Tim's Thoughts: Week 9

A look back at Syracuse's loss to Florida State and looking ahead to their matchup with Louisville


If Keith Jackson was still calling college football games, “whoa nelly” would describe the first touchdown of 75 yards from Sean Maguire to Travis Rudolph destroying any early hopes that the Orange had a chance to pull the upset of the season or the last decade for Syracuse.  The first handful of minutes in this game seemed like a really possibility for the ‘Cuse to pull off the improbable as both Maguire and reserve running back Jacques Patrick were sacked and tackled for a loss, respectively.  Even the crowd was no where to be found on Parents Weekend, when barely 75% of Doak Campbell stadium was filled at kick off, thus leading to a dismal early atmosphere.  Boy did that change in a hurry, when Florida State ripped off four touchdown scoring drives of a minimum of 58 yards.  The game held in the balance for a mere eight plus minutes and then the wheels fell off, heck the whole train fell off the track.


Eric Dungey seems to be the only mode of consistent offense for the Orange all season.  Potential injuries aside, whether it be his legs or an inconsistent pass game, all offense is generated with the play caller.  If this were the NFL, you might be able to envision it, as leaders such as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers have nearly full control over the play book as needed; leaving Rodgers as the only real runner in the group.  But, outside of their play calling, these future hall of famers have other weapons of varying degrees to pull from their arsenal.  To find Eric Dungey’s additional weapons would at this point be like Tiger Woods looking for his drives after spraying the ball all around at “you name the course.”  It just isn’t apparent.  To see Jordan Fredericks, emerge as the number one running back is exciting for about three plays, because George Morris then becomes the lead back and Ground Jordan goes missing.  Or the fact that Orange fans actually get excited when Riley Dixon takes the snap because that means the percentages rise on converting a fourth down.  Taking nothing away from Dungey in terms of athleticism and creativity, but when your punter becomes one of your most exciting/productive players it is cause for concern.


There are plenty of negatives to find this season, but to harp solely on those would remiss completely what the Orange may have left in the tank.  Bowl eligibility seems to be a long shot, however three out of their next four games display levels of intrigue and possibility.  This week’s match-up with Louisville gives the Orange some advantage in that they have never scored less than 20 points in a game, and the Cardinals give up just under 22 points per game.  So, considering SU’s scoring average they could be in the game.  Other than a blow win versus Stanford and blow out loss to Florida State, every game for Louisville has been close.  There might just be a possibility for a win this week.  If Clemson can “pull a Clemson,” at the Carrier Dome it would be the shock of the year for the current #1 seed in the College Football Playoff Poll to go down at the hands of the Orange.  That leaves NC State and Boston College.  The Wolfpack have earned their five victories against nearly Division III opponents, but the common ACC victory for SU and State is Wake Forest.  In some regards that evens the match-up on paper.  Boston College has sorely underachieved this season, and removing their FCS opponents, the Eagles struggle to score at just above 9 points per game against FBS in and out of conference.  They were even shut out twice (14-0 – Florida State, 3-0 – Wake Forest) and lost another game 9-7 (Duke).  Silver linings may be here and that bodes well for Syracuse to get to four/five wins or miraculously finish the campaign 3-1.


Football takes more than a backseat to basketball in Kentucky, with both the Wildcats and Cardinals in the middle to lower third of top FBS programs.  Each is competitive in their respective conferences, with it being a toss up on any given weekend who is the best.  Since Bobby Petrino returned to Louisville, it has been a much more pedestrian tenure than his first.  Despite possessing three conference wins, they have just one more overall victory than Syracuse heading into this weekend’s showdown.  The Cardinals just seem to be competitive a minimum, they win the games they should and hang in the games they shouldn’t win.  Almost reminiscent of Syracuse basketball in playing to the level of your opponent.  It will depend which Louisville team shows up, as to whether or not this will be game that the Orange can deliver a victory.


Lamar Jackson will be the biggest concern for the SU game plan.  He, like Eric Dungey, is the dual offensive threat leading the Cardinals in both passing and rushing from the quarterback position.  One story line for the game could be battle of play callers, so maybe the two should play each other one-on-one in series of quarterback challenge drills to settle the outcome!  But, seriously, every game it seems like the dominate opposing player who everyone knows is going to get the ball does.  They then run all over the ‘Cuse, and you question the game plan or the ability to execute.  That falls on the players in my opinion, because regardless of the plan it is the players that must come through, they can only be coached up so much


The key to this game is going to be tackling.  Although individual numbers do not jump out, James Quick, Jamari Staples and Jaylen Smith all have over 250 yards receiving.  If the Orange bring their fly swatters to the game this week, as they did against Florida State, anticipate a lot of waving at air and free gateways to the end zone.  Would like to find a bright spot, which at times is Antwan Cordy as far as the secondary goes, but overall Syracuse exhibits one of the weakest defensive passing units in the nation.  The Orange are 86th in the nation according to NCAA statisticians as they give up nearly 420 yards per game and just under 6 yards per play.  They are 91st on 3rd down conversions, and most of that is due to defensive backs that fail to tackle or properly cover a receiver.  This unit will grow as will all positions due to their youth, but to be swiping at insects in an attempt to tackle has been a plague to this defense since game one. 

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