We’re very fortunate to have the SB Nation network of team sites to work with during game weeks. We’re especially fortunate this week, as we’re joined by our buddy John Casillo, editor over at Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician, SBN’s excellent Syracuse blog. We discuss bowl games, Eric Dungey’s penchant for physical pain, and potential other hobbies for FSU fans to explore.
TN: Syracuse sits at 4-4, needing two wins out of its remaining games against FSU, Wake Forest, Louisville, and Boston College for bowl eligibility. What were your expectations for the Orange entering the season, and do you think they'll go bowling?
TNIAAM: I thought we had a shot during preseason, but it required an upset. We got the upset against Clemson, but also lost an unexpected game to Middle Tennessee. What's helping us now is the ACC being a little bit weaker in the middle (and us being part of that middle), and our toughest foes being behind us. I'm not 100-percent sold on our bowl hopes now, but I'll feel pretty confident if we beat Florida State on Saturday.
Admittedly, I'd prefer it if these last four games were a bit more cut and dry. At one point, you figured two losses to Louisville and FSU, a win over Boston College and then a toss-up vs. Wake Forest. Now, we're almost as likely to go 4-0 as we are to go 0-4. That's unsettling.
TN: Although FSU currently brings little in the way of excitement to the football field, I am looking forward to watching the death-defying Eric Dungey on Saturday. Tell us a bit about how he's fared this year, along with his new favorite target, Steve Ishmael.
TNIAAM: Dungey's gotten better each season he's played for Syracuse, and most importantly, gotten smarter about how he runs with the football. However, offensive line struggles force him to take more hits than we'd like, and as you saw against Miami a couple weeks ago, that'll take its toll. He's a gamer, however, and he's willing (sometimes too much so) to put the entire team on his shoulders when called upon.
Still, he's become a more effective passer because of that running ability, as it makes him hard to get a read on, especially rolling out of the pocket. His rapport with Ishmael is something that's come out of the depth chart's changes. They've played together for three years, so they're very familiar with one another, but this is the first time they've been in the same offense. Between that and Amba Etta-Tawo's graduation, he naturally became the top option on the outside. It only makes sense he'd put up similar numbers to what the Maryland transfer did last year.
TN: Do you expect the Orange offense to find some success and put points on the board against FSU? Or do you expect the Seminoles to pull them into another miserable, low-scoring rock fight?
TNIAAM: I'm expecting a lower-scoring game, if only because of the Florida State defense and our propensity for mistakes. But I'd love nothing more than to see Syracuse put some points on the board. If they can establish some early tempo and success (see: the Clemson game), that should bode well for the Orange's scoring output. If not, it's going to be another game of scratching and clawing to break 20-24. Running the ball well out of the gate would go a long way for us.
TN: For the Syracuse defense: 1) Who will we see repeatedly sacking James Blackman? 2) Who is the defender in the running game who will trip Cam Akers up when he's one move away from breaking a touchdown? 3) Who will make a crippling interception late in the game when a Florida State receiver inevitably runs the wrong route?
TNIAAM: We've managed to generate a significant amount of pressure this season, but haven't gotten to the passer as much as we'd like. Maybe that changes against Florida State, though, and in that case you can count on JUCO transfer Alton Robinson to do the honors. In the run game, Chris Slayton has been a major stopper in the middle and is likely to do some damage against vs. FSU. We're not ones for interceptions or turnovers of any sort (seriously, Dungey is the only player with a takeaway in the last four weeks), but Christopher Fredrick is your guy if it happens. He came on late last year as an injury sub and has since earned a starting cornerback job. We like how he's progressed.
TN: I have heard some talk recently about a game called basket ball and am intrigued. Can you sell us on the virtues of this game? We don't want to do this one for a while.
TNIAAM: It's a pretty cool sport. Basically, you try to put a round ball in an elevated basket on each side of a court. Fast and tall players are pretty good at it. Having a curmudgeonly man on the sidelines to help coach the team is a plus. If you guys have any interest in watching it at all, I hear this thing called the Atlantic Coast Conference is pretty good at it.
TN: Okay, give it to us straight. Do you think the Orange will come to Tallahassee and take down the Seminoles?
TNIAAM: I think they can, but I'm cautious about whether they WILL or not. Like I said, Syracuse has certainly committed their fair share of mistakes this season and that's what has derailed us in each of the four single-digit losses we've suffered this season. If we can avoid starting slow, I have faith we'll be able to come in and grab a win by the skin of our teeth. If we struggle to move the ball early, I'm not banking on FSU just letting us back into the game. As long as you're not the same team that lost 35-3 on Friday night (and you're not), this will be a close one no matter who wins.
(Still, give me Syracuse by a score of 23-17)
Big thanks to John for his time and insight! Be sure to head over to TNIAAM for all things Syracuse. Their #FakeNunes piece this week is phenomenal, by the way. And our answers to their questions are right here.