Record: 5-4 (3-2 ACC)
Head Coach: Scott Shafer
All-Time: 5-1 FSU
Overview: Syracuse is a team that -- as head coach Scott Shafer put it Wednesday -- is only just finding its identity. The Orange are fresh off two straight wins in which they kept their opponents to a combined three points. They're rushing the football for 200 yards a game and starting to dial up more exotic blitz and coverage schemes. Syracuse feels like they're coming into their own.
And they're hoping to catch Florida State flat-footed.
It's been a tumultuous week in Tallahassee already. Football players and coaches have been worrying about a whole range of issues -- and a lot of them had little to do with football. The Orange will come at FSU with a powerful rushing attack that has continued to evolve as the season gets better. The last time the Seminoles faced a rushing attack as prolific as Syracuse's was at Boston College and the Eagles played the Seminoles closer than any other team this year."
"[BC] will put three or four or five tight ends in the game. They don't do that much, but they do a lot of different formations, but not quite as many as those type of things." said Fisher when asked about the differences between the two rushing attacks on Wednesday.
The Orange have been susceptible to the big play this season and they have been rolled in three games -- most recently by Georgia Tech 56-0. On defense look for the Orange to take a similar tact to the one Miami and Wake have used the past couple weeks. They will try to eliminate the big play and force Jameis Winston and the Seminole offense to dink and dunk them down the field.
How FSU Stacks Up: The biggest obstacle FSU faces this week is not on that field today. If the Seminoles come out and do what they are capable of they should win handily -- Vegas has them at 38 1/2 point favorites. But if all of the turmoil surrounding Winston has gotten to the Seminoles -- if their focus is lacking or their heads aren't in the game -- this could start to unravel quickly. Based on how FSU has come out in their past nine games, Syracuse probably shouldn't hope for that though.
The Seminoles have the advantage in almost every facet of this game. They should be able to dictate the tempo defensively and their offense is equipped to run if the Orange drop players and pass if the Orange blitz. Winston thinks they'll blitz.
“They have a lot of good blitzes," Winston said. "They have a good team. They got a lot of good players, a lot of great blitzes and we’re got to try to expose that but we’re going to do what we do and try to get this victory.”
If they don't blitz look for Devonta Freeman and the Seminole rushing attack to have a big day, the Yellow Jacket rushing attack wreaked havoc on the Orange defense last month to the tune of 394 yards. FSU's run game has far fewer frills, but better athletes and could be looking at similar numbers if the Orange are intent on trying to takeaway Winston's vertical passing game.
Defensively, this is not the same defense that gave up over 200 yards to Boston College. Perhaps most importantly Mario Edwards is healthy and his abiliy to play the run is one of the more underrated aspects of this defensive front. With Christian Jones now lining up at end on most plays and the emergence of Terrance Smith, this a much different unit than the one that lined up at BC. Fisher said as much this week, he also commented on the fact the FSU D had played selfishly at points early in the season. It's become more assignment oriented with players no longer attempting to free-lance to make plays. You've seen the results over the last month and a half, since October FSU's first team defense has surrendered just 21 points.
Three to Watch:
1.) Jerome Smith, RB - “Physical. Hard – tough. Downhill," said Fisher. "They bring it now, him and Prince Tyson-Gulley is extremely good. He ran extremely well against Clemson and everybody they played. They pound it in there and they stay true to what they do and they play great defense and great team football. They’re physical and tough.”
2.) Terrel Hunt, QB - Hunt is going to need have a big day because he's going against arguably the nation's top secondary. On the year Syracuse's QB's have 10 TD's to 15 picks. Hunt has seven and seven. He'll need to avoid turnovers today as those will be fatal to the Orange.
3.) Jay Bromley, DT -- Scott Shafer called Bromley the leader of the Orange defense and the senior DT will be tested today. The Seminoles have a very good line and if they can win at the point of attack all day it will be a long day for Syracue.
Quote of the Week: "Success brings a lot of clutter from other things. There are always things that go on and you have to learn to separate on the field and off the field and what you can control and our guys are doing a nice job of that.”
- Jimbo Fisher
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