Syracuse football roundtable: Looking back at the first 3 weeks

first_img Comments For the first time under Dino Babers, Syracuse (3-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) has won its first three games of the season. Last week Syracuse defeated Florida State, 30-7, for the first time since 1966. In the game, the Orange defense held the Seminoles to 240 yards and redshirt freshman Tommy Devito threw for 144 yards and a touchdown while also rushing for a score.Below, The Daily Orange football beat writers answer questions headed into Syracuse’s 4 p.m. Saturday matchup with Connecticut (1-2, 0-1 American Athletic) at the Carrier Dome. Facebook Twitter Google+ How much can you read into the FSU win?Andrew Graham: A little bit. The name “Florida State” carries a lot of weight and the Seminoles roster was talented as always, but the team Syracuse beat on Saturday was horrendous. FSU’s offensive line looked lost, the run game stalled and the defense crumpled. That said, Syracuse recognized this and steadily beat back the Seminoles. In years past, I don’t know if SU did that. Syracuse’s most impressive facet on Saturday was the defense, allowing just seven points to an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent for the first time under Dino Babers. Ultimately, how mundane the win was speaks volumes more than the opponent.Matt Liberman: The win over FSU really doesn’t mean much except for the fact that they beat “Florida State.” The Seminoles barely even resemble the team we saw last season, and that was a team that struggled to reach a bowl game. The only important takeaway that I have from this game is Syracuse beat a team that they should’ve beaten at home. The Orange have struggled to do that in years past, such as last season against Middle Tennessee State. This season, SU was the better team, and they finally proved it.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textJosh Schafer: Don’t put too much stock in Syracuse’s win over Florida State, at least not in the name they beat. Florida State isn’t the program it was for the majority of Jimbo Fisher’s tenure when it won three ACC titles. Through three games, the Orange have been the better team in yardage and points scored on both sides of the ball. The better team won on a Saturday and that’s the biggest takeaway. In 2017, Syracuse lost five games that were within 10 points in the fourth quarter. Against a comparable conference opponent, Syracuse finished.What can be made of Tommy DeVito’s first couple of games? A.G.: With about a games-worth of playing time, all I can fairly say about DeVito is that he’s exactly what SU needs him to be right now: A competent, talented backup who will be a future starter. DeVito struggled at Western Michigan, but played well against Wagner — though take that with a grain of FCS-opponent salt — and most recently took control of the FSU game. DeVito made some pretty throws, didn’t turn it over, and led SU to 27 points. He looked good. SU fans can be confident that in a blowout, or if an injury occurs, DeVito is a capable option. But as I’ve said, this was, is, and continues to be Eric Dungey’s team.M.L: The kid has confidence. After struggling pretty handily in his first two games against two mightily lesser opponents, DeVito’s first throw against FSU was a beautiful and gutsy 29-yard lob to Jamal Custis on the one-yard line, falling against the pylon. He didn’t try to come out and throw a few dump-offs; he went straight for the end zone. DeVito has looked nervous in the pocket at times and has also looked like a seasoned veteran. With some more time under Dungey and in this offense, he’ll be a good centerpiece moving forward.J.S: It’s too early to fairly evaluate DeVito. Against Western Michigan, in his first snaps as a college quarterback, he had an inconsistent performance. Wagner, an FCS team, is just hard to pull from. FSU, on the other hand, showed DeVito is getting comfortable with time. He ran well on a designed run, looked comfortable under center and led Syracuse to 27 points. But as noted above, that wasn’t an FSU with a conference-best defense and it wasn’t for a full game, none of which is the fault of DeVito. For now, SU fans should be happy to see the flashes of what DeVito can become, and wait patiently for more evidence.What’s one thing Syracuse can’t afford to falter in?A.G.: Running the football. Syracuse currently averages a shade over 257 yards a game on the ground, a surely unsustainable figure, but the Orange need to continue pounding the rock. In 2017, SU punched it in 16 times on the ground. Only a quarter of the way through this season, Syracuse has nine rushing scores. Moe Neal and Dontae Strickland have done most of the damage from the running back position, aided recently by freshman Jarveon Howard. And of course, there’s Syracuse’s leading rusher, Eric Dungey. Much has been made and said about Dungey running the football over the years, but this season, he’s taken more to falling forward and getting out of bounds to protect himself, and his legs are an invaluable asset to this offense. If that unit can maintain a balance between run and pass like this, SU should be in good shape.J.S: Syracuse’s defense needs to be consistent. Through three games, it’s difficult to read trends. As Matt pointed out, the Orange have two more interceptions this season than they did all of last season. After holding FSU to a touchdown, Syracuse averages 19.67 points allowed per game, about 13 fewer points than last year. In SU’s season opener, the defense showed its inexperience in a 28-point third quarter. Those flaws never showed against the Seminoles. Florida State totaled 240 yards, more than 200 yards less than Syracuse opponents averaged last season. Syracuse hasn’t played formidable opponents yet, and UConn won’t fill that role either, but when it does Syracuse’s defense can’t take a step back.M.L: If I have to pinpoint something, it’s turning the ball over. Syracuse has done a nice job protecting the ball this year and its defense has given the offense plenty of opportunities to score. But the defense also hasn’t played a high-powered offense yet like they’ll see in future conference play and the best chance SU has at beating those teams is with its offense. If suddenly we were to see Syracuse’s offense struggle against a good ACC defense, I don’t know if its defense could keep a team like Boston College or Notre Dame in check.Will Syracuse be ranked if they win week four against UConn?A.G.: Will SU be ranked? Maybe. Should SU be ranked? No. I split hairs because Syracuse did earn its first AP Poll vote since 2011. If the Orange wallops UConn and the right teams lose, it’s entirely possible SU gets a number by its name. All it takes is one or two teams in the No. 20-25 range to lose and the Orange could sneak in, but should they? Syracuse isn’t one of the 25 best teams in college football, at least not right now. That can obviously change in the next nine games, but a scare against a MAC team, an FCS blowout and a solid win against the worst Florida State team in awhile is not the strongest three-game resume. As it stands, Syracuse is not currently one of the 25 best teams in college football, but it’s knocking on the door.M.L: Not a chance. UConn surrendered 49 points to Rhode Island. The last time Syracuse played Rhode Island was Eric Dungey’s first game in 2015, the season opener. In that game, a 47-0 blowout, the Rams netted just 64 total yards of offense and two first downs. Rhode Island nearly beat UConn. A win over the Huskies doesn’t mean anything in the eyes of the AP Poll, plus there are 16 teams not in the Top-25 that received more votes than SU this week.J.S: It depends on the score. Syracuse opened up Saturday’s game as 27.5 points favorites. They have to win by somewhere around that number to be at par with other FBS opponents UConn has played this season — Central Florida won by 39 and Boise State by 55. Both No. 21 Central Florida and No. 20 Boise State rank near the bottom of the Top 25 but are still in. If Syracuse wants to put their name in the conversation with those kinds of teams, they need to play like them. In my opinion, they will. Published on September 19, 2018 at 7:30 pmlast_img

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