Break up the Orange!
Well if not now then when?
Every Syracuse Orange fan (or at least every reasonable fan) is looking at this team right now thinking the same thing.
“This team is 4-1. It is three wins away from making a bowl game barring something DRASTIC. This is a team that was 1-10 not too long ago. I want to get excited but it beat Akron, Colgate and Maine. Was the South Florida win really all that good? How good is this team really?”
It’s a reasonable sentiment to have. The Orange is a team that has its fair share of issues and could very well be 4-4 after its next three games which would be a sobering reality for fans at that point. BUT, don’t let that detract from what this team has done so far. I don’t care if Syracuse won all four games against you, your brother and 30 more of your closest friends. This is a team that was awful not too long ago. Doug Marrone has come in and brought this team further than it has been in a while and quicker than anyone expected. Syracuse can lose every game for the rest of the season and it would not matter. Get excited Orange fans. Make sure that Dome is packed on Saturday against the Pittsburgh Panthers because this is the (newest) biggest game of the season.
The most popular preseason pick to win the Big East has struggled to start the season. Pittsburgh is 2-3 overall with its two wins coming against New Hampshire and Florida International. The three losses have come to Utah in OT, to Miami (FL) big and Notre Dame last week. What can you gauge off that schedule? I’m not going to put Syracuse in the same class as Utah, Miami (FL) or Notre Dame but Pittsburgh is there for the taking on Saturday for the Orange.
Remember when I gave you my season preview for the Orange and said one of the biggest questions will be how Ryan Nassib performs under center? A new QB on any team can be disastrous or actually pretty good. Nassib has been the latter this year. Tino Sunseri has been the former for the Panthers. It’s tough to make a definitive statement about a quarterback overall based on five games but since we’re only worried what happens on Saturday, Tino Sunseri stinks. He’s thrown for five touchdowns in five games and the best wide receiver in the Big East, Jonathan Baldwin is being under utilized because of it. In the 31-3 loss to the Hurricanes, Sunseri went 8 of 15 for 61 yards and it should’ve been worse. Could he be better? Sure. But right now he stinks and if you’re an Orange fan that’s great. But about that running game…
Dion Lewis came into the season as a darkhorse Heisman favorite. He’s followed up a great freshman season with a sophomore year that’s hardly been surprising. Teams have tried to focus on stopping the run and Lewis hasn’t run for more than 100 yards in any game and has only run for two touchdowns. But the Panthers running attack is no longer just about Dion Lewis. Ray Graham stepped in for the second game of the year and ran for 115 yards on nine carries against New Hampshire. He ran for 277 yards and three scores against Florida International. I know Florida International isn’t any good but 277 yards is absurd against any team.
The key this week is the same as it was against South Florida. If the Panthers are going to beat the Orange at the Dome on Saturday, then let it be because Tino Sunseri has his best game of the season. If that’s what ends up happening then so be it. You shrug your shoulders and move on. Scott Schafer and that Syracuse defense will pressure Sunseri and blitz and blitz and blitz again. Ray Graham and Dion Lewis will fight for every yard on Saturday and if they are successful enough to win going that route I’ll be shocked. Syracuse plays quickly defensively and they’ll force Pittsburgh to play quickly. If you force Sunseri’s hand he will make a mistake and Syracuse’s defensive backfield, while not stellar, will certainly be good enough to take advantage. I’m worried about what happens on the other side of the ball though.
South Florida was successful far too often getting to Ryan Nassib last week and forcing him out of the pocket to make a play. Pittsburgh will be without stud defensive end Greg Romeus but that doesn’t make me feel any better about the Orange offensive line protecting Nassib. For as great as the Syracuse defense has been, the offense needs to get on the scoreboard more if it’s going to move to 5-1. And if it does that, then not only can Syracuse fans get excited, I’ll be leading the party.
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Written by Lutfi Sariahmed
Prince-Tyson Gulley for the win