Florida State Opponent Preview: Syracuse

Florida State will face its final road test of the season Saturday night as they head north to take on the Syracuse Orange. FSU is currently on a bit of hot streak since their bye. Although it’s been against two bad teams the Noles have thumped their last two opponents by a combined margin of 710 yards and 67 points. 

Syracuse on the other hand has been a different story the past three weeks. After an unexpected 6-0 start the Orange have dropped their last 3 in a row and may be without starting quarterback Garrett Shrader again this week. 

If Shrader is out, and FSU brings their A- game, they could win this one in a convincing fashion. However, the Dome is not always an easy place to play, and Syracuse has a good defense. If Shrader is available this week it could be closer than some think. 

When I started comparing the two teams, they were surprisingly similar in several categories. But to be fair there is a little more to the story as far and who some of their stats came against. 

For example, against FCS Wagner who is 1-8 and been blown out in almost every game this season Syracuse put up over 600 yards of offense and held them to just 50 yards of total offense which helps pad the stat line.

Head to Head Comparison graphic Syracuse

Offensive Preview

Syracuse doesn’t exactly have a prolific offense but to be fair they have faced some pretty good defenses this season. Outside of FCS Wagner and UConn every other defense has been in the top 40. The past three games were the toughest on the schedule and oddly enough were against the 28th, 27th and 26th ranked defenses.

In those three games Syracuse showed they were still human. It’s worth mentioning they were without Shrader vs Pitt and the offense fell flat on its face.

In the last 3 games, not only did they lose but were held under 300 yards of offense, gave up 15 sacks and only scored and average of 15.6 points per game which is just half of their season average.

Against Pitt last week (without Shrader), Syracuse was held under 150 total yards and did not score and offensive touchdown. Backup quarterback Carlos Del Rio-Wilson did not have a great game in his first start. He had a 34.8% completion percentage, only threw for 120 yards, no touchdowns and was sacked 8 times.

Their offense dropped from a 44% success rate and 5.39 yards per play vs Clemson to a 23% success rate and 3.06 yards per play against Pitt. As you can see without Shrader they haven’t been able to get much going on offense.

They still have Sean Tucker who is one of the better backs in the ACC. But without Shrader as a second rushing threat and no real pass game to account for Pitt held him to just 19 yards. He’s still someone to watch out for and FSU has struggled to stop the run which hopefully with the return of Fabien Lovett isn’t the case any longer.

Statistically FSU will be the best defense they have faced this season. Shrader’s availability will be a huge factor in this game. However, even if he is available how healthy will he be?

Keep in mind he is a running quarterback, and that ability is something their offense relies on. If he’s not 100% and is taking shots in the game that could be a disaster waiting to happen. He did start the Notre Dame game but had to be pulled for health reasons.

If he’s not able to go and they turn to Del Rio-Wilson it’s probably going to a long night for the Syracuse offense. Del Rio-Wilson will have a little more experience and a full week to prepare as starter if that is the case but I don’t expect THAT much improvement against one of the better defenses they will have faced this season.

Defensive Preview

Syracuse does have good defense which has been their strength but there’s some smoke and mirrors when you look a little deeper. Syracuse has not faced an offense ranked higher than 45th in total offense this season. They have only faced one passing offense ranked inside the top 70 which was Purdue at 16 and they threw for 424 yards against Syracuse.

Syracuse also gave up 246 rushing yards against Notre Dame and 293 against Clemson. Those two numbers make your mouth water knowing FSU has rushed for over 200 yards in their last four games including two against top 15 run defenses.

FSU will be the highest ranked total offense Syracuse has faced this season and the most balanced as well. Syracuse also lost one of their best veteran corners for the season against Notre Dame. He was their leading tackler in the secondary and second in interceptions.

FSU will also have a decided size advantage up front on offense as well. When I looked at the defensive line, I didn’t see one players who has played significant snaps that was over 275 pounds. FSU may also get Treshaun Ward back this week too. He was reportedly available vs Miami but did not play.

Don’t get me wrong, Syracuse does have a good defense. Their linebackers are some of the best in the conference and the remaining secondary is talented as well. It’s just knowing they haven’t played an offense like Florida State’s yet. Knowing they gave up over 400 yards passing to the one passing offense with a pulse and allowing over 200 yards rushing in two games makes you wonder how good they will be against better competition this week. 

Special Teams

Syracuse has a good kicker, he has missed two field goals this season but he’s also 2/2 from 50+ yards. However, they are near the bottom in kick and punt return defense and 118th in net punting. FSU has seen some pretty good play from their special teams unit this season and this may be another opportunity for them to make an impact. 

Final Thoughts and Prediction

If you had asked me about this game a month ago you would have probably gotten a much different prediction. Syracuse was undefeated and ranked, FSU was coming off a 3-game losing streak and playing up there has trap game written all over it after a game against a rival.

However, the tables have seemed to turn since then. Syracuse is now on a three-game losing streak and has injuries piling up whereas FSU is about as healthy as they’ve been and playing some of the best football they have been all season and is now ranked themselves.

If Shrader is able to play and close to 100% this one will likely be closer to the spread in which I see it around 31-20. If Shrader is out and FSU plays well avoiding costly mistakes and penalties I think they run away with it 34-10. 

They certainly can’t mess around with this team, or this is a game they could lose but I don’t see it going that way. I think the Noles will be focused and handle their business in the last road game of the season to get the win.

It’s also their last conference game and with a win and a little help they can still finish higher in the ACC standings to get positioned for a better bowl and hopefully keep the number next to their name for a little longer than last time.

Thanks for reading and Go Noles!

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