‘Cuse Countdown Breaks Down Syracuse’s Matchup with Wagner
Syracuse’s opening week win over Western Michigan was a roller coaster. What do the Orange have to do to make their home opener against Wagner smooth sailing? The analysts of ‘Cuse Countdown give their answers.
Key to the Game: Take Advantage of the Situation
Many FBS teams get to face an FCS opponent week one as a nice tune up game. This year, Syracuse made a statement in the first week against a good Western Michigan team and can now work out the kinks against Wagner. This week two matchup allows Syracuse the chance to make adjustments at linebacker and wide receiver as well as get Tommy DeVito some more reps under center. By no means should the Orange overlook Wagner, but realize and take advantage of the opportunities this game gives it.
Prediction: Syracuse 52-7
There is the occasional FCS over FBS upset, but that usually comes from a team that is the cream of the crop in the FCS. Don’t be expecting that from a Wagner team that hasn’t made the FCS playoffs since 2012. The Seahawks do have an explosive running back in Ryan Fulse who could cause the Orange defense, who gave up 242 rushing yards last week, some fits. Overall, Syracuse gets a well-timed opportunity to iron out the wrinkles from week one and get everything in order before heading inside the ACC for the first time this season when Florida State comes to town.
Key to the Game: Stop Ryan Fulse
Last week against Bowie State, Wagner running back Ryan Fulse stole the show. The senior rushed for a career high 271 yards and three touchdowns. On top of this, two of the touchdowns were scored off 77 yard runs. There’s no question that Fulse can run. He’s the backbone of the entire Seahawks offense. The key for the Orange will be keeping Fulse in check. SU had several defensive highlights against Western Michigan despite it being an offensive showdown. The Orange didn’t allow a first down on any of Western Michigan’s first three possessions and held WMU to just 20% on third-downs. A repeat of last week’s performance would be more than enough to secure a win. Plus, the Orange is slated to start with a 4-3 defense this week according to the week two initial depth chart, which is better to protect against the run.
Prediction: Syracuse 44-21
Based on last week’s outcome, expect another explosive offensive performance from SU. The Orange scored a whopping 24 points in the first quarter, marking the most scored in an opening quarter under Dino Babers. It all comes back to quarterback Eric Dungey. The senior rushed for an SU quarterback record 200 yards last week and found success in wide receiver Jamal Custis. With a powerful offense and defense, Syracuse should cruise by in its home opener.
Key to the Game: Gain Defensive Confidence
Syracuse has none. In its last five games going back to last season, SU has posted some of the worst numbers in the country. The Orange have given up 204 points in that stretch (an average of 40.8 PPG). Defensive coordinator Brian Ward can’t be feeling good these days. A matchup with a weak FCS team could do wonders for a defense that needs to remember what success feels like.
Prediction: 58-14 Syracuse
Wagner running back Ryan Fulse looked like Bo Jackson against Bowie State. He’s not going to look quite as good this Saturday in the Dome. I don’t expect the Seahawks to be able to stop the Orange in this game. The SU offensive line is too good and Eric Dungey is too dynamic. The only thing that will keep Syracuse under 60 is mercy. Wagner puts up 14 on the board in the second half against second and third string defense. This is a tune-up fight, and it will look the part.
Key to the Game: Kill the Game off Early
FBS teams win 82% of the games they play against FCS teams, so Wagner knows it’s the underdog. It’s important the Orange assert their dominance early to dash any hopes the Seahawks have of pulling off an upset. The way a lot of FCS teams upset FBS teams is by hanging around and letting doubt creep into the favorites’ mind before taking the lead right at the end. Syracuse can avoid that fate by building a substantial lead by halftime, sucking the belief out of Wagner, and putting the contest to bed in the first 20 minutes.
Prediction: Syracuse 52-20
SU answered a lot of questions against Western Michigan last week. The offense didn’t miss a beat, as Eric Dungey and Mo Neal torched the Broncos on the ground and Jamal Custis replaced both Steve Ishmael and Ervin Phillips on his own. Exclude a rough third quarter which featured a Tommy Devito cameo and some long WMU touchdowns, and the Orange would have won by an even bigger margin. Going off that performance, it’s safe to say Dungey is not about to lose to an FCS team, and the Seahawks will have no answer for SU’s revamped offense. They might be able to score against a very susceptible Syracuse secondary, but as long Dungey is in the game, he’ll find ways to wreck this Seahawks defense.
