‘Cuse Countdown Previews Football vs. Miami (FL)
Syracuse is riding its high from beating then-No. 2 Clemson last week down south to take on No. 8 Miami (FL). CitrusTV’s Noah Eagle, Tim Leonard and JD Raucci talk the Hurricanes’ offense and whether the Orange can continue to click at Hard Rock Stadium.
Plus, our analysts give their keys and predictions on the upcoming matchup between Syracuse and Miami.
How Miami Wins: Rosier Returns to Form
There is something special about Miami’s ability to persevere through injuries and adversity this season. Key players have gone down on both sides of the ball, notably starting tailback Mark Walton and starting wideout Ahmmon Richards on offense. However, quarterback Malik Rosier has been unflappable despite his top playmakers’ absences. Tasked with replacing Miami’s all-time leading passer in Brad Kaaya, Rosier has responded with 12 touchdowns, only 3 picks and loads of late-game moxie for a first time starter. If Miami can protect Rosier from a suddenly relevant Syracuse pass rush, the U has the firepower to keep up with SU late in the second half.
How Syracuse Wins: Situational Defense Steps Up Again
A lot of attention was paid to Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant’s injury as a reason the Orange pulled off one of the program’s most unlikely wins in school history last Friday night. However, underappreciated is Syracuse’s defensive effort versus the Tigers. The Orange held Clemson to 2-for-11 on third downs, recovered a fumble, recorded 6 sacks and got lucky with 2 missed Clemson field goals. If that effort is repeated against Miami, ‘Cuse will walk out of South Florida with its second victory against a top-10 team in as many weeks. Last year, Syracuse’s switch to a Tampa-2 scheme was laborious and yielded unsatisfactory results. With a year in Dino Babers’ system, the defense, not the offense, is baking Syracuse’s cake.
Prediction: Miami 33, Syracuse 21
The safe bet is with the Hurricanes. The contest will likely be closer than the +16.5 line suggests, but on the road against a talented, hot team like Miami is too much for this ‘Cuse team to handle.
How Miami Wins: Travis Homer Gets Going
Miami has one of the best offensive lines in the nation. This combined with its strong running game should allow the Hurricanes to exploit Syracuse’s strongest asset, the front seven. The ‘Canes relied on running back Mark Walton until he got injured against the Florida State two weeks ago. Then, Travis Homer got the starting job against Georgia Tech and lit up the offense. He finished the day with 171 rushing yds, 1 TD through the air, and 1 TD on the ground. If he can find the holes in the front seven, just as the offensive line is able to prevent the front seven from getting to Malik Rosier, Miami will have Syracuse in the palm of their hands.
How Syracuse Wins: Prevent Plays on Third Down
Stopping Miami on third downs can cause Syracuse to win this game. This has been the story of this season as SU’s front seven, especially the dynamic duo of Parris Bennett and Zaire Franklin, has shut people down. Syracuse is ranked 3rd in third down conversion defense. Last weekend, the Tigers only converted two of 11 thirds downs with 16 total first downs in the game. Just as the front seven continues to play well, the secondary will need to step up and shut down Braxton Berrios. The senior wide out is leading the Hurricanes’ offense with 326 receiving yards and five touchdowns, and he is a major threat in crucial games.
Prediction: Miami 30, Syracuse 24
The Orange may own the 3rd quarter, outscoring teams 76-41 this season. But, the Hurricanes own the second half, outscoring opponents in every game this year. Syracuse has shown that even as a second half team, it have trouble finishing against competitive teams. This game will definitely come down to the wire, the magic from last week won’t carry over to Miami and be enough for Syracuse to pull out the win.
How Miami Wins: Get Out to a Fast Start
Going against the team whose motto is to be “fast,” Miami must do just that to hold off Syracuse. Considering the Hurricanes won each of its last two contests in the final seconds, Coach Mark Richt could use some breathing room early on.
How Syracuse Wins: Stay Level-Headed and Carry the Momentum
It’s going to be difficult to get over what was one of the biggest wins in school history last week, taking down then No. 2 Clemson. But Syracuse has to move on and completely focus on another daunting task in Miami. This, plus putting out a similar performance down in South Florida, could bode well for the Orange. SU has never beat back to back top-10 teams in school history, but it is possible to end that mar this weekend.
Prediction: Miami 31, Syracuse 27
Syracuse played nearly perfect against Clemson last week and ended up with the win. Asking for a near-identical performance again versus the Hurricanes is a lot to ask for, yet it might be necessary to pull off another upset. The Orange hangs tough in a game that marks homecoming for 17 of its players, but falls just short of yet another monumental victory.
How Miami Wins: Stop the run game
If the Hurricanes want to remain undefeated, it’s going to have to disrupt the Orange’s offense. Last week against Clemson, SU did a nice job of spreading the ball around. On top of that, quarterback Eric Dungey had several key runs for the Orange. If Miami can contain Dungey, and make the SU offense one-dimensional, it could be a long game for Syracuse.
