|FSU Run Game vs Syracuse Defense
Florida State boasts in Dalvin Cook one of the top running backs in the nation and, arguably, the greatest running back in their history. They are averaging just 4.76 yards per carry, but rank 5th in the nation in the run game per S&P+. It is important to note, however, that the 4.76 number includes sacks and while the S&P+ number does’t and the Noles are last in the nation with 272 sack yards on 32 sacks. So, while the offensive line has struggled in pass protection, they have paved the way for the FSU running game. Wilson Bell will get his third consecutive start at right guard for the injured Landon Dickerson and Bell has performed well the last two times out. Rick Leonard will be making the start at right tackle for injured Brock Ruble. Leonard started the first three games there but was benched in favor of Ruble. Leonard, who was new to the position this year has reportedly been playing better in practice and we’ll see if that translates.
Syracuse has a poor run defense that is rated 98th by S&P+. The Orange are giving up nearly 200 yards per game on the ground on a 93rd in the nation 4.79 yards per carry. They’ve given up 200+ yards in three games this season and only held Connecticut and Colgate under 160 yards on the ground. The Cuse is a bit undersized on the front seven.
Dalvin Cook and the Noles could have a field day running the ball this weekend. The most similarly ranked run defense they’ve faced is South Florida and the Noles nearly set a single game record for rushing yards in that contest.
|FSU Passing Game vs Syracuse Defense
Florida State fans have enjoyed the emergence of young wide receivers Nyqwan Murray and Auden Tate late in the season. Murray is the quick playmaker with excellent ball skills and Tate is the big target that gives the Noles a deep threat who also possesses decent wiggle for a big guy. Between them, they’ve given Deondre Francois more options in the passing game and also taken some of the pressure off of Travis Rudolph. FSU is ranked by S&P+ as the 18th ranked passing attack in the nation. One area the Noles have struggled is in pass protection as noted above.
Syracuse has the 104th ranked pass defense per S&P+. They’ve given up 300+ yards in five games this year including 431 to Louisville and 471 to Notre Dame. Where the Orange are particularly vulnerable is in deep passing game as they are one of only three teams to give up double digit 50+ yard passes and they give up 8.5 yards per attempt, 120th in the nation. To top it all off, they don’t get after the quarterback very well with only 14 sacks all year, tied for 109th in the nation.
Syracuse hasn’t shown it can exploit the Noles biggest offensive weakness, pass protection, and therefore the Orange will have a tough time slowing the Florida State passing attack.
|Syracuse Rushing Game vs FSU Defense
Syracuse averages an abysmal 3.17 yards per carry, 123rd in the country. They haven’t eclipsed 4 yards per carry in any game this season and have been held under 100 yards three times this season. S&P+ ranks the rushing offense 119th in the country. Adding misery for Syracuse fans is the fact that their second leading rusher, Quarterback Eric Dungey, is doubtful for the game. If Dungey doesn’t go, then likely starter Zack Mahoney is not a threat to run the ball at all and the zone read that the Orange like to run becomes more predictable to defend.
Florida State’s rushing defense has normalized some statistically this season after an atrocious start. That is in part due to an easier back half of the schedule playing offenses that are either weak or that are a better matchup schematically for the Noles. It has also been due to the Noles getting healthy on the defensive line and getting improved linebacker play. FSU is now ranked as the 31st rush defense by S&P+ and they’re giving up 4.15 yards per carry. The Noles have held three of the last five opponents to less than three yards per carry.
With Dungey in the game, this becomes a little trickier for Florida State as they struggled early this season with dynamic running quarterbacks that proficiently run the zone read. Outside of that, however, the Noles have been excellent against the run this season and I expect them to largely stifle the Orange.
|Syracuse Pass Game vs FSU Defense
Syracuse has had a lot of success in the passing game this year. Eric Dungey has thrown for 300+ yards in six games this year including 434 yards on 84% passing against Boston College. He was injured early on against Clemson, however, and is not expected to play this weekend. Austin Wilson came in for the injured Dungey and completed 63% of his passes for 116 yards but threw two interceptions. Zack Mahoney started last week against NC State and completed 56% of his attempts for 190 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Syracuse is ranked as the 38th passing team per S&P+. The Orange do, however, give up a fair amount of sacks, ranking 105th in the nation.
FSU 43rd passing defensive in the country per S&P+ rankings. The Noles have given up yards through the air, but have been opportunistic with interceptions led by Tavarus McFadden’s nation leading 7 picks. Florida State also gets after the quarterback well, with 33 sacks on the year, 9th in the nation. DeMarcus Walker is 3rd in the country with 11 of those sacks. Despite missing several starters in the defensive backfield, the secondary has improved throughout the year and although they’ve still given up some yards, the yards per attempt has decreased significantly and the pass efficiency defense has gotten better.
This will be a challenge for the Florida State defense in dealing with the uptempo pass heavy offense of Syracuse, a challenge that would be greater with Dungey in the game. If he does in fact miss his second game in a row, then I don’t expect Syracuse to have a lot of success in the passing game and this could turn into an ugly game.
Offensively, the Noles should have success in whichever way they desire. This will be the worst pass defense that the Noles have faced and the only time they’ve faced a similar rush defense, they ran for over 500 yards.
Defensively, this will be an interesting test to see how much improvement the Noles have made this year in regards to alignment and handling a fast paced offense. That said, without quarterback Eric Dungey, this becomes a more predictable and defendable offense that the Florida State defense shouldn’t have too much trouble slowing down.