The Daily Nole

FSU Football: First Look at Syracuse

Phil Kelly/FSU athletics

Florida State goes on the road for the first time in 2018 for a match-up with the Syracuse Orange on Saturday. Head coach Dino Babers has an offense that’s looked like a juggernaut in early contests, while FSU is trying to regain its composure after a sluggish performance against the Samford Bulldogs.

What will Syracuse be looking to throw at the Seminoles when they arrive in Upstate New York? Here’s a quick rundown of what to expect when the Saturday game kicks off at noon EST.

2018 Record: 2-0 (0-0 ACC)
2018 S&P Offensive Ranking: 60th
Returning Offensive Production: 59 percent (86th)
2018 S&P Defensive Ranking: 104th
Returning Defensive Production: 68 percent (53rd)

On Offense

Syracuse is 2-0 to start 2018 thanks to its offensive firepower. The Orange have decided that they need to make up for the basketball team’s slow pace by scoring 62 and 55 points in their first two contests. Granted, those games were against Wagner and Western Michigan, but the Syracuse offense is no joke.

That’s all thanks to quarterback Eric Dungey. He’s simultaneously the team’s leading passer and leading rusher, and for good reason. He was the main catalyst behind last year’s upset of Clemson thanks to his complete set of skills. He’s an impressive dual-threat signal caller who will give even the best defenses fits, and it’ll likely continue against FSU on Saturday. The Seminoles will be susceptible to deep attacks, but their focus might need to be on Dungey’s running ability.

His favorite target is Jamal Custis, a 6-foot-5 wide receiver whose caught 11 receptions for 209 yards and three touchdowns. Syracuse doesn’t seem to have any specific receivers who qualify as “deep threat” types, but they all appear capable. Besides Dungey’s running ability, Syracuse doesn’t offer much a threat on the ground. Running backs Moe Neal and Dontae Strickland have combined for 228 yards and six touchdowns, but that’s on just 3.9 yards per carry.

On Defense

The game against Western Michigan is an interesting case study for synergy between an offense and defense. Syracuse started out by holding a competent Broncos’ offense to just seven points in the first half. They entered the locker rooms with the Orange up 34-7 and looking totally dominant.

Babers decided to give Dungey some rest and put in the backup Tommy DeVito. Within 10 minutes, the Broncos had pulled to a 34-28 score and looked like a completely different team. In those first 10 minutes, the Syracuse defense allowed passes of 84, 37, and 21 yards and runs of 64 and 31 yards. Dungey came back in and Syracuse reeled off three more touchdowns on three straight possessions. Western Michigan scored one more time on a 59-yard touchdown pass, but that was it. The Orange finished with a 55-42 victory.

All this to say that Syracuse is vulnerable to explosive plays. FSU has the ability to exploit this issue, but it’ll require an offensive line performance better than what it has shown over the past two weeks. Syracuse’s defense only works when it has the offense to back it up — so which one does FSU fare a better chance against?

On Special Teams

There’s no weaknesses here. Syracuse’s kicker is named Andre Szmyt and he’s a perfect 4-for-4 on field goal attempts and 15-for-15 on extra points. He’s even hit a long of 50 yards. The punter is Sterling Hofrichter and he averages over 43 yards per attempt. Other than that, nothing sticks out here.


Syracuse is a tough match-up for Florida State, given what we’ve seen so far in 2018. Plenty of teams would be but Syracuse possesses a dynamite quarterback who can connect on the deep ball and burn you with his legs. Florida State really has not faced that yet this season. Virginia Tech’s Josh Jackson was the only other quarterback who might fit the bill, but his dual-threat ability wasn’t central to his role in the offense.

FSU tried to keep the safeties closer to the line against Samford, but the cornerbacks did not win enough of the 1-on-1 match-ups to keep the Seminoles there. Defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett started bringing in packages with six defensive backs on the field and two high safeties to help up top. That severely impacted Samford’s game and turned it into a much more reasonable performance.

Offensively, the task at-hand might be more achievable than at first glance. Syracuse still struggles on defense and remains susceptible to explosive plays. When you have guys like Cam Akers, Tamorrion Terry, Jacques Patrick, and more, it becomes a matter of giving them enough space to work with. It can be done and it looks like quarterback Deondre Francois is your best shot at it.

FSU does not want to get in a shootout with Syracuse though. The Orange have the depth to outlast the Seminoles and win that game every time. The defense cannot afford too many coverage busts, especially not early in the game. Barnett might even cut off this possibility outright and focus on a defensive back heavy rotation.

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