Florida State Preview

Sixth-ranked Florida State hosts Syracuse this Saturday at Doak Campbell in Tallahassee. The Seminoles triumphed over the Orange last season at the Carrier Dome, 17-13, and are favored again this year back on their home turf. Syracuse has lost its last two games at Florida State.

FSU heads into the contest with a 3-game win streak. The wins weren't easy either. The Seminoles edged long-time rival Miami by three points on Sept. 5. They proceeded to offer former Big East Co-Champ Boston College a taste of ACC football, handling the Eagles in an eye-opening 28-17 win. Between the two tough victories, The Citadel was a mere stepping stone, falling to the ‘Noles by a 52-point margin.

Syracuse's current schedule looks rather bleak in comparison. Like Florida State, the Orange has played three games, going 1-2. Syracuse has fallen to both West Virginia and Virginia this season. The team Syracuse has beaten, Buffalo, is among the worst in college football.

One advantage for the Orange, however, is the team is coming off a bye week. The game off allowed Syracuse to rest some of its injured players, and also gain an additional seven days to prepare for Florida State.

The week off may not answer all of Syracuse's problems though. The Orange continues to struggle with its West Coast offense. Against West Virginia, Syracuse only converted a third of its third downs, and has only a 22% conversion percentage for the season.

One high point for the offense is senior running back Damien Rhodes. He's rushed for 361 of Syracuse's 446 total rushing yards this season. He also has an additional 51 receiving yards. The senior said he is ready for the weekend.

"We can play with anybody, we already knew that," Rhodes said. "We played with Florida State and other big teams last year. I'm not surprised that we can play with them, so I don't think it should surprise you either. We know that we can compete anytime we want, we just have to be consistent."

The place the Orange has been consistent is on defense. Syracuse leads the nation in turnover margin, and recorded three interceptions against Virginia two weeks ago. Seniors James Wyche, Ryan LaCasse, and Anthony Smith will again play a significant role. The defense has recorded 201 tackles, six sacks, and six interceptions this season.

On the opposing end of the field, senior linebacker A.J. Nicholson and senior safety Kyler Hall lead the Seminole defense. The two have combined for 49 total tackles and three interceptions. Florida State's defensive line will likely focus on Rhodes, being that they are ranked 22nd in the country against the run, and Rhodes is ranked 13th nationally in rushing.

Florida State can rush the ball as well, with Leon Washington and junior Lorenzo Booker in the backfield. Combined, the tailbacks have gained 233 of FSU's total 253 rushing yards on the season. They also have a combined 129 yards receiving. They are the Seminoles' dynamic duo and SU's biggest threat on Saturday.

"They can run the football. Both backs are very explosive," Syracuse head coach Greg Robinson said. "They're capable, it's more about deciding if they want to do it or not."

The battle in the air should be an interesting one as well. Florida State attempts more passes, completes more passes, and averages four yards more per catch than Syracuse's offense, but the Orange defense is no pushover. Syracuse ranks 7th in the nation in pass defense.

"We just have to come out and play physical with them," said Florida State receiver De'Cody Fagg. "We have seen on film that they like to come from behind and strip the ball. In practice we have worked on protecting the ball and on ball security. They like to disguise their coverages, so we are going to have to help (QB's) Drew (Weatherford) and Xavier Lee in reading the coverage and picking up the blitz."

Las Vegas has Syracuse listed as a 21-point underdog. Game time is set for 3:30 on ABC.

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