florida State, which is something he's surely aware of.

TN: How have the Syracuse special teams fared to date? Are there any unmentioned SU playmakers we FSU fans should keep an eye on?

TNIAAM: Syracuse's return game is nothing to brag about, though at least it's seemed to be more capable than past years. The kicking game is a disaster, FYI, as the team has gone back-and-forth between Ryan "Bud Light Tall Boy" Norton and Cole Murphy on field goal duty, with less-than-great results. The lone bright spot: Riley Dixon, our pretty excellent punter, has proved there's nothing he can't do this season. Game-winning touchdown pass? Check. A 42-yard fake punt run vs. Notre Dame? Check again. He's the only Syracuse player who'd be guaranteed a spot on FSU's roster at this juncture.

TN: Syracuse opened as a 20-point home underdog, and the spread has moved to around 23 as of Monday afternoon. What do you think the chances are that the Orange can shock the world in the Carrier Dome, and how do you see the game unfolding?

TNIAAM: There is a .01% chance the upset could happen, but that's obviously not how I see this playing out. The Orange offense might come out strong with virtual unknowns at OC and QB, but after a drive or two of decent ball movement, Florida State will figure things out, adjust and then proceed to bury Syracuse. It may not be as bad as last year's 59-3 drubbing by any means. And it's unlikely to involve another rousing game of sideline "Hangman" (though mostly because Jimbo Fisher won't allow it). But SU is still going to lose. Let's go with 45-13 in a game that's largely over by the third quarter.

Thanks to John for his insight! Make sure to head over to Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician for all things Syracuse. Our answers to their questions are here.