Oddsmakers currently have the No. 6 Seminoles listed as a three-touchdown favorite against the Orange but FSU coach Bobby Bowden has reason to believe that things will be closer than that.
"This is the same group that gave us fits last year," Bowden said, referring to his team's 17-14 escape from the Carrier Dome.
Said Syracuse coach Greg Robinson: "Let me say this. The thing about underdogs – I really don't care about all that. I don't think about that. It was brought up to me. It made me laugh. It made me think back about if I've ever been a 21-point underdog. I don't think so. But you know what? That isn't all of it.
"It isn't about if we can play with them, but we need to win. We're not going down there just to play with them. We're going down there to win a football game. We'll see how that goes."
Here are five reasons why Syracuse could hang with the Seminoles come Saturday:
1) STINGY AGAINST THE PASS – Facing SU's defense coming off of a bye is a case of bad timing for the Seminoles, who are still finding their identity on offense after a promising showing from the pass game their last time out. The Orange, who returned 10 of 11 starters from a season ago, are fourth in the nation in passing efficiency defense and lead the country in takeaways.
2) IMPOSING FRONTS – Much like Boston College, Syracuse is big, deep and experience on both their offensive and defensive fronts. The Orange's nine starters on those units have a combined 121 career starts and 224 games played.
3) THEY HAVE A GOOD TIGHT END – Florida State's problems covering legitimate pass-catching tight ends have been well documented, the most recent struggle coming against Miami's Greg Olsen. He's no Olsen, but the Orange has Joe Kowalewski, who caught seven passes for 96 yards and a touchdown against Virginia.
4) DAMIEN RHODES – A dark horse candidate for the Doak Walker Award, Rhodes has tallied over 3,200 total yards in his Syracuse career. He has motivation because the Seminoles shut him down last season, limiting him to negative yardage on seven carries and allowing him just one catch.
5) NOTHING TO LOSE – It's cliché, but the Orange will probably hold nothing back, especially after heartbreaking last-second losses to Virginia and West Virginia in Weeks 1 and 3.
SOME OTHER NOTES:
- FSU leads the series 4-1 and won the only other meeting in Tallahassee, a 46-14 romp in 1991.
- Syracuse is a perfect 6-fo-6 in the red zone this season. The FSU offense has surrendered just two red zone scores this season, a field goal in The Citadel game and a touchdown against Boston College.
A FEW SOUND BITES FROM ROBINSON'S PRESS CONFERENCE:
(transcribed by Syracuse Media Relations)
Robinson on winning in Tallahassee to attract recruits:
"The reason for us to win is for our football team. That's the beauty of us winning. Our players could savor a moment like beating a team like Florida State, which is highly ranked. There can be a lot of things that come from that. That's how you look at it. I firmly believe this and I think I say this to you every week. It's all about us. It's about us going out there and being better this Saturday than we were against Virginia. That's what I'm looking for. I'm looking for us to be a better football team. Eventually, this is all going to equate into wins and losses. That's what's the most important thing on our minds – to come out and to improve as a football team. How we gauge that I don't know. You evaluate it. It takes a long time to evaluate all of that stuff. That's the thrust of what our focus is right now."
Robinson on preparing players to play in Tallahassee:
"First of all, it's our intent to get to stadiums early enough so that players can wander around. They can get a feel and a way of the land a little bit. It's one thing to go the day before the game when it's empty. It's another thing to go early enough on the day of the game where you can feel the atmosphere already a little bit. You can be within it before the game is in full fold. We're going to do things in practice. We try to create as much of a game-like situation as we possibly can. That means a lot of different things that we'll do, be it crowd noise, no-huddle situations. We noticed that they went to no-huddle last week against Boston College. We have to try and create all of those different things on the practice field."
Robinson on SU's wide receivers against Florida State's secondary:
"Again, we have to match up against everyone we go against. How successful we're going to be; I don't know that. Time will tell. We're going to work really hard to be successful. They're gifted. This is a gifted group. I like our receivers. We're making progress. We're getting a little of our bounce back. Tim Lane and Rice Moss are feeling better than they've felt in quite a while. The younger players have had a chance to work in a bye week so I like to think that they are going to be felt a little more in the offense. Where we match up and how we match up, I don't know all of those things. I do credit them (FSU) with a good group."
Robinson on Drew Weatherford:
"I think he's gifted. He can zip it. I like the way he reads zone coverages. For a young kid, I give him credit."
Robinson on the no-huddle offense of Florida State:
"They went to four wide receivers and spread it out. They had success doing it. They didn't give their tailbacks the ball, really, other than a couple of check downs. They were productive doing that. It was more of just getting something going. They went into a stall for a period of time in that game. All of a sudden, they got into a rhythm with the no-huddle. For that moment, it was the right thing to do. I think it minimized the effectiveness of Boston College's defense."
Robinson on if he is surprised Florida State is last in the ACC in rushing:
"They are capable. I think it's more about if they want to do it or not, how much they want to run it. They can run the football. I like both backs. I think they're both very good and quick. (Leon Washington) is very explosive. (Lorenzo Booker) has speed."
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