Posted on: September 16, 2020 Posted by: admin Comments: 0

first_img Published on October 1, 2019 at 11:01 pm Syracuse has reached the first of its two byes this week. Through five games, the Orange have gone 3-2, with wins against Western Michigan, Liberty and Holy Cross and a pair of losses to Maryland and No. 1 Clemson. SU has juggled a shaky offensive line, the first couple games of Tommy DeVito at the helm and a plethora of injuries throughout its secondary. Almost midway through its season, our beat writers discuss pressing questions about Syracuse football.1. How have your expectations changed since the start of the season?Eric Black: Mine haven’t changed too much, despite the fact that Syracuse might not be as good as we all thought it would be. While many people believed SU would take another step forward after its 10-win season last year, I wasn’t as convinced. I expected the Orange to have success similar to that of last season, if not slightly worse, and that’s what looks destined to happen this year. Just like I wrote prior to the season, though, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It takes time to become a perennial 10-win team and an Atlantic Coast Conference contender. I expect Syracuse will play better in its final seven games than it did in its first five, and if it can finish the season going 6-1 or 5-2, that’d be a win in my book. Andrew Graham: Actually, not that much? It feels kind of weird to say, and I do admit I must temper my pick of a 10-2 record, but something along the lines of 8-4, 9-3 is still on the table. Its last two games, Syracuse looked like it did last year, and that’s a good thing. Those two wins did come against Western Michigan and Holy Cross, so how much we can read into that remains to be seen. After getting roundhoused by Maryland — which has scored 17 points since its 63-20 win — SU hung with No. 1 Clemson until the end of the third quarter. The rest of the ACC lays the groundwork for a manageable back half of the schedule, one the Orange should leave with at least four or five more wins. Anything on top of that is just exceeding expectations at this point.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textJosh Schafer: So if we’re going strictly by the numbers, my expectations have tapered down slightly. I originally picked Syracuse at 9-3, which still feels attainable, but perhaps 8-4 might be more fitting. The Orange’s offense has looked good in spurts but we haven’t seen consistency which is a point of concern headed into ACC road games, particularly the Orange’s next matchup — a Thursday night game at North Carolina State. Syracuse has returned some of the key elements form a year ago in consistent turnovers and top level special teams. But this year the offense is ranked 84th in the country in total yards per game and 77th in scoring. Those numbers were lowered by shaky offensive performances against Clemson and Maryland. While the Tigers are a potential College Football Playoff team, the Maryland loss felt reminiscent of SU’s struggles away from the Carrier Dome in the first two years under Dino Babers.Karleigh Merritt-Henry | Digital Design Editor2. Outside of Tommy DeVito, who is Syracuse’s most important player for the rest of the season?E.B.: Moe Neal. Last season, Syracuse ran for 2,715 yards and 40 touchdowns, the latter being a top-10 mark in the country. The Orange are on pace for over 1,000 fewer yards and less than half as many touchdowns this year. That’s just not going to cut it in ACC play. Granted, last year Eric Dungey contributed on the ground and Neal isn’t the lone player responsible for success in the running game, but after DeVito, the senior tailback is the player Syracuse wants and needs to get going the most. So far this season, he’s struggled to do so. Neal has been held under 50 yards rushing in three out of five games and his 4.4 yards per carry average is the lowest of his career by almost a yard.A.G.: Andre Cisco. He’s been out the last two weeks with a lower-body injury, conveniently against two of the Orange’s lesser opponents. Antwan Cordy and Eric Coley filled in well in Cisco’s absence, but the preseason All-American needs to be playing on the back end for Syracuse’s defense to be as good as it can be. Cisco didn’t lead the nation in interceptions as a freshman through blind luck. Watch his ball hawking pick against Liberty and you’ll see the instincts he can flash in a second. Couple that with a growing comfort tackling in the open field and the inevitable physical growth from a year-plus of Division I lifting, Cisco is shaping up to be a special player in the history of SU football. They just need him back on the field. J.S.: To stick with the theme that offense is the biggest question moving forward for the Orange, Trishton Jackson is the most important player to watch for the rest of the season. In