Our analysts give their predictions on Syracuse’s matchup against Florida State.
How Florida State Wins: Get Cam Akers the Ball
Not only is Cam Akers a fantastic running back with great speed and agility, he’s also shown the versatility to catch passes out of the backfield and that’s the kind of versatility that SU has struggled with this season. Against do-it-all backs Nyheim Hines and Jaylen Samuels for NC State, the Orange gave up over 200 yards of total offense because both of them ran and caught the ball effectively. That’s what Florida State is going to have to do this week with Akers. Let your most explosive athlete get out in space and spread the defense out. If Akers has a big game, so will FSU.
How SU Wins: Balance the Offense
The Dino Babers offense is centered around a fast-moving and efficient passing game that takes shots downfield when needed. With that focus, the offense can, at times, become one- dimensional. Syracuse must avoid this if it wants to beat FSU. Despite having an abysmal season record-wise, the Seminoles have been incredibly effective in pass defense, ranking 10th nationally. SU is going to have to look away from the arm of Eric Dungey and the hands of Steve Ishmael and toward the legs of Dontae Strickland and Moe Neal.
Prediction: Syracuse 27, Florida State 21
Florida State has imploded this season. Coming into the year, the Seminoles were ranked third in the country and had a Heisman candidate in Deondre Francois leading the offense. It’s not quite that way anymore. The Noles rank 114th in the country in total offense and with the SU defense playing above average, I don’t see the offense turning the corner this week. On the offensive side of the ball for SU, it’s going to be all about having that balanced offense and moving the ball efficiently. If it can get that done and tame Cam Akers, SU will go to above .500 and send FSU to 0-5 at home on the season.
How Syracuse Wins: Convert Field Goals
At all costs, get into field goal range. Cole Murphy has surprisingly improved this year, hitting 16 of 18 field goals on the season. In addition, he hit four of four the last time he visited the state of Florida; just two weeks ago when the Orange lost a close one to Miami before the bye week. Obviously the goal is to score touchdowns, but after Murphy’s career high 53-yarder against Miami and his field goal percentage this year, Dino Babers must feel more comfortable putting him in rather than going for it in fourth down situations.
How Florida State Wins: Confidence
In order to win, Florida State just needs to have confidence. The team appears to have given up at this point in the season: They have a losing record, are winless at home, and are coming off a gruesome loss to Boston College. The fans are hungry for a glimpse of anything positive, so if the Seminoles come out with a winning attitude and the crowd gets into it, the Orange might find themselves in another close matchup.
Prediction: Syracuse 34, Florida State 17
Unless Florida State can somehow get their home crowd into the game, the Orange will run away with it. Florida State is just too inexperienced to grab a W, especially at quarterback with freshman James Blackman. If the Orange offense improves from their last trip to the sunshine state, they will give the Seminoles a run for their money.
How Syracuse Wins: Win the Turnover Battle.
Against Miami, Eric Dungey threw four picks that resulted in 10 points for the Hurricanes. On defense, ‘Cuse failed to force a turnover. This week, the Orange will have opportunities to gain the upper hand with possession based off of James Blackman’s tendencies to lob passes into heavy coverage. If Syracuse can flip the script both offensively and defensively, they’ll be able to take down a much more talented team.
How Florida State Wins: Defensive Domination
Yet again, Florida State has one of the countries top ranked defenses in points allowed, yards allowed and defensive efficiency. If the Seminoles defense scores a touchdown by themselves, it would be a huge boost against a Syracuse team that can put up some big numbers. FSU’s defense might be forced to turn the ball over multiple times if its inconsistent offense lays another egg.
Prediction: Syracuse 28, Florida State 17
FSU’s senior linebacker told ESPN earlier this week, “[This team has a] lack of leadership, like Coach always says, everybody is doing their own thing pretty much. I feel like everybody is worried about everything else. A lot of players are probably worried about the draft or whatever else. It’s like nobody is really focused.” My concern isn’t with FSU’s talent. The Seminoles boast one of the deepest rosters in college football. However, games often are not won between the hashes, but between the ears. Last week’s loss to Boston College, I believe, was the final blow to a fractured program. This is not the Florida State of years past. With Syracuse playing as well defensively as they have this year, I think Syracuse can pull the “upset.” It’s going to take a major rebound for the Seminoles to put it all together mentally this week. I’m shocked writing this, but I don’t think they’ll be able to do it.
How Syracuse Wins: Limit the Mistakes
As bad as Florida State has looked so far this season, the Seminoles still have a lot going for them in this one. FSU has the home-field and talent advantage and Jimbo Fisher’s squad is going to be hungry. Last time out, Eric Dungey tossed four interceptions and dug SU in a hole early. Syracuse can’t afford to have any costly turnovers early on.
How Florida State Wins: Focus on the Game
Florida State is one of the most talented teams in the country. Even without Deondre Francois, there’s no denying that. The Seminoles just need to prove they’ve got some discipline and pride to go along with that talent. FSU had several careless mistakes last week against BC. From a blatant muffed punt to a nonchalant hand off in the red zone that led to a turnover, Florida State wreaked of a team that had lost its will to compete. If the Noles can use the bashing as motivation and come out focused, determined and hungry, this is their game to lose.
