The Big East season is finally upon us.
What does it mean?
At this point you could legitimately make the argument that six of the eight teams in the conference could win the league. If Syracuse beats South Florida convincingly enough this week in Tampa you could add the Orange to that list as well. Would I pick them to beat West Virginia with a win? Probably not. But the main point here is that the whole league has been so wide open that Louisville may be the only team with no chance of winning at all.
But it all starts with South Florida less than 24 hours from now. It’s hardly going to be easy for the Orange as well. Syracuse has never beaten South Florida. Ever. On top of that, Syracuse has led for a grand total of four minutes and 12 seconds in all the games combined. 4:12. It’ll take at least 10 times that long for me to properly put together this column. The last time they took a lead against the Bulls came four years ago. The games of late haven’t even been close. South Florida has beaten Syracuse by an average score of 35-11. It’s been that bad.
But it’s not hopeless.
Granted, a lot of my analysis to follow comes served with a nice scoop of faith. When you have been dominated by one team as much as Syracuse has by South Florida, to break that streak you need a few things to bounce your way. To win a game like this, some of it goes beyond talent.
Speaking of talent, South Florida is missing a lot of it. Gone from last year’s squad to the NFL is Jason Pierre-Paul, Nate Allen, Jerome Murphy, Carlton Mitchell, George Selvie and coach Jim Leavitt. The team is missing a lot of pieces and doesn’t seem to be in that much of a different spot than Syracuse in the early season. The Bulls have a 3-1 record and are tied atop the Big East with Syracuse and West Virginia. More than that though, the Bulls have its fair share of questions.
Under new coach Skip Holtz the debate is whether or not he’s made the offense too conservative. Syracuse would love for the Bulls to continue that pattern but forcing them out of their preceived conservative nature may not matter. South Florida is 31st in the country averaging almost 200 yards a game on the ground. Moise Plancher, Demetris Murray, Marcus Shaw and quarterback B.J. Daniels all have more than 100 yards rushing with Plancher, Murray and Daniels as the main threats.
This is the key to the game. Ryan Nassib’s performance offensively in his first Big East game is important. Delone Carter’s role in the offense is worth paying attention to. The defensive backfield will need to prevent the big play when B.J. Daniels puts the ball in the air. But the key is the South Florida running game and what that Syracuse defensive front 7 can do to stop it. Daniels has a nice arm, not a great one though. What makes Daniels dangerous is his ability to take off and run.
Daniels will get blitzed again and again and again by the Syracuse defense. It’s going to have to. If South Florida beats Syracuse, let it be because Daniels had an amazing day through the air as opposed to on the ground. If that ends up being the case so be it. But if Daniels & Co starts to have success on the ground things can get out of hand quickly. Remember this Syracuse defense gave up 200 plus yards rushing to Colgate two weeks ago. Not the toothpaste.
Could Syracuse stop the Bulls ground attack and come out of South Florida with a win? Its certainly possible. This defense has the players to do it. But it will not be easy. Syracuse has never beaten the Bulls in part because it hasn’t handled their dual threat QB very well over the years. This year is no different. B.J. Daniels can cause Syracuse all sorts of problems. But this is a different South Florida team. Why not now to break the losing streak?
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Written by Lutfi Sariahmed
Prince-Tyson Gulley for the win