Syracuse has had an up and down season, but started to hit their stride towards the end of the season.
Syracuse runs a multiple offense scheme with elements of the spread, west coast offense and power rushing attack. Their personnel suggests power running would be the best option, but offensive coordinator George McDonald wants to run a wide open offense that throws the ball all over the field.
Terrel Hunt took over for Drew Allen during the Wagner game, and hasn't looked back. While he struggled through the majority of conference play, he showed significant improvement over the last two games. His decision making improved, confidence was raised, and he anticipated throws for the first time all season.
Hunt is a better weapon with his legs right now than with arm. He is not extremely fast, but is elusive and makes quick cuts in tight spaces. He has a knack for pushing the ball down field when running as a north-south runner.
His deep ball is improving, but still needs work. His short throws have been fairly consistent for most of the year, but he has a tendency to stare down his receivers which can lead to turnovers.
The running backs are the strength of the Orange offense as arguably the deepest position on the team. Jerome Smith will get the start and the bulk of the carries. He is a bruising, physical runner who does most of his damage between the tackles. His speed has improved, but it is not elite and he rarely runs away from defenders.
George Morris and DeVante McFarlane will both split the backup carries behind Smith with Prince-Tyson Gulley out due to injury. Morris has a solid combination of power and speed, and has Syracuse fans excited about his potential. He is a one cut runner that can get to the second level quickly.
McFarlane is similar to Morris, but has a bit more power. He is tough to bring down and is deceptively quick in the hole.
The Orange receivers have been the weakness of the offense all season. Jarrod West has not lived up to expectations as he moves from the slot to the top receiving option. Ashton Broyld is still learning the position, and Jeremiah Kobena has been a bit of a disappointment.
Still, Chris Clark has stepped up and shown flashes at times. True freshman Brisly Estime has started to come along nicely as an elusive runner with elite speed in the open field. Estime is a bit undersized, however.
Alvin Cornelius filled in very well when West was out due to injury, and the redshirt freshman is a very strong blocker in the running game. Arkansas transfer Quinta Funderburk has not seen the field much this season, but is a former four-star prospect with raw talent.
Josh Parris stepped up as the starting tight end when the Orange lost Beckett Wales with a season ending injury. He had two touchdowns in the regular season finale, and has been an improving blocker. Kendall Moore will rotate in as well, but struggles catching the ball.
In the Trenches
The Syracuse offensive line has been a surprising strength this season. Senior center Macky MacPherson is one of the leaders on the team, and has continued to improve over his four years at Syracuse. He is a physical blocker who is a strong in the inside run game.
The left side of the line is more talented than the right. Left tackle Sean Hickey is a future pro who is strong in pass protection as well as sealing the edge on outside runs. He has been the best offensive lineman all season for the Orange.
Left guard Rob Trudo is a road grader on the inside who average in pass protection. His footwork and hand technique is much improved and he is able to help open big holes on the inside.
Right guard Nick Robinson is the weakest player up front, but has had a solid season. He has a tendency to reach rather than move his feet, which can lead to being beaten by quicker defensive linemen. Right tackle Ivan Foy has performed admirably on the outside, really improving his technique and footwork.
Omari Palmer is the first guard off the bench should there be an injury, and Michael Lasker will take over at tackle. Jason Emerich is the reserve center. All three are solid, but a step down from any of the starters.
Syracuse has an aggressive, 4-3 defense that blitzes from all over the formation. They bring all three linebackers at different times and even use defensive backs at times as well. The Orange try to force mistakes with relentless pressure.
In the Trenches
The Syracuse defensive line struggles to get consistent pressure by itself. However, it is very strong against the run. Defensive tackles Jay Bromley and Eric Crume are physical players who eat up a lot of space. Bromley has a quick first step and is able to get into the backfield to disrupt the running game or generate pressure up the middle.
Defense ends Micah Robinson and Robert Welsh are solid, but lack elite pass rushing moves. Both have high motors and will be relentless until the play is over. Welsh is a better tackler than Robinson, but Micah is a bit more athletic.
Reserve tackle Zian Jones will see plenty of action as well. He is another big, physical body on the inside who takes up space. Reserve ends Ron Thompson and Isaiah Johnson have more raw ability than the starters, but lack the experience and refined technique.
The Back Seven
The linebackers are the strength of the Syracuse defense. Middle linebacker Marquis Spruill is the leader of the defense, and calls all the plays as well as any audibles. He is a very athletic, fast linebacker who makes plays all over the field. He is a skilled blitzer and a much improved tackler.
Outside linebackers Dyshawn Davis and Cameron Lynch make their hay rushing the passer and making plays in the backfield. They are the best blitzers on the Syracuse roster and have continued to be strong all season in that area. Both have good speed as well, but struggle in coverage.
The injuries leave the Orange thin, specifically at corner. The starters will be Brandon Reddish and Ri'Shard Anderson. Reddish is a strong cover corner with good speed. Anderson is an average corner who struggles getting beat deep.
Wayne Morgan is a versatile reserve defensive back who can play corner or safety. He will likely see more time at corner due to the aforementioned injuries. Behind him is Joe Nassib who is an undersized corner with average speed and cover skills at best.
Jeremi Wilkes and Ritchy Desir will start at safety. Wilkes is playing in his last game as a senior for the Orange. He is a solid corner against the run, but also struggles against the deep pass. He has had communication issues with the corners at times this season.
Desir is a physical player who can hit and blitz. He is a very athletic player who good speed. Behind them is Darius Kelly who has seen increased playing time as the season has gone along. Kelly is a junior college transfer with above average speed and can really hit.
Kicker Ryan Norton has had an up and down season. He is shaky at best on field goal attempts, and does not have a big leg on kickoffs as he frequently fails to get the ball to the end zone.
The return game has been a big weakness for Syracuse. George Morris and Devante McFarlane have been the kick returners all season, but have really struggled. Brisly Estime has gotten a few cracks in the last few games, and possesses the best big play ability for the Orange on special teams.
Ritchy Desir is the punt returner who is very solid catching the ball, but does not offer a big threat to help flip field position.
The Orange kick coverage units have been solid all season.
This is going to be a game of strength against strength (rushing attack against rushing defense) and weakness against weakness (passing attack against pass defense) verse Minnesota. It should be a physical battle that goes down to the end. Some old fashioned, grind it out football.