The Seminoles are 7-1 all-time against the Orange, and 2-0 since Syracuse joined the league. Neither game has been particularly close. In 2014, Florida State beat Syracuse 38-20. It held the 18-point lead for most of the second half after taking a 24-6 lead to halftime and quickly making it 31-6 in the third quarter. However, FSU could not put an extra score on top for the cover and seemed lackadaisical for much of the rest of the second half after the score.
Last year, Syracuse had an aggressive, experienced defense that was largely squandered by a wholly ineffective offense and exacerbated by an injury to QB Terrell Hunt. Hunt is back and the offense could take a step forward with his mobility and an experienced offensive line. But the defense lost a greater percentage of tackles made than anyone else in the country.
This year, FSU welcomes Syracuse to Tallahassee on Halloween, sandwiched between games at Clemson and Georgia Tech. This profiles as a classic trap game, but is Syracuse actually going to be good enough to shut the trap on the Seminoles in Tallahassee?
Bill Connelly has now released his Syracuse preview for 2015. I have excerpted some of it, below, but please do read it in its entirety.
This defense might look similar stylistically, but the personnel will be almost completely different:
The defense, so good the last two years, must replace four of its top five linemen, three of five linebackers, and the top four defensive backs. That means the pressure is on the offense, not only because it dragged down the entire ship last year, but also because the D is almost certain to regress.
And it seems unlikely that the offense can pick up the slack to make up for the likely defensive drop off:
Syracuse's defense tried its best to put the Orange in position to win while the offense and special teams sabotaged every opportunity. An unpopular offensive coordinator was replaced mid-season, and the offense got worse (granted, with help from injuries); the offense should get more stable at quarterback but loses every decent big-play threat. And now the defense is going to feature about nine new starters.
When you finish 3-9 and rank 80th in F/+, it's hard to worry too much about turnover in personnel. Some new blood might not be a bad thing, and younger players like receiver Steve Ishmael, linebacker Zaire Franklin, and safety Antwan Cordy could turn out to be long-term difference-makers.
Still, it's hard to believe that the odds are in Syracuse's favor here. And in the 2015 ACC, with perhaps no elite team but tons of top-50 squads, even if the Orange defy odds and improve, they'll still struggle to locate six wins, especially if a rebuilt defense starts slowly against the weak early opponents on the schedule. Even a 4-1 start might result in a 5-7 finish.