This Saturday Florida State will host the Syracuse Orange at 3:30 PM on ESPN2.
Syracuse is 3-4 on the season with wins over Liberty, Western Michigan and Holy Cross and losses against Maryland, Clemson, NC State and Pittsburgh.
The last time the two schools faced off, Syracuse pounded Florida State 30-7 in the Carrier Dome. FSU’s last win in the series was in 2017. The Seminoles are undefeated at 5-0 against the Orange in Doak Campbell Stadium.
Receiver Ontaria Wilson suffered an injury to his shoulder/collarbone and is out for the rest of the season.
Linebacker Dontavious Jackson will miss the game due to an unspecified injury.
After getting hurt in last week’s game, offensive lineman Brady Scott and Baveon Johnson will return to the lineup this weekend. It is expected that freshman Darius Washington will start at left tackle. Hopefully he can add some stability to this sore spot on the offense.
Observations from the last game
Coach Willie Taggart had another clock management blunder in the final minutes of the Wake Forest game. After the offense completed a pass to setup 4th-and-6, it looked like Taggart had a tough time figuring out whether or not he wanted to go for it. He chose not to, but his decision took to long. As the play clock was about to expire, Taggart had to call a timeout to keep from losing 5 yards. However, the damage was already done as 40 seconds had already come off the clock. Against UL-M Taggart called a timeout before a punt saving 40 seconds for the Warhawks potential game-winning drive. Every football weekend I see multiple coaches make mistakes when it comes to the clock and even Bobby Bowden struggled in this aspect of the game.
Florida State offense versus Syracuse defense
The Syracuse defense has been under fire since having Maryland drop 63 points on them in week 2. In the two weeks that followed, the defense continued to struggle, but they have found some momentum in the past couple weeks against NC State and Pittsburgh. The numbers of points given up are down, but that might be due to the fact they were facing slower paced teams.
Alton Robinson, Syracuse’s most talented player, is returning to the lineup against FSU. Robinson and fellow senior Kendall Coleman were tied at the top of the ACC in sacks last season at 10 with former Seminole Brian Burns. However, this year, whether it is because of injury or lack of production, neither Robinson nor Coleman have been able to live up to last year’s production.
The Orange are okay against the run, but when the pass rushers are unable to get to the quarterback the ‘Cuse have had a lot of trouble against the pass. Other than the talented defensive ends, other players to look out for are linebackers Lakiem Williams and Andrew Armstrong as well as defensive tackle Josh Black. Williams, 51, and Armstrong, 50, lead the team in tackles and Black has racked up 4 sacks while Robinson has been hurt.
FSU would like to take advantage of the weak pass defense, but with their O-line problems the Seminoles will only have time to try the vertical passing game on 1st and 2nd down. On 3rd down sort passes to DJ Matthews and Cam Akers will be the way to go. Hopefully Akers can play like he did last week, sans the fumble, and keep James Blackman in manageable third down opportunities.
Florida State defense versus Syracuse offense
Once again FSU will face a team that likes to run as many plays as possible. Syracuse is 6th in the FBS in plays per game with 81.5, but they are 118th in yards per play. So the Wake game experience will help the ‘Noles prepare for the ‘Cuse. In that game the Seminole defense gave up its fair share of yards against Wake, but was brilliant in the redzone giving up only 1 TD in 6 tries.
Good news for the home team is that Syracuse has the worst offensive line FSU has gone up against this year. The Orange have given up 25 sacks in the last three weeks. After taking a beating in the last three games, quarterback Tommy DeVito had to be replaced by back up Clayton Welch. DeVito is regarded as the better thrower and Welch is considered the better runner, but in the second half of last week’s game Welch was almost able to lead a comeback using his arm and feet. It is still yet to be determined who will be under center for the Orange, but I think it will be Welch unless DeVito is 100% healthy.
Syracuse had one of the best seasons in years due to their ability to run the football, but this year has been a struggle on the ground. They are 117th in rushing yards per contest with only 104. The only effective runner has been Moe Neal, but he has only been able to rush for 370 yards and 3 TDs on the year.
Most of the success of the offense has been through the air when they get their deep wide receiver corps involved. The Orange have seven players that have at least 11 receptions on the year. The go to receiver, Tristan Jackson, leads the team in catches (38), receiving yards (575) and receiving TDs (6). Most of the other targets are spread around to fellow receivers, Todd Harris and Sean Riley, and running backs Neal and Abdul Adams. Tight end Aaron Hackett has 16 receptions with 4 of those going for a TD. So look out for him when SU gets to the redzone.
SU’s last opponent, Pittsburgh, plays a defense similar to what Harlan Barnett runs. The Panthers blitzed a lot last week so I think Barnett will be bringing extra guys as well. Outside linebackers Amari Gainer and Janarius Robinson will be used in most blitz packages and will need to get to the QB to force Syracuse off the field.
Kick off specialist/punter Sterling Hofrichter has been a force for the Syracuse special teams unit. Hofrichter has placed 19 punts inside the 20-yard line and has blasted 21 touchbacks on kickoffs.
Field-goal kicker Andre is 8/10 on field goal attempts and is only 1/3 on tries from over 40 yards. The Orange definitely have the advantage with the kickers, but if they give DJ Matthews a chance to return one he might be able to make them pay.
This game features two teams that run as many plays as possible and are in the bottom of the FBS in penalties. I expect each team to have plenty of possessions, but the score may not be that high due to the inability of either team to sustain and finish long drives.
Florida State has a slightly better defense, a game breaking running back in Cam Akers and the home-field advantage. So I think the Seminoles will manage to get a double-digit victory on homecoming. Florida State 38 Syracuse 24.