How Syracuse Wins: Win the Turnover Battle
In a road game against a top-10 team, you have to come ready to play. Since Miami has more talent on its roster, winning the turnover battle is another requirement for SU. If the Orange is able to take the ball away from the ‘Canes, that will give extra chances to score points in a hostile road environment.
Prediction: Miami 35, Syracuse 34
It’s hard to see the Orange beating top-10 opponents two weeks in a row. That possibility seemed out of the picture a few weeks back. Either way, this game isn’t in the Carrier Dome, and I think that’s the difference. Besides, Miami is hungry to prove they belong among the countries elite teams.
How Miami Wins: Travis Homer Shows Out
It’s never an easy proposition to lose a starter, especially at a position as crucial as running back. That’s exactly what happened for Miami two weeks ago when Mark Walton went down with a season-ending injury versus Florida State. Despite that injury, back-up running back has filled in wonderfully in Walton’s absence. In his first career start last week versus Georgia Tech, the sophomore rushed for 170 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns (one receiving and one on the ground). Standing at 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, he has a very similar frame and shifty skill set to Clemson running back Travis Etienne who was able to torch the SU defense for a 52-yard touchdown last week. Homer will have to do something similar filling in for Walton and put together another solid performance if the Hurricanes want to remain undefeated.
How Syracuse Wins: Win the Fourth Quarter
The last two weeks Miami has escaped with one-score victories with comebacks in the last few minutes of the game. Meanwhile, the past two fourth quarters for Syracuse have seen a pair of scores ice the game to help SU pull out its first two ACC victories of the season. That fourth quarter is exactly where this game is going to be decided. In the last two seasons under head coach Mark Richt, Miami is outscoring opponents by 81 points in the final frame. If Syracuse wants a shot at beating back-to-back top 10 opponents for the first time in program history, it’s going to have to beat the Hurricanes at their own game. If SU comes out and drops the hammer in the fourth quarter, it may just pull it off.
Prediction: Miami 34, Syracuse 27
If Syracuse proved anything last week with its win over Clemson, it’s that it can play with any team in the country and that includes Miami. This game is going to be a lot closer than it might appear on paper. With that being said, the game is being played in South Florida right in the Hurricanes’ backyard. That, to me, makes the difference in this one. Miami won’t overpower the Orange, but it will use some more of that fourth quarter magic and pull out another close victory.
How will Miami Wins: Dominate the Trenches
The Hurricanes have a huge talent advantage in the trenches. Through five games this season, Miami has the fourth best sacks per game percentage in the country and one of the best offensive lines in the entire ACC. Syracuse, on the other hand, has gotten surprisingly solid defensive line play and seen its offensive line improve throughout the season. If Miami’s big boys push Syracuse around at the point of attack, this one could get ugly.
How Syracuse Wins: Get the Running Game Going
SU’s chances hinge on its running game Saturday. Eric Dungey, Steve Ishmael and Erv Philips have been great all season and I have no doubts that continues against Miami. However, when Syracuse is getting consistent production from its ground game, the Orange offense goes to another level. If Dontae Strickland can rip off four-to-five yard runs each time like he did in the second half of Pittsburgh and against Clemson, it will keep Miami’s defense honest and create more opportunities in the passing game for Syracuse.
Prediction: Miami 30, Syracuse 23
Miami is not the most talented team in the world and I think it’s safe to say the Canes are a little overrated at this point in the season. However, the “U” has the always-valuable home field advantage in this one and should win the battle in the trenches. I expect Syracuse to keep it close and threaten late, but in the end, Miami squeaks out another close one.
How Miami Wins:
Miami has a top-15 defense, but it’s one that lacks depth. As Syracuse continues to fire off plays approximately every 22 seconds, the Hurricanes will not have as many substitution options to take the place of tired defenders. But SU has not only been fast; it has also been showing off its trick play playbook recently. With each week this season, it seems that Babers’ is pulling out a new play or a new setup for the Orange. Miami has to be ready to defend the unexpected.
Syracuse’s Key to the Game: Don’t Get Ahead of Yourselves
Yes, Syracuse football just beat second-ranked Clemson. But hold up a second: it could have easily gone the other way. If Clemson had made those two relatively short-yardage field goals instead of missing them, it very well could have been Syracuse down by three in the final minutes of last week’s game. The win is a good spirit-lifter for the Orange, but SU cannot get too far ahead of itself. This is still the same team that lost to Middle Tennessee State at home in week two. To win this game, Syracuse needs to ground itself and not take any play for granted. This is another week, another team the Orange has to face, and SU needs to have its minds focused on efficient execution and not filled with cloud-nine thoughts of invulnerability.
Prediction: Miami 34, Syracuse 27
In each of the five games Syracuse and Miami have played against each other since then, the Orange has simply been demolished, twice not even scoring at all. Now, Syracuse is coming off a high, but playing No. 8 Miami on the road is tough. In last week’s upset win against Clemson, Syracuse was at home surrounded by fans in a nearly-packed Carrier Dome. Now Miami is the team with the support. There is the potential for this one to be a close one again as the 15th ranked Syracuse offense comes in with major upside but 15th ranked Miami defense is more than prepared to slow the Orange down.