|FSU Run Game vs Syracuse Defense
The Florida State running game has been strong this year. However, they will be without their star running back, Dalvin Cook. With Mario Pender still out recovering from a collapsed lung, that leaves just Sophomore Johnathan Vickers and Freshman Jacques Patrick who have combined for just 18 carries this season. The offensive line will also be without starting right tackle Derrick Henry. Syracuse has not been good against the run this season, ranking 100th in S&P+, however, they have played better after giving up 268 and 281 yards respectively to LSU and USF. With Dalvin Cook, this is an obvious advantage to Florida State. Without? Your guess is as good as mine, but I’m gonna say that the young talented backs are able to carry the load successfully.
|FSU Passing Game vs Syracuse Defense
More question marks abound for the Noles offense in the passing game. Everett Golson has been inconsistent playing well at times this year and really struggling at other times. However, there are whispers that he may not even be playing this week as Sean Maguire got a bunch of the 1st team reps in practice this week. Another question is if we start to see some of the younger wide receivers. Jimbo Fisher seemed to suggest that may happen now that some of the talented youngsters are getting healthy and playing better in practice. On the other side of the ball, Syracuse hasn’t been that great against the pass. They rate 99th in S&P+ pass defense and have given up high passer ratings and completion percentages in all but two games. There are again so many questions surrounding the Nole offense this week that it’s hard to really get a handle on this game. The Noles get the edge on talent alone and my belief that either quarterback will find success against the Cuse defense.
|Syracuse Run Game vs FSU Defense
Syracuse has a couple of freshman leading the way on the ground in running back Jordan Fredericks and quarterback Eric Dungey. Frederick is the leading rusher averaging a healthy 5.71 yards per carry. Dungey actually has the most carries for the Orange so far and is averaging 4 yards per carry. The Cuse running game is ranked 90th in the S&P+ with a large part of their number coming in a 312 yard performance to open the season against Rhode Island. Florida State has been very strong against the run this year, ranked 13th in S&P+ and giving up 4 yards per carry or less in 5 of their games this year. They’ve also only given up two scores on the ground this year. I expect the Noles to hold the Orange in check on the ground.
|Syracuse Pass Game vs FSU Defense
The last three games, the Syracuse passing attack has been very efficient, but not very explosive with high completion percentages, decent passer ratings, but yards per attempt under 7 yards. They rank as the 40th passing attacking in the nation by S&P+. Florida State’s corners have been excellent this year, but the Noles have been extremely susceptible to slot receivers since the loss of Trey Marshall, first to a targeting ejection against Miami and then to injury against Louisville. In his place, Tyler Hunter has been routinely beaten to the point of benching late in the game against Louisville. Former walk-on Javien Elliott has seen action in his place, but with Nate Andrews getting healthier, we may see Derwin James more in the star position. Overall, this is an advantage for FSU, but Syracuse could have success in the middle with Terrance Smith still out and struggles against slot receivers.
Both teams have solid special teams units. Syracuse has a good punter and placekicker and have been good against the return. For the Noles, Cason Beatty has quietly had a strong year averaging 43.39 yards per punt with the most 50+ yard punts in over 30 years for Florida State. Despite the blocked kick last week, FSU boasts one of the nations best kickers and they’ve been good in coverage.
Even though all the advantages point to Florida State, there are so many uncertainties with this game Saturday. How will the Florida State offense look without Dalvin Cook? Will Everett Golson be out, too? Will any of the freshman wide receivers make an impact? I don’t think Florida State has much of a shot to lose, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they struggle some offensively and win an ugly game. Best case scenario? Jacques Patrick shows why he was a highly rated back out of high school and has a strong game, wide receivers step up and make plays and the defense shuts down the opposition like they really should. Worst case? The offense struggles without Cook and the defense gives up a couple scores after being put in bad positions. I think it’ll be in the middle somewhere and we see some flashes of potential, but inconsistencies hold the offense back.