Syracuse will try for their first ACC win of the season when it travels to Florida State on Saturday afternoon (3:30 p.m. ET / ESPN2). Ahead of the game, The Juice Online’s Brad Bierman and Wes Cheng give their predictions below.
BRAD BIERMAN (Season Record: 2-3): At least for the first time in the 12 previous meetings between Syracuse and Florida State dating back to 1966 (the Orange’s only other win in the series), it is SU that won the last meeting – in the Dome last season.
This year, however, the spotlight is on two anxious programs sporting 3-4 records past the halfway point, and in Tallahassee the calls are at a fever pitch for head coach Willie Taggert’s job. While in Syracuse, becoming the last ACC team to win a league game this season will suffice for now to keep on track for bowl eligibility.
For the second straight week Taggart is playing coy as to who his starting quarterback will be, but we figure sophomore James Blackman continues in that role. For SU, Tommy DeVito is listed as the starter on the depth chart, but it will be interesting to see how effective he is as the game progresses. If Clayton Welch does end up seeing playing time, the faster FSU defense figures to cause problems.
It’s sometimes hard to decipher how a team will react knowing the talk that is whirling around about their head coach’s job. Our guess is the Seminoles play with a purpose Saturday against a strong Orange defense and special teams units.
But with the season-long problems plaguing the inability for the Orange offense to run at its preferred blazing pace, Florida State will manage enough points to hold on for a 30-17 victory.
WES CHENG (Season Record: 5-0): Florida State offensive coordinator Kendal Briles has improved the Seminole offense in his first year in Tallahassee. Seven games into the season, FSU seems to have found its offensive footing, and its 281.6 passing yards per game rank 26th in the FBS.
A part of that improvement has been the result of the Seminoles settling on a starting quarterback. James Blackman is currently atop the depth chart (1,316 yards, 11 touchdowns) after Florida State also auditioned Alex Hornibrook (655 yards, six TDs) for the role.
In its first five games of the season, Florida State averaged 33.2 points per game before struggling over its last two.
In its most recent game, a heartbreaking 22-20 loss to Wake Forest, FSU actually held a lead late in the fourth quarter before Wake Forest hit a field goal with just over four minutes left in what would turn out to be the game-winner.
But the silver lining of the loss was that the Seminoles played its best defensive game of the year. The Deacons had come in averaging an ACC-best 39.7 points and 540.5 total yards, but were held to a season low in points.
With these small improvements, Florida State is back in the bowl picture, and like Syracuse, stands at 3-4 overall. I see Florida State evening its record with a 34-20 win.