We're very fortunate to have the SB Nation network of team-specific sites with which to work during game weeks. This is especially true this week, as John Cassillo of our internet best friends at Troy Nunes is An Absolute Magician is here to tell us about the 2015 Syracuse Orange. We discuss feelings, a talented freshman quarterback, and yes, UNIFORMS.
TN: Hey, friends. How are things? The team looked good through a 3-0 start, and even played well in a tough home game against LSU. How are you feeling about the season after four straight losses?
TNIAAM: Things were pretty nice. Now they're very bad. We obviously expected the loss to LSU, but since then? Three very winnable games all squandered for a variety of reasons. We didn't have to win ALL of them to get to bowl eligibility, but it sure would've been nice leading into our three-game stretch vs. Florida State, Louisville and Clemson. Lose more than two of those and our season's dead and buried. Pretty stark contrast from the hot start and heightened expectations with Eric Dungey under center, for sure.
TN: Eric Dungey has been a bright spot for the Orange as a freshman. What does he bring to the table as a player, and how healthy is he after an apparent concussion on a scary hit last week?
TNIAAM: Dungey's a pretty electric playmaker, both through the air and on the ground. What's great too is how he seems to get better and better each week, with smart and quick adjustments. Tell him he needs to release the ball quicker? The next week he's doing so (and accurately). Tell him he needs to run less? He's picking his spots more strategically. To have someone that cerebral also play with a ton of guts/fearlessness/moxy/balls keeps things incredibly entertaining, and at times, scary too, as we saw with that hit. Doctors cleared him, so it appears he didn't suffer a concussion. But it'll be interesting to see if he performs differently this Saturday in the aftermath.
TN: If Syracuse is to have success moving the ball against the Florida State defense, how will they do it?
TNIAAM: Mostly what they did in the first half against Pitt last week: Spreading the defense thin with its collection of speedy playmakers. Last week, we implored the team to get Steve Ishmael (who had two TDs versus FSU last year), Brisly Estime, Ervin Philips and Jordan Fredericks more. They responded in kind by utilizing them on 38 of 54 plays. Despite the low overall number, the percentage seemed to pay off with some explosive plays (six, in particular, totaled 190 yards). If the Orange can keep those four involved, it'll at least challenge the Seminoles' defense to stick with every man out there. Dungey's mobility is another weapon that should open things up a bit as he takes up a defender to prevent the run.
TN: The Orange defense checks in at 58th overall to date by S&P. What does this group like to do schematically, and who are its best players?
TNIAAM: We've had diminishing returns each week, though they experienced a slight uptick against Pitt (ultimately in a loss, however). Syracuse runs a base 4-3 scheme that's heavy on blitzes -- especially from the linebacker spots. Your players to keep an eye on are Ron Thompson at defensive end and Zaire Franklin at linebacker. If anyone's making plays against this Florida State offensive line, it's those two, who typically make a living in opposing backfields. Most blitzes will feature at least one of them, if not both. But if they fail to create as much "havoc" as intended and can't get to the quarterback and/or force turnovers, it leaves some holes for offenses to exploit.
TN: Which match-up do you like most for Syracuse on either side of the ball, and which most concerns you?
TNIAAM: I do like our front seven's potential to get some hits on Everett Golson. They've played against him before (last year against Notre Dame), and were able to get pressure on him quite a bit en route to a bunch of turnovers. But with that, he also had 25 straight completions against the Orange secondary -- a group that's even younger than they were last year when he appeared to tear right through them. Admittedly, I'm pretty terrified that targets like Kermit Whitfield, Jesus Wilson and Travis Rudolph will make short work of SU's inexperienced defensive backfield. Lesser receivers have had a ton of success against them already.
TN: Florida State and Syracuse should definitely coordinate their uniforms for this game, right? FSU can wear its black uniforms and Cuse can wear orange in a golden opportunity for a Halloween tribute.
TNIAAM: Mentioned this to Bud on Twitter and this seems like a no-brainer. I'm not overly optimistic this game is watchable past the first half, so might as well find something fun to pay attention to, right?
TN: The Seminoles opened as 20-point favorites for a home noon game against the Orange. What do you think happens on Saturday?
TNIAAM:I hate to say it, but put your money on Florida State here. As mentioned, Syracuse's defense HAS shown some improvement, but the lingering issues -- stopping quality running backs and hanging with receivers downfield -- are still there and coincidentally, are things Florida State should exploit with minimal effort. Miracles happen every so often, but it just seems like these defensive shortcomings are too much to overcome, despite what could be an encouraging offense. Put me down for 48-20 in favor of the 'Noles.