Syracuse plays Middle Tennessee State on Saturday. The Juice Online’s Steve Auger and Jim Stechschulte give their predictions for the game.
Scott Shafer’s return to the Carrier Dome, rightfully so, dominates the headlines this week. The offensive savant, Dino Babers, versus Shafer, the defensive guru with a chip on his shoulder, no doubt makes for a compelling confrontation. But lost in the glitz and glamour is the reality that Syracuse very much needs to put this game in the win column for the Orange to make a bowl game. Easier said than done despite Middle Tennessee’s 28-6 dud last week against Vanderbilt.
This will be a good test for Syracuse’s revamped defense against an NFL-caliber QB in Brent Stockstill. Negating big plays and pressuring Stockstill will be keys for the Orange D. On the other side of the ball, that’s exactly what Shafer will attempt to do against Dungey; pressure him, hit him, and keep the #OrangeIsTheNewFast passing game in check. The team that better exerts its will on the other should emerge victorious. Dungey and his receivers make just enough big plays to squeak out the win.
Syracuse 42 Middle Tennessee 38
One thorn in the side of those schemes is their vulnerability to running quarterbacks. In Shafer’s last two years as defensive coordinator at SU, B.J. Daniels of South Florida had field days against the Orange. In 2011, Daniels was 23-of-34 for 254 yards through the air with 21 rushes for 117 yards on the ground. The following year, Daniels passed for only 183 yards, but still ran for 134 yards on 12 carries. While Syracuse fans don’t necessarily want to see Eric Dungey at risk running the ball, he should be quite successful at it on Saturday.
A good aerial attack creates issues for Shafer’s defense on screens, including to wide receivers, and via the deep ball. In 2014, Notre Dame’s Everett Golson set a Notre Dame record by completing 25 straight passes, many of them wide receiver screens, as he rolled up 362 yards and four scores on the Orange. In their opener against Vanderbilt last Saturday, Middle Tennessee State gave up 20 completions on 28 passes, including a 37-yard score on a deep ball and a 73-yard touchdown on a quick pass to a running back. MTSU allowed nine plays of 13 or more yards in the game, all through the air.
With as sharp as Eric Dungey looked in the opener, my prediction for Syracuse on Saturday is a simple one. Dungey will have a huge game as the Orange roll up at least 41 points en route to victory.