As Syracuse prepares for its final home game of the 2022 season, it stands at a crossroads of sorts. What was once a promising 6-0 start with a top 25 ranking and national recognition has evaporated after three straight disappointing losses. Losses that conceivably could have been wins.
While all is not lost, a surging Florida State Seminoles team comes up to the Dome on Senior Day, fresh off their own top 25 ranking. Here’s what to watch for in Saturday’s primetime match-up.
- Teams: Syracuse Orange (6-3, 3-2 ACC) v. Florida State Seminoles (6-3, 4-3)
- Date: Saturday, Nov. 12
- Game Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
- Venue: JMA Wireless Dome (Syracuse, NY)
- Network: ACC Network
Fearless Prediction: Florida State 31, Syracuse 13
The Juice Online Season Record: 8-1
The Coaches Need To Speed Up The Passing Game
I’ve been saying it for a few weeks now, but I don’t believe Dino Babers and Robert Anae have been on the top of their game of late. Defensive coordinator Tony White has kept the defense relatively steady (more on that later), but this Orange offense has been downright putrid. While some of that can be blamed on injuries, the lion’s share of the blame has to be on the offensive coaching staff.
Issues with finding a second receiving option have been present since week one and this staff isn’t a single step closer to solving it. The claim has been that they’re waiting for a player to step up and prove themself, but where is the help? As coaches you need to put players in the best position to succeed.
This staff’s answer to the struggles hasn’t been a quick, high-volume passing game to get the ball into players hands and let them build a rhythm. Too often the receivers are asked to get open downfield on long-developing pass concepts, and they simply haven’t been able to do it. For this passing offense to get back on track, the coaches need to make it easier on everyone and scheme up some wide receiver screens, short comeback routes, and quick slants.
Which brings us to who will be handling the ball.
Shrader or Wilson? The Answer- Tucker
It’s not lost on me that this offense’s potential is greatly limited when Garrett Shrader is not on the field. Carlos Del-Rio Wilson performed admirably for about a half of football, but it’s clear that he needs more time to develop. It’s not easy to step right into a good situation and continue the high level play. Against Pitt, Wilson was 8/23 for 120 yards and besides a few drops the accuracy just was not there against what should have been a vulnerable pass defense.
The area that the coaching staff really needs to come around on is the criminal misuse of Sean Tucker. In Syracuse’s three straight losses, Tucker has a total of 31 carries. That might make sense if SU was getting blown out, but Syracuse had a lead or was within one score for the majority of all three of those games.
Shrader has played well this year and taken a massive step forward, but Sean Tucker is your best offensive player, full stop. He needs to be getting 31 touches per game, not cumulatively over three. The fact that most of those games were with a struggling Wilson under center just underscores the confusion about what this coaching staff is doing with their gameplans.
Florida State is 69th in the country in rush defense, giving up 143.4 yards per game on the ground. Feed Tucker the ball and give your struggling back up quarterback a reprieve. On that note-
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Stop. The. Run.
So with all that said about what SU needs to do offensively, I should probably mention the one area the defense has dropped off.
SU has fallen to the 61st ranked run defense after giving up exactly 700 rushing yards over the last three games. Much has been made about the smaller size of Syracuse’s defensive linemen, but those same smaller guys were shutting down the run all year. What’s changed is the quality of competition SU has gone up against.
Florida State currently has a three-headed monster of a rush attack, though the status of one, Treshaun Ward, is up in the air. Trey Benson has been dominant recently with at least 110 yards in his last two games, and Lawrance Toafili has filled in well when called upon. FSU QB Jordan Travis has some legs of his own, and fans will surely remember his scramble last year that extended the final drive and got FSU into range for the game-winning field goal.
With the Orange’s smaller defensive line being exposed, the best way to shut down FSU’s dominant run game is to not allow them to use it. If Syracuse can hammer Tucker away at the Noles below average run defense, they should be able to extend time of possession and force them into a pass-heavy game script.
So that’s a lot to correct for SU’s final homestand of 2022, but it’s not necessarily complicated. Coaches need to put players in the easiest positions to succeed, feed the ball to their best player early and often, and the defense just needs to continue to play their game.
I’ve lost faith in the coaching staff’s ability to even recognize the problem however, much less fix it, and anticipate another afternoon of Wilson sailing passes to the defense. Florida State should run at will, and send SU tumbling further down the hole after an exciting undefeated start.
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