The bad news: After a sobering 45-14 loss to Pittsburgh last weekend, Syracuse must travel to Morgantown to face the toast of the Big East, #20/20 West Virginia.
The good news: For the second week in a row, no one in Orange got injured.
I’m not sure if this is good news or bad news, but this means the same guys that were on the field against Pitt and USF will be back for Saturday’s matchup with the Mountaineers. Hopefully, they will actually show up in the figurative sense this week.
I feel like SU is like AJ Burnett of the New York Yankees. There’s “Good AJ,” the guy who was lights out in Game 2 of the World Series and April of this season. Then, there’s “bad AJ,” who punches walls and can’t get through a game without imploding. Likewise, the “good Orange” doesn’t allow first half touchdowns. The “bad Orange?” See: Games against Washington and Pitt.
To be completely realistic, this is a game Syracuse is not going to win even if the “good Orange” comes to play. West Virginia is too quick and defensively sound for the (hopefully) up-and-coming SU squad. That being said, the Orange can make it competitive.
Despite last weekend’s debacle, SU’s defensive numbers are still impressive. The ‘Cuse D ranks 18th in the nation in total defense and is allowing 302 yards per game, its best mark since 1999. WVU is not Akron or USF, though, so Scott Shafer better get his clip board ready (and have a few extra, since he’ll probably be throwing them in frustration).
West Virginia gets rid of the ball quickly and likes to throw short, quick passes, something that has given SU some problems in the past. The Mountaineers offensive unit is lead by quarterback Geno Smith, who has an outstanding 68.4% completion rating.
Wide receiver Tavon Austin is by far his best target. The sophomore has accumulated 413 yards and two touchdowns this season. Senior wide receiver Jock Sanders is second on the team in passing yards with 317. Sanders is incredibly fast and will wreck havoc on SU’s secondary if it cannot contain him.
Mountaineer tailback Noel Devine, who rushed for 1, 465 total yards in 2009, was off his game last week against USF. Although he caught a 12-yard touchdown pass, he was held to just 29 yards on 13 carries. He is not playing at full-strength, however. Devine injured his toe when he was hit out of bounds against LSU on September 25th and is apparently still a bit banged up.
As for SU’s offense, it needs to cut down on its three-and-outs. The Orange had SEVEN of these against Pitt. I think some of this can be attributed to a lack of a deep threat for SU. While Nassib has plenty of receivers to throw to, he can’t really air it out to anyone because none of them can get down the field in time. Of course, the lack of a consistent running game and an enigmatic, inexperienced offensive line isn’t helping matters. West Virginia has a very fast, experienced defense that will most likely give SU’s O-Line problems all day.
Sorry, but this could get ugly. The Schwartzwalder Trophy is staying in WVU for the 9th straight year. (The Oranges last won it with a 24-13 win over WVU in 2001.)
About the Author
Written by Beth Ann Clyde
I graduated from Syracuse University in 2009 and can count the number of times I witnessed the Orange win a football game on two hands.