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Syracuse Football Q&A

We had the pleasure of getting a few questions answered by SB Nation’s Syracuse site as well as a special inside correspondent.

South Florida v Syracuse Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

With Bob Diaco’s Huskies getting ready to face the Syracuse Orange on Saturday, we reached out to our friends at Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician to learn a little bit more about our former rival from the Big East days. Thanks to John Cassillo for the insight!

You can check out our Q&A with them here.

1) Syracuse opened its season with a beatdown of an FCS team and two big losses at the hands of very good teams. Do we know much about how good this year's Orange team is besides not elite (which, duh)?

I think we know the basics of this Syracuse team, which is better than we could say for any point from 2013-2015: The Orange offense is still learning on the job, but is gaining a lot of yardage and is running at a frenetic pace (105 plays last week). And SU's defense is not built for the Tampa-2 right now, which makes them look like trash, especially against quality offenses.

Eric Dungey has looked great for stretches, but not as much for others. Amba Etta-Tawo's produced in all three games, so his excellence is a known variable. And again, defense is banged up and bad right now, with minimal ability to make tackles in the open field or generate a pass rush. So no, zero idea about how good they are as a team, and even less about how good they can be.

2) How impactful were the two starters in the secondary who are now out due to injury and how experienced are their backups?

Injuries in the secondary have been a running theme for the last few years, so while all of the starters and reserves are young, nearly all of them are experienced as well. Juwan Dowels and Antwan Cordy were arguably the two best members of the secondary, though, which hurts quite a bit. Their gigs have been handed over to Corey Winfield and Rodney Williams, respectively. They've both played plenty. Where the big change comes is that it will open up the depth chart for some true freshmen to get onto the field. That may not go well, admittedly.

3) The Syracuse defense was obviously no match for the high-flying Louisville or South Florida offenses. Is it better than most people think or are there legitimate concerns on that side of the ball?

Is ANY defense a match for Louisville? Though yeah, we spent the last three quarters of the USF game getting carved up without much issue.

I've alluded to some problems in the previous responses but there's a lot of contributing factors to why the SU defense is pretty bad right now. Injuries have ravaged the group already, and it's only week four. The depth chart for the defensive line and secondary is non-existent due to several years of attrition and guys not ending up on campus after committing. The most visible issue is that the personnel (recruited by the previous regime to be blitz-heavy) doesn't match the scheme (Tampa-2, which is coverage-heavy). It's going to take some time to fix these issues, so yeah, there are legitimate concerns right now.

4) Besides QB Eric Dungey and leading receiver Etta-Tawo, who are the other offensive threats to keep an eye on?

Ervin Philips in the slot, for sure. He has 30 catches already this year, and has been a thorn in the side of all three SU opponents thus far. Steve Ishmael's still probably our best receiver, even if the numbers haven't indicated as much this season. Dontae Strickland looked like he was improving as a running back last week, so maybe keep an eye out for him, too?

5) Can you just admit that you missed us? Are your fans really making trips to Clemson and North Carolina to watch Syracuse get beat up? This is a great opportunity for your fans to attend an away game and actually have some hate from both sides this year and when UConn visits the Carrier Dome in 2018. Do you really have that in the ACC?

How could I miss you guys when you're all blowing up my mentions every week? :)

Syracuse fans are making trips to the various outposts of the ACC, especially because we haven't been to most of them before. Sure, the visits to Tallahassee and Clemson are rough. But we're 2-1 in the state of North Carolina (1-0 at Wake, 1-1 at NC State) since arriving in the conference, and yeah, maybe we'll beat Pitt one day...

I think the venom between our fan bases is still largely reserved for basketball, but familiarity in non-conference football play isn't a bad thing. I'm sure there will be some barbs tossed back and forth at the stadium and at least half of them will actually be about football (and not conference realignment or basketball).

We have bits and pieces of that in the ACC, but obviously nowhere near what we had with you guys, Georgetown and Villanova in hoops, or West Virginia in football. Syracuse has this weird internet rivalry with Clemson, and for some reason us and NC State fans don't seem to get along too well. Our chief rival is Boston College now, but they haven't been all that good lately, which removes some of the stakes there. In general, it's hard to get Southern folks to be rude to you in-person. So no, can't say things are the same as they used to be for us.

6) With a losing record against UConn in football, how exactly do you justify your feelings of superiority towards us? Your conference? Does that mean Purdue, Kentucky, Indiana, and Vanderbilt are all better than you by default?

Guess that depends on whether you believe the Big Ten and SEC are better than the ACC?

I think the feelings of superiority come from our history and the fact that the Huskies loaded up on wins when the Orange program was in the worst place in its history (the GERG years). I'm not saying that's right, necessarily. Just pointing out the reasons why some SU fans dismiss the W-L record when discussing UConn. Being in the ACC is probably part of it too, though that would probably go away if you guys ended up in a power conference as well.

7) Let's say UConn wins in a close and competitive game. What would that loss mean for this Syracuse team and what impact would it have on the fanbase?

A loss would confirm some of our fears, that this year is very much starting from scratch in Dino Babers's system, and the rebuilding process may take longer than many would like. After two big losses, the team needs to reset itself and get a confidence boost. Beating a team that we're reasonably "close" with in terms of expectations would be helpful for them to get back on track. Losing to UConn would pretty much confirm a three- or four-win season as the ceiling in 2016. I doubt the players or the fan base would take that very well.

8) Prediction?

Syracuse 30, UConn 26

The Orange offense uses pace to tire out the UConn defense over the course of the game, and keep itself ahead just enough to pull off the win. SU's defense doesn't look all that great, though they do enough to prevent the types of scoring outputs Louisville and USF put up. Connecticut shuts down Syracuse's attack for a bit, but the road team finally makes adjustments on the fly and puts up some second half points to grab its second win of the season.

BONUS - Behind Enemy Lines with Collin Sherwin

We also reached out to friend of the blog Collin Sherwin, who covers USF on The Daily Stampede. The Bulls trampled the Orange last week, 45-20.

1. What were your takeaways on the strengths and weaknesses of this team?

Eric Dungey & Amba Etta-Tawo, those guys are good. Some of the other WR's can make plays as well. But everyone else is pretty lousy. There's no consistent run game to speak of and the OL can't protect or make holes. Their offense is "Dungey runs for his life and make a play sometimes." Babers is gonna get them good, and I'm glad he's got a nice young QB to build around. But they're miles from good right now.

That defense is a smouldering dumpster fire. The Little Giants playing in cement. Beyond slow, no power, can't cover. The second-worst defense I've seen in person since I've been covering USF, just ahead of UCF last year.

2. Who are a couple of players on each side of the ball who stood out?

On defense no one stood out because if any of them were good, USF must have seen that on tape and decided to attack literally everyone else.

Dungey & Etta-Tawo can play. So can Estime and Ishmael. Wasn't impressed with Strickland at RB at all, and if he's their #1 there must not be much behind him.

3. Given what you know about UConn, how do they matchup against Syracuse?

Jamie and I discussed this game on our gambling podcast because we thought the over/under was going to be really interesting. Where they set that line is based on who they think can control possession. And I'm just not sure on that one.

You know I think Sheriffs sucks and Newsome isn't great, but even they can move the ball on this defense. Diaco-ball does force you to make plays offensively as you don't just hand it to people. SU will take shots, and score on probably 40ish % of possessions. But you'll force a turnover or two as well.

This will be some shit football, but if UConn can keep SU's defense on the field, they can win. UConn wins like 37-34.