On Saturday (6:00 P.M., ESPNU), the Missouri Tigers (5-5) play host to the Syracuse Orange (5-5) in non-conference action. For Missouri, who is coming off of a 51-48 4OT victory at Tennessee, it's Senior Day. The Orange are coming in off of an impressive 45-26 win over 11th-ranked Louisville. Both teams are seeking their 6th win of the season to become bowl-eligible, which for Syracuse, would be their second time being bowl-eligible in their four years under Head Coach Doug Marrone.
"Syracuse is a real good football team," said Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel. "I'm very impressed with them. Their QB is playing at a very, very high level. Offensively, they produce at a very high level. Defensively, they're very sound, but they attack, and they blitz a lot. They're very active, and very athletic……………………………………… They're just a very, very good football team."
Senior QB Ryan Nassib 6'3" 227 is the trigger man for an up-tempo offense that is on pace to be the most prolific in Syracuse history. His 24.1 completions/game ranks 13th nationally. His school-record 3,019 passing yards ranks 10th nationally, and his 331.4 yards of total offense/game ranks 14th nationally. Nassib is the BIG EAST and Syracuse record-holder for career completions (738). He is second in school history, and tied for fourth all-time in the BIG EAST, in TD passes (65). Nassib's 8,460 career passing yards is 6th all-time in the BIG EAST. And, his 8,581 yards of total offense for his career ranks 7th all-time in the BIG EAST.
On the season, Nassib is 242-380-8 (63.4%) for 3,019 yards and 21 TDs passing. His passer efficiency rating is 144. 18, and he's averaging 301.9 passing yards/game. He's an experienced, veteran signal-caller with a strong arm. He can make all of the throws. He's pretty accurate, and he's surrounded by a talented cast.
As a team, Syracuse averages 167.9 rushing yards/game. Junior RB Jerome Smith 6'0" 217 has rushed for 874 yards and 2 TDs on 164 carries (5.3 yards/carry). His backup, junior RB Prince-Tyson Gulley 5'10" 192, has 89 carries for 383 yards (4.3 yards/carry) and 3 TDs, and he averages 2.7 receptions/game, and 7.8 yards/reception. The Orange have a nice change of pace at the RB position. Smith is the more powerful, every-down back, while Gulley is shiftier, and more elusive.
Nassib's two favorite targets are a pair of athletic senior WRs, Marcus Sales 6'0" 192, and Alec Lemon 6'2" 204. Lemon has 53 catches on the season for 745 yards and 5 TDs. Sales has 52 catches for 732 yards and 7 TDs. Nassib appears to have great confidence in his two senior receivers, as he will throw the ball to them in small windows, and he'll complete passes to them when they're barely or not really open. Lemon's probably better at making the tough catches in traffic, whereas Sales is probably better at run after catch.
Junior WR Jarrod West 6'2" 202 is another quality athlete who gets on the field a lot, and he has 38 receptions for 528 yards and 2 TDs. He's a good run after catch guy, too. Junior TE Beckett Wales 6'3" 230 is another frequent Nassib target, as he has 29 receptions for 315 yards and 1 TD on the season. He'll line up with his hand on the ground, and get lost in the crowd over the middle.
Syracuse averages 6'4" and 289 pounds across their offensive line. Overall, they're fairly mobile, and they do a good job of run blocking and in pass protection. They don't really operate out of the wide splits, but they run many of the same plays that we're used to seeing from a lot of the spread teams.
Defensively, the Orange play a 4-3-4 base defensive scheme that is not vastly dissimilar to what Missouri plays. Similarly to what Missouri does, Syracuse will shift guys around up front immediately prior to the snap, and come at you from a lot of different angles. The obvious difference is in the size of the personnel. After watching SEC defenses these past few weeks, the first thing that jumped out at me when viewing the Orange defense is that they're definitely smaller in their front seven than what Missouri has been seeing on a weekly basis. But don't be fooled by their size. They get after it!
The Orange will also utilize a three-man front on defense, and play extra LBs or DBs, especially in passing situations. They appear to be much more prone to blitz out of the 30 front, but they blitz with frequency out of either front. They also substitute liberally and rotate quite a few players in and out on the defensive side of the football.
