The Daily Nole

Preview: FSU Takes Over Empire State for Game With Syracuse

Mitch White/FSU athletics

Who: No. 17 Florida State Seminoles (7-3, 4-3 ACC) at Syracuse Orange (4-6, 2-4 ACC)
Where: Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York
When: Saturday, Nov. 19 at 3:30 p.m. EST (ABC Regional)
Last Week: Syracuse lost to N.C. State, 35-20; Florida State defeated Boston College, 45-7.

The games before rivalry week are usually tune-ups for the drama at the end of the season, and this year’s Florida State-Syracuse game has the makings of one. Florida States is 7-3 after a resounding victory over Boston College while Syracuse is 4-6 and stumbling after a disappointing loss to N.C. State. First-year head coach Dino Babers has made a clear impact on the program, but he is still building a foundation that will take years to fully implement.

One encouraging sign for the Orange has been their offense this season. Babers has proven that his success was no fluke, since he now has a dual-threat quarterback throwing for over 2,000 yards in Eric Dungey and a receiver with over 1,200 receiving in Amba Etta-Tawo. While the Orange are still struggling with the end zone (only 87th overall in points scored), they have enough raw offensive production to indicate a transformation. Their defense cannot say the same, as they are one of the worst in the nation.

Florida State is expected to win the game, but the story line for at least the first half will be on running back Dalvin Cook. He is now just 19 yards away from breaking Warrick Dunn’s career rushing record at Florida State. It would not be surprising to see him eclipse Dunn’s mark on the first offensive series of the game. Against the Syracuse defense, he has a good shot at padding his stats and giving himself a 100-plus yard separation. Lead writer Clint Eiland and editor Mike Ferguson break down the contest:

All-Time Series

Florida State has an 8-1 advantage overall. The Orange have not beat the Seminoles since 1966, when FSU still had Bill Peterson as head coach. Under Jimbo Fisher, Florida State’s average margin of victory over Syracuse is a little over 32 points. The Seminoles have won eight straight in the series.

Key Players for FSU

Clint: Dalvin Cook — The potential record-setter might be able to help his New York case in the state itself. Many forget that his first major reps in a college football game were back in the 2014 Syracuse contest, when he rushed for 122 yards and one touchdown on 5.3 yards per carry in a 38-20 FSU victory. The current Syracuse defense is experiencing growing pains under the new coaching staff, giving up almost 200 yards rushing per game. Facing off against an energized Cook that is eager to solidify his record will probably not help this trend.

Mike: Tarvarus McFadden — If there’s one area where Syracuse is excellent, it’s at wide receiver. Amba Etta-Tawo, Ervin Philips and Steve Ishmael are all very good and that trio must perform if the Orange are to make this one interesting. Partially tasked with slowing them down will be the nation’s leader in interceptions, Tarvarus McFadden. The 6-2 sophomore cornerback has been mostly “boom or bust” this season, but has played very well over the second half of the season. With Marquez White on the other side, teams have thrown at McFadden quite a bit this season. He will need to make plays on Saturday.

Key Players for Syracuse

Clint: Amba Etta-Tawo — If fans don’t know about Etta-Tawo now, they will by the end of the season. He is a senior transfer from Maryland that is currently sixth in the nation in receptions (78) and receiving yards (1,242). Etta-Tawo has gone from virtually unknown to one of the leading receivers in college football, having eclipsed 100 yards receiving in six different games. At 6-2 and 202 pounds, Etta-Tawo uses his strength to wrestle the ball away from defenders and create space when catching the ball. With starting quarterback Eric Dungey likely out, he will need to provide all the help he can towards backup quarterback Zack Mahoney.

Mike: Dontae Strickland — With Eric Dungey likely out, hope for Syracuse is dwindling. Quarterback Zack Mahoney isn’t nearly the runner that Dungey is and for the Orange to have a chance, they need to be able to run the ball and keep FSU honest. Sophomore Dontae Strickland is the leading rusher for the Orange with 484 yards this season, but on just 3.7 yards per carry. If Syracuse wants to stay out of 3rd-and-long and keep some of the pressure off an offensive line that has struggled in pass protection, it could definitely use some help from its 200-pound back.

Game Breaker

Clint: Will FSU Get Pressure Early? With Eric Dungey in the lineup, Syracuse would actually have a somewhat decent shot at upsetting the Seminoles. He fits very well into Babers’ system and has taken the next step as a dual-threat quarterback. But if he is not ready to go, the Orange will lose their one shot at pulling off the victory. The FSU defense has improved the past few games and has been very successful in getting pressure on the quarterback. The trio of Josh Sweat, DeMarcus Walker, and Brian Burns all closing in on backup Mahoney will likely be enough to force mistakes and shatter any confidence Syracuse possesses.

Mike: Can Syracuse Keep the FSU Defense Honest? Florida State is one of the best teams in the country when it comes to getting to the quarterback and Syracuse hasn’t protected its quarterback very well. With a less mobile quarterback in Zack Mahoney in the game, keeping the FSU defense honest could be a real challenge for a team that averages just 3.2 yards per carry. If the Orange can run the ball and stay ahead of the chains, they have a chance to sustain drives and put up points. In each of FSU’s three losses, the Seminoles have given up at least 37 points.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply