Syracuse faces Minnesota in the Bad Boy Mowers Pinstripe Bowl on Thursday, Dec. 29 at 2 p.m. Here are four things to watch for in the game:
Does the offense look any different?
Syracuse’s coaching staff looks significantly different since the last time SU took the field. On the offensive side of the ball, offensive coordinator Robert Anae bolted for NC State, and Dino Babers promoted quarterbacks coach Jason Beck. Syracuse’s offense did look significantly better than last year, and the Orange finished the season averaging 28.3 points per game (68th in the NCAA). But Syracuse also stagnated in the second half of its schedule, scoring only three points in a drubbing against Florida State, and nine points in a frustrating loss to Pitt. It will be worth keeping an eye on if there are any major changes in Beck’s play calling compared to his predecessor. Beck’s first test comes against a Minnesota defense that allowed just 13.3 points per game.
Does the defense look any different?
In the same vein, Syracuse defensive coordinator Tony White left for the same position at Nebraska, and the Orange hired Rocky Long, widely regarded as the pioneer behind the 3-3-5 defense that SU has installed. Long will not be coordinating the defense against Minnesota—that will be job of defensive pass game coordinator Nick Monroe. The Orange allowed just 22.7 points (36th in the country) on defense, and Monroe will try to continue the momentum in SU’s final game of the season.
How does the run game look?
Syracuse has lost nearly a dozen players through portal transfers and declarations for the NFL Draft. Perhaps the most prominent is running back Sean Tucker, who will forgo his senior season and opt out of the Pinstripe Bowl. In 2022, Tucker rushed for 1,060 yards and tallied 13 total touchdowns. It’s now LeQuint Allen’s starting role to lose. He was Tucker’s primary backup and rushed 26 times for 180 yards and a touchdown.
Can Syracuse stop the run?
It’s no secret the Golden Gophers like to pound the ball on the ground. Minnesota averaged 218.4 rushing yards per game (11th in the country) in 2022, as Mohmed Ibrahim rushed for 1,594 yards and 19 touchdowns. Overall, Minnesota was held under 150 total rushing yards just four times, and the Golden Gophers are 6-1 when rushing for 240 yards or more. Syracuse’s defensive line is depleted, and wasn’t exactly stonewalling opposing running games, finishing 67th in the FBS, allowing 150.1 rushing yards per game. The game will be won in the trenches, and this matchup could play a huge factor in determining the outcome.