Prediction: Florida State 28 Syracuse 21
Florida State has given me no reason to pick them this week but I’m doing it anyways. After getting pummeled by BC, FSU is going to return home with a lot to prove. Jimbo Fisher’s squad will be hungry from the opening whistle and do everything in its power to avoid dropping to 0-5 at home this year. The Orange has been the better team all season but the Seminoles still have way more speed on both sides of the ball. On top of that, SU’s secondary is really banged up and the Orange offense doesn’t travel on the road well. I’ll take a hungry team with the home-field and talent advantage any day of the week.
How Florida State Wins: Believe in Yourselves
There is no doubt about it. On paper, the Seminoles should slaughter the Orange. But FSU is only a mere field goal favorite at home this weekend, a place they have yet to win at this year. A team filled with four and five stars, the ‘Noles need to dig deep and find the talent they are capable of displaying.
How Syracuse Wins: Control the Tempo of the Game
Syracuse made a trip to the Sunshine State just two weeks ago, and it was a game to forget for quarterback Eric Dungey. The junior threw a career-high four interceptions. In order for SU to win in Tallahassee, he and the offense must take advantage of each possession by getting solid value out of every drive. Be smart with the football and good things will happen.
Prediction: Florida State 26, Syracuse 24
FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher is not used to losing. Four years removed from winning the National Championship, he and his team are at an uncharacteristic 2-5. After an embarrassment of a loss to BC a week ago, he probably put his team to work leading up to the SU game, more than ever before. The Seminoles have a fire lit under them, and it will be just hot enough to squeeze by the Orange.
How Florida State Wins: Come together
For a team with as much talent on its roster as Florida State, this year’s season has been an embarrassment. The Seminoles still haven’t united after quarterback Deondre Francois went down against Alabama in week one. If they come together, the amount of talent on the team would be too much for Syracuse to handle.
How Syracuse Wins: Kick the ‘Noles while they’re down.
Florida State was simply embarrassed last week against Boston College. Given that, it’s important that SU keeps the Seminoles down. If FSU is able to regain its confidence, things could get ugly. However, if the Orange controls the game from the start, the Seminoles won’t be able to get their confidence back.
Prediction: Florida State 24, Syracuse 21
All signs say Syracuse has been the better team this season. They have. However, the Orange struggle on the road. I actually think Florida State being 0-4 at home this season hurts the Orange. What are the odds they fall to 0-5? In my eyes, not very high. It could happen, but it’s more likely last week served as a wake up call for the Seminoles who bounce back this week with a win.
How Syracuse Wins: Get to Blackmon
One of the weakest parts of Florida State’s game is its offensive line. They have allowed 22 sacks this season. If Syracuse can expose FSU’s offensive line like it did against Clemson, it can beat this team.
How Florida State Wins: Shut Down Dungey
The Seminoles need to shut down the Orange passing game. FSU allows only 189.1 passing yards per game. Before the bye week, Miami did this, holding Eric Dungey to 137 passing yards. Syracuse doesn’t have much of a running game, so without a passing game, there will be no offensive productivity.
Prediction: Syracuse 30, Florida State 24
Florida State is 0-3 at home this season, but Syracuse is 0-3 on the road. However, where the Orange mostly struggle only with rushing, the Seminoles struggle in both the passing and running game. Blackman has had one game with over 250 passing yards and it was in the loss to NC State. Even when their passing game is thriving, they can’t pull out a win. Eric Dungey has had only 2 games with less than 250 passing yards. Both teams have played a lot of close games, but as long as Syracuse doesn’t make careless mistakes, the Orange should be able to get the win.
How Florida State Wins: Execute the Pass
Even with the season-ending injury of Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois in the beginning of the season, the Seminoles have still relied heavily on the pass to move the ball. Quarterback James Blackman has thrown for 1,149 yards this season compared to a rushing attack that features two backs for less than 1,000 yards combined. Against a surprisingly talented Syracuse defense that has exceeded expectations this year, Florida State will have to find a way to get the ball down the field with its primary pass attack if it wants success against the Orange.
How Syracuse Wins: Don’t Get Lazy
This is not the Florida State football team we are used to. After the season-ending injury to Seminoles quarterback Deondre Francois, Florida State simply disintegrated. But Syracuse absolutely cannot go into this game thinking it is an easy football game. We’ve seen what happened when teams cane to the Carrier Dome thinking SU was an easy victory, and it turned out to be an Orange win. Syracuse needs to go into this game ready to play and set the momentum coming off of a bye week.
Prediction: Syracuse 35-14
Last week I said Syracuse might lose to Florida State. But, after seeing the Seminoles get clobbered by Boston College 35-3 last week, that prediction went out the window. Sports-reference.com says Florida State has the easiest schedule of FBS teams this season, yet the Seminoles are only 2-5. The Orange should come in and play at the level we now know it can as of late and play a solid game on the road. This will add one to the ‘W’ column—a fifth win that is one more than SU had over the past two seasons, still with three games after this one in the regular season.