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Florida State football preview and Nolecast: Syracuse

FSU plays its final ACC game of the season a week before welcoming Florida to Tallahassee.

NCAA Football: Boston College at Florida State Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

Only two games remain in the 2016 regular season for the Florida State Seminoles. Before a rivalry showdown with Florida after Thanksgiving, FSU will travel this week to face ACC foe Syracuse in the Carrier Dome.

The Syracuse offense, while middle of the pack nationally, will present an upgrade from that of Boston College last week, and the Orange bring a very different approach in terms of pace. While BC managed a total of 48 plays at Doak Campbell Stadium last week, Cuse averages nearly 80 plays per game, good for 12th in the country and trailing only Clemson within the league.

While BC’s offense is atrocious, FSU’s defense held it to paltry totals as it should have. The Eagles averaged barely 3 yards per snap and were held scoreless until the Noles’ backups were in late in the evening.

Cuse’s offense ranks 62nd in S&P+, but the Orange’s running game is what weighs it down, ranking 106th on the ground. They do succeed on passing downs (second-and-8 or more, third-and-5 or more), however, which aligns with a weakness of the FSU D (71st on passing downs), but the uncertainty surrounding who will play QB certainly muddles things for Syracuse and means they’ll be in trouble if FSU can get them off schedule early, as they’ve been pretty good, but not great at doing to opponents.

Syracuse has faced five top-32 S&P+ defenses in 2016 (FSU enters this week at No. 31), and the Orange have managed 21.4 points per game against those defenses. The donut Cuse managed against Clemson is by far its worst output in those games, and it’s no surprise that QB Eric Dungey was knocked out of that matchup in the first quarter. Dino Babers’ pass-first tempo offense sputters without Dungey at the helm, and he’s doubtful for Saturday.

It could be a big day for Dalvin Cook in the dome as he looks certain to overtake Warrick Dunn as FSU’s all-time rushing leader. Cuse’s defensive front isn’t very big, and the Noles shouldn’t have trouble running against a unit that ranks 102nd nationally in opponent-adjusted run defense. Had Cook played last season against Cuse — he sat out because of an ankle injury — he’d almost certainly be No. 1 in the FSU record books already, as Jacques Patrick had himself a day with 162 yards and 3 TDs on 6.75 ypc. Cook could eat up a chunk of the 449 yards he needs to eclipse last season’s rushing total if he rips off some big runs against an SU defense that has allowed a lot of explosive plays to opponents.

As bad as Cuse has fared against the run, they’ve been nearly as bad against the pass. Even if FSU does get behind the chains a bit, FSU will like its chances to make up that deficit on passing downs, where Orange opponents enjoy one of the highest success rates in the country. Deondre Francois is 17th nationally in yards per attempt at 8.4 on the year, and that number should get a bump this week against a defense that’s allowing 8.5 per pass, 120th in college football.

This week’s preview edition of the Nolecast will get your ready for FSU’s 2016 ACC finale unlike any other outlet, as Bud and Ingram provide in-depth, intelligent analysis with the help of Louisiana Hot Sauce and Madison Social.