Syracuse ranks 50th nationally (379.70 yards/game) in total defense, and 57th in scoring defense (26.1 points/game). The Orange rank 19th in the NCAA and lead the BIG EAST in tackles for loss at 7.1 TFLs/game.
"Defensively, Syracuse is very multiple," said Coach Pinkel. "They move. They attack. They don't stand around and wait for you. They're going to come after you a lot. They're a good football team."
Their most productive defensive player is senior safety Shamarko Thomas 5'10" 206, who leads the Orange with 72 total tackles, 2 interceptions, and 3 forced fumbles.
Senior DE Brandon Sharpe 6'1" 255 leads the Orange, and is tied for the BIG EAST lead, with 13 TFLs. His 5.5 sacks lead the Orange, and ranks 3rd in the BIG EAST.
Senior MLB Siriki Diabate 5'10" 216 is another very productive player for the Orange. On the season, he has registered 60 tackles, including 5.5 TFLs, and he has 2 pass-break-ups, and 1 QB hurry on the season.
Sophomore WLB Dyshawn Davis 6'2" 212 has 54 tackles on the season, including 9 TFLs, and he has 2 PBUs, 1 interception, 1 QBH, and 1 fumble recovery.
Sophomore safety Jeremi Wilkes 5'9" 189 has registered 46 total tackles this season, and has 1 INT, 3 PBUs, and 1 forced fumble to his credit.
Junior NT Jay Bromley 6'4" 290 anchors the middle, and has 31 tackles, including 3.5 TFLs, 1 PBU, and 0.5 sacks.
Senior DT Deon Goggins 6'1" 274 is a very active player who has 45 total tackles on the season, including 7 TFLs, 1 sack, and 2 QBHs.
In the secondary for Syracuse, junior corner Keon Lyn 6'1" 194 leads the way with 6 PBUs, and he has made 35 tackles, including 3 TFLs, and 1 forced fumble.
Syracuse has been playing well of late, and they've won three of their last four games. On the season, they've played a pretty tough schedule, which is rated as the fourteenth toughest schedule in the country, according to the NCAA.
[NCAA Ranking in Brackets]
MISSOURI___________________ SYRACUSE 332.80 [103rd]__ Total Offense___ 469.80 [24th] 135.30 [89th]___Rushing Offense__ 167.90 [55th] 13___________TDs Rushing__________ 14 197.50 [95th]___Passing Offense_ _ 301.90 [20th] 105.85 [115th]_ Passing Efficiency__ 143.85 [37th] 11___________TDs Passing__________ 21 25.30 [84th]____Scoring Offense___ 28.30 [65th] 353.30 [35th]___ Total Defense___ 379.70 [50th] 143.10 [41st]__ Rushing Defense_ 149.10 [T-49th] 19________ TDs Allowed Rushing________ 11 210.20 [41st]___Passing Defense__ 230.60 [57th] 132.71 [64th]__ Pass Effic. Defense_ 138.74 [88th] 14________ TDs Allowed Passing________ 18 25.10 [52nd]____Scoring Defense___ 26.10 [57th] +0.20 [47th]__ Turnover Margin___–0.30 [77th] 21 / 7_ ______ Fumbles/Lost_______ 18 / 9 12________ Interceptions Thrown_________ 8 5_________ Interceptions Gained_________ 6 27.60 [9th]____Kickoff Return Avg._ _ 19.32 [90th] 16.17 [5th]____ Punt Return Avg.___ 4.24 [103rd] 35.41 [92nd]___ Net Punting Avg.__ 33.55 [112th] 2.00 [T-53rd]_____Sacks By______1.70 [78th] 2.40 [90th]_____ Sacks Allowed_____1.40 [29th] 29:25 [75th]___ Avg. Time of Poss.___ 29:23 [77th] 33.3% [104th]___3rd Down Conv.__ 48.5% [16th] 40.9% [89th]_ __4th Down Conv._ 66.7% [T-18th]