FSU's Keys to Victory at Syracuse

Florida State's success boils down to two keys this week.

In our preseason preview of Florida State’s trip to Syracuse, we concluded the following:

Terrel Hunt will have to prove that he can throw the ball downfield or the Florida State defense will tee off against the running game. Last season Syracuse only managed 247 yards of total offense on the Florida State defense including a paltry 75 passing yards from Hunt. The Syracuse offensive line will have a very tough time dealing with the size and athleticism of the Seminole defensive line, which will make it extremely hard for the Orange to get anything going.

“On defense Syracuse will definitely have their hands full. Their weakest unit, the defensive line, plays right into one of Florida State’s greatest strengths, the offensive line. Florida State should be able to run the ball effectively early, and the passing attack will be just as potent as last season. There are just too many athletes all over the field for Syracuse to deal with.

“Wayne’s Prediction: 56-7 (Win Probability: 95%)

“Jason’s Prediction: 51–3 (Win Probability: 90%)”

Despite the injury to Hunt and the drama surrounding the Syracuse program, but the bottom line with regard to the Orange is still largely the same. The talent gap between these programs is still very large, and there is little reason Florida State shouldn’t win comfortably.

That said, Florida State has battled a rash of injuries to key contributors and has not yet played like the well-oiled machine of last year. The senior-laden offensive line has not performed to expectations, and the Seminole running game has not dominated as expected. To add injury to insult, center Austin Barron is out for several weeks with a broken arm, replaced by redshirt freshman Ryan Hoefeld, and starting RB Karlos Williams is out with an ankle injury.

The FSU defensive front is banged up and has already lost starting nose tackle Nile Lawrence-Stample to a torn pectoral muscle. Aside from Terrance Smith, the Seminole linebackers have struggled some in coverage. The secondary has battled injuries as well and is only now beginning to round into shape.

Even the FSU passing game was not as sharp last week as it has been since Jameis Winston took over at quarterback, and top receiver Rashad Greene may not play on Saturday due to a concussion sustained against Wake Forest.

This all combines to make the preseason projection of a blowout less likely. The fact that Notre Dame awaits in another week also makes this a classic look-ahead game for the Seminoles.

If Florida State is to take care of business and emerge unscathed from their trip to the Carrier Dome, they’ll need to take care of two things.

1. Avoid Turnovers

Last season Florida State was tied for second in the nation in turnover margin at +17. This season, the Seminoles are tied for 90th at -2. If Florida State continues to turn the ball over more than their opponents, it’s eventually going to bite them.

2. Stop the run

Syracuse lacks playmakers on the outside, and with Hunt out their passing game should be even less of a concern. The defensive front has to take care of business and keep Syracuse from shortening the game with success on the ground. If Syracuse can’t run the football, this game is probably over fairly quickly.

In my view, this game boils down to those two simple elements. FSU should win comfortably, but they’ve got to take care of business to do so.

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