Key to the Game: Don’t Be Afraid to Play Young Players
This key isn’t really for this week. It is for when Florida State travels north next week. The Seminoles possess elite athletes, and the players Syracuse has to match up with them aren’t all at the top of the depth chart yet. Getting 6’2 freshman cornerback Trill Williams and 6’0 freshman safety Andre Cisco up to speed is critical for when FSU comes to town. Both had their ups and downs against Western Michigan. For example, Cisco picked off a pass early in the game but was exposed on multiple deep routes. Dino Babers has to give them the time to make mistakes against Wagner, even if it means not blowing past the Seahawks quite as easily.
Prediction: Syracuse 63-10
This game likely has two major parts and that will lead to Syracuse running up the score. Eric Dungey will get his drives, and if Western Michigan couldn’t stop him, I don’t like Wagner’s chance. The situation gets worse for Wagner because Tommy Devito will also get his reps, and Babers is likely to leave him plenty of the first team offense so he can get proper reps. The defense may not have looked good against Western Michigan, but don’t expect the Seahawks to have any real luck against the Orange until the backups come in.
Key to the Game: Score Early and Often
Let’s settle this right now: Syracuse will win this game. However, the last thing the Orange need is another injury scare to senior QB Eric Dungey. Dungey has missed ten games due to injury over his first three seasons, and Syracuse fans saw how important he is to the team when he was taken out for five drives against Western Michigan last week. There are much more important games later on the schedule, especially conference games. Use the talent mismatch to grab a big lead early in this game, so Dungey can be preserved and so backup QB Tommy DeVito can get some valuable reps and improve off last week’s shaky debut.
Prediction: Syracuse 53-17
Syracuse won’t need to play at an A+ level to win this game, but if there’s one thing about the Orange that is constant, it’s the offense’s ability to score. Syracuse has scored 40 or more points five times in the Dino Babers era, including last week’s 55 points against Western Michigan. Wagner will get large chunks of yards and score points because of the woeful Orange secondary, but Syracuse will win easily thanks to the talent disparity.
Key to the Game: Realize There’s 10 Games Remaining
So Eric Dungey pulled off a typical Eric Dungey, and then some against Western Michigan. The ACC Quarterback of the Week rumbled for 200 yards, setting a Syracuse record for rushing yards from the signal caller position. So, that’s great right? Well, slow down the Dungey-for-Heisman hype for just a second. While the production from the senior’s legs seems advantageous for just one game, Dungey cannot continue to tuck and run with repetition, or else the tape seen on his right shoulder in the middle of the WMU game will transform into an arm sling. Offensive Coordinator Brian Ward had the right idea feeding RB Moe Neal the ball 29 times last Friday, but the staff will not be able to take an extensive load off of Dungey if Neal and fellow RB Dontae Strickland combine to average a measly 3.05 yards per carry. Hey offensive line, open some holes in the run game so the quarterback can stay out of harm’s way.
Prediction: Syracuse 62-16
Yes, SU is going to win this game and it won’t be remotely close. Wagner just played a team whose logo doesn’t even show up on Google. Expect Dungey to be pulled from this game after 30 minutes, we’ll definitely see more Tommy Devito, and perhaps a third quarterback under center. If this contest drags out and is a tight game even late into the second quarter…let’s just say that may not be the best sign for Syracuse moving forward.
Key to the game: Don’t sink to Wagner’s Level
As Syracuse prepares to host the Wagner Seahawks (who have not beaten a Power Five Conference opponent this decade), the Orange cannot anticipate an easy game. As seen last year against Middle Tennessee, SU is capable of being stunned in the Dome by a lesser opponent. Syracuse needs to come out strong and treat the Seahawks not as the FCS opponent they are, but as if they are a top 25 foe.
Prediction: Syracuse 48-24
In another high-scoring Syracuse output, SU will get the job done at home. The Orange have the power to take complete advantage of a weak Wagner defense that allowed over 450 yards to Bowie State last week. Expect an improved Eric Dungey passing performance this week that could include his typical early season four-touchdown outburst. On the other side of the ball, the Orange defense still has some kinks to workout, which could lead to a decent offensive output from Wagner. In the end, Syracuse will advance to 2-0 as it hosts FSU next weekend.