Florida State Rush Offense vs Syracuse Rush Defense
Florida State is coming off it’s worst rushing performance of the season in an odd game against Wake Forest last week. It was odd because FSU never got in a rhythm mainly due to a dominant defensive effort that had FSU up 35-0 early in the 2nd quarter with very little offense being needed. On the season, however, Florida State has eclipsed the 200 yard mark three times and average 196.3 yards per game on the ground. This Seminoles rank 18th in yards per carry at 5.2 YPC. Overall, the FSU run game has been very good this season and ranks as the 11th best rushing attack in the S&P+ advanced statistics.
The Noles are led on the ground by a trio of running backs that each bring a little something different to the table. Devonta Freeman is the leader on the ground with 650 yards on an very good 5.6 yards per carry average. Freeman has good speed and quickness that combines with excellent vision and patience. James Wilder Jr. is the power back of the three and does a good job pushing the pile forward in short yardage situations. Wilder has 317 yards on the year and provides a tough inside runner. Karlos Williams has sprinters speed combined with great size that gives him big play potential. Williams has 444 yards on the season with a 7.3 yards per carry average. The offensive line has done a very good job opening the holes for the backs and have been very disciplined in their play thus far. The job of Chad Abrams and Nick O’Leary should also be commended. Not really known as a reliable blocker before, O’Leary has shown great improvement on the edge this year and become a very well rounded tight end.
Syracuse is pretty good against the run, rating as the 40th rushing defense in the nation according to S&P+. They give up 137.67 yards per game and 3.52 yards per carry, both rank among the Top 30 in the nation. The Orange run a base 4-3 scheme with good size along the defensive line but a bit undersized LB corps. Middle linebacker Marquis Spruill is active at 224 lbs and is 2nd on the team in tackles with 51 with a very impressive 11 tackles for loss from his linebacking spot. The leading tackler on the team is free safety Durell Eskridge with 59 tackles. Jay Bromely also has 11 tackles for loss from the defensive tackle position. Overall the Orange do a good job getting into the backfield with 69 tackles for loss, good for 16th best in the nation.
Run defense is the strength of the Orange unit but I can’t imagine they will stack the box to stop the run leaving the outsides open for the FSU passing attack. With that in mind, I would expect the Noles to have success running the ball against Syracuse.
Florida State Pass Offense vs Syracuse Pass Defense
Until is proven otherwise, Florida State will have an advantage in the air in every matchup. As is the case with almost every team that Florida State goes up against, the Seminoles have an advantage when looking at the FSU receivers verses the Syracuse secondary. The FSU trio of Rashad Greene, Kenny Shaw, and Kelvin Benjamin is arguably the top trio of wide receivers in the nation. They should have another good day and tight end Nick O’Leary has really established himself as another excellent target for Jameis Winston. Winston has been remarkable this season and has solidified himself as a valid Heisman candidate halfway into his first season.
Overall, the Florida State passing attack has put up fantastic numbers. The Seminoles rank 4th in passing efficiency at 179.30 and 3rd in yards per attempt at 10.5. They are 14th in yards per game with 324.7. Football Outsiders S&P+ ranks the Seminole passing attack as the 2nd best in the nation.
Syracuse is 73rd in the nation against the pass in S&P+ rankings. They give up just 230.9 yards per game, 63rd in the nation and 6.7 yards per attempt, 32nd in the nation. As the numbers show, Syracuse tries to keep balls underneath and force short throws to make you drive down the field. This won’t be anything new to FSU as the last several teams have tried the same strategy with the threat of the Nole’s receivers breaking big gains. Against the only real legitimate passing teams they’ve faced, the Orange have given up big yardage, including 468 yards through the air to Tajh Boyd and Clemson.
My mantra continues this week, there are few teams in the nation that can handle the Florida State passing attack when they’re not making mistakes. There are so many weapons and different features of the Florida State passing attack that I can’t see Syracuse having success slowing down the Noles air attack.
Syracuse Rush Offense vs Florida State Rush Defense
Syracuse has a good rushing attack that ranks 31st in the nation by S&P+. Raw numbers back that up almost perfectly as the Orange rush for 203.33 yards per game, ranked 29th and 4.97 yards per carry, 30th best in the nation. They run a spread option attack and are led on the ground by Jerome Smith who averages 78.3 yards per game on the ground. Smith is a bit of a pounding back at 6′ 220 lbs and averages 16 carries a game. They have two other players that average 40+ yards per game in running back Prince-Tyson Gulley and quarterback Terrel Hunt.
Florida State has done a very good job against the run since giving up 200 yards against Boston College. In those games they have settled more on a 4-2-5 formation with Christian Jones at the defensive end spot and have done much less substituting and experimentation with players in different roles. Last weekend against Wake Forest the Noles held the Demon Deacons to just 2.6 yards per carry and have generally faired very well against spread rushing teams like Syracuse.
For the season, the Noles give up 3.31 yards per carry, 16th best in the nation and are rated the 27th best rush defense by S&P+. The Noles have the ability to stop the run and talent along the defensive line to win the line of scrimmage in most games they play. They are surrendering 126.22 yards per game, 21st best in the country.
Syracuse might have some success with their commitment to the run, but should have to fight for every yard as FSU has feasted on spread rushing attacks thus far.
Syracuse Pass Offense vs Florida State Pass Defense
Florida State has the number one pass defense in the nation according to S&P+. The raw numbers do a lot to support that notion, too. Florida State is 1st in the nation in passing yards per game giving up just 147.9 yards through the air. They’re 2nd in the nation in yards per pass attempt at only 5.1 yards and 2nd in the nation in pass efficiency defense at 90.96. Those excellent numbers are thanks to a deep and ultra talented secondary that is also very versatile. This has been particularly evident the last month at Clemson and against Miami as Florida State consistently showed different looks in the defensive backfield mixing up coverages and bringing pressure from the edges.
Syracuse hasn’t had much success through the air this season. They rank 110th in the nation in S&P+ passing offense and struggle in passing downs ranking 117th. They throw for just 182.1 yards a game (107th), 5.9 yards per attempt (108th), complete just 58.1% of their passes (76th), and have a passer rating of 108.9 (109th). They’ve been held to under 150 yards passing 4 times this season and under 100 yards passing two those times.
Let those numbers sync in for a minute. FSU should absolutely dominate the Syracuse passing attack.
Score Prediction: FSU 63-6