To state that patently obvious this Syracuse doesn't resemble in any way shape or form the teams of the past few years. The long shadow of the Greg Robinson era is finally lifting in upstate New York. I am not in the camp that declares that the Big East needs Syracuse to be good for its own internal health. But Syracuse has always been one of the schools that I pay a little closer attention to, long before UC entered the Big East, and as such I felt the pain of the Orange fans these last few long years.
Syracuse will go as the defense goes. The offense is better than it has been, they are much more authoritative running the Football. Whether that is because they are really that good running the Football, or that they are protecting their Ryan Nasib and the passing game. Lets take a look at the raw, per game numbers.
Per Attempt Per Game Total TD's Rushing 4.55 154.14 8 Passing 6.9 189.1 12 Total 5.6 343.3 20
When I started looking at Syracuse as an offense the first thing that jumped out at me was the fumbles. The Orange have give up 8 fumbles so far this year, which is as many as UC has to date, and not very good. Despite that issue the Orange come through with timely offense. They are not very explosive in the running game the longest running play of the year was a 46 yard outburst by Delone Carter last week against West Virginia. The second longest run was a 45 yard outlier by Ryan Nasib in the Akron game. They are not much better in the passing game, just 3 passing plays over 40 yards. They are not a big play offense, they grind it out on the ground, hit some play action passes as a change up. Driving the ball for long stretches is not their forte, they can do it. They have 6 80+ yard drives for scores on the year, but they can't make a living offensively dealing with long fields. They are at their best when they have the luxury of short fields provided by their defense which is all of a sudden very good, but more on that in a moment. Ryan Nasib is the starting QB and he has a really weird stat line, 103 of 188, 53.4 Per Cent Completion, 12 TD's, 4 INT's because of that I don't really know what to make of him, but the assumption would be that he is really good in the red zone, not so much between the 20's. The running game is Delone Carters, though I have been impressed with Antwan Bailey in a reserve role. The awesomely named Van Chew is far and away the top receiver. The offense is decent, but isn't that great, which means that they will probably shred UC's secondary like every team before them.
Per Attempt Per Game Total Rushing 3.44 121.43 5 Passing 5.8 178 10 Total 4.6 299.4 15
Syracuse plays a high pressure, very aggressive 4-3 and they have become very proficient playing Scott Shafer's scheme. They are currently 19th in sacks with 19. That being acknowledged they are not good at making plays behind the line, 44 TFL's on the year. Normally when a D has that high a number of sacks of lower TFL totals it indicates a little bit lower quality defensive line. It can be somewhat easier to manufacture sacks, doubly so when you blitz frequently, than TFL's which generally come overwhelmingly from the defensive line. The stats back that assertion up. Of the 9 Orange players with more than 2 TFL's this year, just one of them is a defensive lineman, and 5 of them are defensive backs. Same thing with the sacks, two D Linemen have multiple sacks, five DB's or LB's have multiple sacks. So they blitz a lot and they blitz from every where. Perhaps the strangest thing about this defense is that despite all the pressure and exotic schemes in the back end they don't force a ton of turnovers, just 10 on the year, though 7 of those takeaways were picks. The bell cow of this defense is Doug Hogue without question, at least in my mind. He is a very athletic and very fast linebacker. To be honest the prospect of, potentially Chazz Anderson, facing this defense gives me more than a little pause for concern.