The Syracuse Orange have been one of the hardest to peg teams in the ACC throughout the Dino Babers era.
In his first season, the Orange have been sub-.500 in 5 of the 7 seasons he’s been at the helm, including a 1-10 showing in 2020. But in those other two seasons, they’ve reached the top-15 of the AP poll during the year. Last season, being one of those two years before some injuries late in the year derailed them.
Could having quarterback Garrett Shrader back at the helm put them in a position to build on last year’s success, compete in the ACC and pull a potential upset at Doak or will they be just another middling ACC team in Florida State’s path to Charlotte?
They were certainly a minor inconvenience a year ago, but 2021 was much tighter.
Florida State vs. Syracuse
Date: October 14
Location: Tallahassee, FL
Previous matchup: FSU 38, Syracuse 3
All-time series: Florida State leads 12-2
Syracuse Orange: Team Preview
2022 record: 7-6
Two things to know:
- Replacing offensive talent — The headline for this team as I mentioned above is the return of Garrett Shrader as the team’s quarterback for a third year. But he’s going to see a lot of new faces when he looks around the huddle. Three offensive lineman from last year are gone and leading rusher Sean Tucker is in the Buccaneers running back room. Tucker’s replacement will likely be LeQuint Allen, though he is currently serving a suspension from the team for off-the-field issues. As for what he brings on the field, Shrader said at ACC Kickoff he brings a different skill set and that they’re trying to tailor the offense to suit his skills, according to the Orange Fizz. On the line, the Orange are looking to some transfers to patch up those gaps so we’ll have to see how they gel early in the season before the matchup with Florida State.
- Shifting defensive philosophy — Perhaps the biggest change for this team will be the addition of Rocky Long as the school’s defensive coordinator. He’s got 50 years experience under his belt including successful head coaching stints at New Mexico and San Diego State. Not only is he experienced, but he’s also one of the original pioneers of the 3-3-5 defense. We’ve seen it bring success against spread offenses before. The question is if Syracuse will have the guns to make it successful.
Three key players:
- QB Garrett Shrader — He’s where it begins and ends for Syracuse. He’s an efficient passer that completed nearly 65% of his passes last season, but, at his core, he’s a tough, powerful runner. Not many quarterbacks have the ability to be his team’s best short-yardage back, but Shrader is certainly one of them.
I don’t think anyone would rank him the top 10-15 quarterbacks in the country, but he’s exactly what a team like Syracuse can use to spring upsets. Experienced, efficient and capable of doing a lot on his own if needed.
- TE Oronde Gadsden II — Switching from WR to TE a year ago unlocked Gadsden as one of the best pass catching TEs in the ACC and the nation. His sophomore campaign saw him catch 61 passes for 969 yards and six touchdowns. Those 969 yards led all tight ends in college football. He was also one-of-five players in the ACC to register four-or-more 100-yard games (more than Johnny Wilson’s three).
- LBs Stefon Thompson and Marlowe Wax — I’ll cheat and double up at this last spot since both figure to play huge roles in this new defense. Thompson stepped on campus as a freshman and started game one for the Orange. In 23 career games, he’s got 117 tackles and figures to anchor this unit again this season. He missed nearly all of last year after suffering a season ending injury in the first half of the opener. Wax is another veteran linebacker who has started the last 25 games for the Orange. He’s got 184 career tackles and 12.5 sacks in his 36 game career.
Florida State vs. Syracuse: Game Preview
Florida State is the more talented team and by mid-October, you’d expect that to be on full display. If they limit Shrader’s ability to keep drives alive with his legs and get a few quick stops, you can easily see this end in route.
I think the realistic case is also the best case. Florida State’s offense should see plenty of success like they did a year ago. I only see them struggling if Syracuse manages to keep the ball away from them or Cuse really becomes dominant in the 3-3-5. Even in that scenario, I’d expect this to be a multi-score win for FSU, just maybe not the five score blowout we saw last season.
The worst scenario is letting Syracuse hang around too long. It’s always the fear with a team that has a veteran quarterback. If Syracuse is able to control the clock and keep FSU’s offense off the field, this could be close into the fourth. At that point, it becomes upset alert time and anything can happen at that point. You’d like to see FSU put this one away earlier, but I wouldn’t want Shrader to have the ball late with a chance to win it.