every year under Babers, a receiver has carried the passing game and served as a safety net for the offense. He’s caught touchdowns in three of the last four games and has shown an ability to take the top off defenses. In the one game of the last four Jackson struggled, he caught two passes for 16 yards against Clemson. Most of the offense struggled that day, but Jackson’s ability to get open can expand drives for the Orange. The combination of Sean Riley and Taj Harris will also be crucial for Syracuse’s passing game. If those two can combine for more than 1,000 yards and Jackson does himself, Syracuse’s offense will likely be moving the ball at a better pace than it has at points thus far. 3. What’s one aspect of the Orange that’s disappointed through five games?E.B.: In case my answer to question two wasn’t obvious, I’m most disappointed in SU’s lack of success running the ball so far this season. We all knew there’d be an adjustment after losing Dungey and starting running back Dontae Strickland, but Syracuse’s struggles on the ground so far have still been surprising. With DeVito transitioning into the starting role at quarterback, the Orange were supposed to be able to lean on their running game more. Aside from a breakout game against Western Michigan, they haven’t been able to do that. SU’s team rushing stats all rank in the bottom half of the ACC, just a year removed from being one of the most productive running teams in the country. A.G.: Kendall Coleman and Alton Robinson’s low sack total. The pair combined for 20 sacks last season (10 each) and seemed poised to take a step forward as one of the nation’s premier pass-rushing duos this season. Instead, through five games, the pair’s combined for just 4.5 sacks. Robinson is still finding ways to be effective by batting passes and registering six quarterback hits while Coleman is one of SU’s leading tacklers. Now, a lot of their struggles are due to SU’s different look up front without Chris Slayton. But for Syracuse’s defense to operate at its peak, it needs to be hitting the quarterback more than it has been. Whether that comes from the middle of the defensive line, blitzing or the defensive ends finally producing like they did last season, I’m surprised it hasn’t been the latter so far.J.S.: It’s hard to expect too much out of the three new starters on the offensive line but the group needs to improve. The Orange have allowed 3.6 sacks per game thus far, which ranks 122nd nationally. Many of the issues appear to be more about blocking the right blitzers and executing scheme than getting flat out beat, which bodes for SU moving forward. After the bye week, we should know more about Sam Heckel’s injury, and if he’s coming back that will also boost the group. The bottom line for the offensive line’s struggles is simple: If Syracuse’s offense is to improve, the quarterback needs more time to execute.Karleigh Merritt-Henry | Digital Design Editor4. Of the upcoming seven games, which opponent presents the biggest challenges?E.B.: Boston College may not be the best team left on Syracuse’s schedule, but the Eagles are one of the best remaining in terms of running the ball. And while the Orange have struggled to run the ball themselves this year, they’ve had even more issues trying to stop their opponents from doing so. SU has allowed the most rushing touchdowns in the ACC and the fourth-most yards while BC boasts the conference’s leading rusher, AJ Dillon. Dillon gashed the Orange on the ground two years ago in a blowout win for the Eagles but was hampered by an ankle injury in SU’s win last season. The junior has run for 150 yards or more in three consecutive games and is exactly the kind of player that can wreak havoc on the Syracuse defense. A.G.: Wake Forest is doing one of my favorite little gimmicks in college football right now. When the Demon Deacons call run-pass options, they have their running back slow his feet down, making the play fake take longer. By then, there will be enough tape on the play by the time SU plays Wake Forest at the end of November, but Dave Clawson has something working in Winston-Salem. Don’t forget, SU had to ground-and-pound its way to a win last season and the Demon Deacons are only healthier and better since then. J.S.: Don’t look now but the Demon Deacons are ranked No. 22 in the AP Poll. Wake Forest will come to the Carrier Dome on Nov. 30 for the Orange’s final regular season game. The Demon Deacons are 5-0 with wins over North Carolina and Boston College. Quarterback Jamie Newman is fourth in the country in passing yards and has already thrown 14 passing touchdowns. If Newman’s still slinging come November, it’ll be an intriguing matchup for the SU defense which flaunts a solid secondary and pass rush. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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