LSU Tigers a true test for ailing Orange

Although 3-0, Syracuse will face its toughest opponent in week four and with a weak depth chart, they'll need key players to step up.

With just hours until kick-off, the SU football team finds themselves facing arguably their greatest test of the season. Only the Clemson version of the Tigers would argue that LSU is not the biggest game on the ‘Cuse schedule.  But, until that late season ACC showdown at home, this upcoming clash in the Dome will have a Super Bowl feel for Central New York. Orange gear will be out in full force, but don’t be the least bit surprised to see a plethora of purple and gold tomorrow in the Salt City to support their eighth ranked team.


The Orange come into this game with a record of 3-0, a well-documented feat that has not occurred since George Bush Sr. was answering his phone in the Oval Office and Mark Wahlberg was part of the Funky Bunch (1991). In spite of this rejuvenated start for Syracuse, they find their orange peel a little bruised after a rash of injuries. Week one saw the hopes and dreams of Terrel Hunt’s return come to a crashing halt, and Erv Philips was not immune from the injury bug either which will keep him out for a handful of weeks.  


SU faithful felt that maybe their team had dodged a bullet with the revelation of Eric Dungey under center, but both he and Steve Ishmael would take some heavy hits in Week 3. Dungey’s injury came after a gruesome blow to the head, while he was being tackled at the legs. He did not look good entering a car outside of the Dome after the game, and early reports say him doubtful for Sunday. If Syracuse players were on your Fantasy Football team, you would be scrambling to put together a roster this week.


Regardless of obvious setbacks for ‘Cuse, there seems to be something special at work for this team. Last weekend’s thrilling overtime victory against Central Michigan probably should have never reached that point after a dominating first half, but finding a way to win is crucial. The Orange are half way to six wins which would make them bowl eligible for the first time since 2013. Their last win in the Texas Bowl came on the heels of three bowls in four seasons, after only two bowls in ten years (2001 & 2004). Syracuse has this hot start to rely on, but must look to sure up several issues before taking the field tomorrow.


First and foremost, the defense must tighten up against the pass. In three games, but primarily against Wake Forest and Central Michigan, the Orange have given up 863 yards in the air. Play callers find their targets at 66%, and opponents are four of eight in red zone opportunities scoring touchdowns. Syracuse does have five interceptions and nine sacks on the season, but the inconsistency during third down situations has allowed visitors to extend drives and remain in the game.  


So far the Orange Crush defense has only allowed 140 yards on the ground, but keeping Leonard Fournette off the field is going to be an assessment unlike any other thus far. Fournette, the leading running back for LSU, has put himself in the Heisman Trophy picture after just two games. He has rushed for 387 yards and six touchdowns, not to mention his 8.4 yards per carry average which you would be hard pressed to find on the professional gridiron. Devising a game plan that can contain the pass and control the run game will require some heavy lifting for the ‘Cuse heading into tomorrow’s showdown.


Positives for Syracuse still exist as “Ground Jordan” (Jordan Fredericks) continues to emerge during his freshman campaign. He has one game with over 100 yards, setting freshmen records at SU, and he followed up that performance with 73 yards last week. Fredericks has also found the end zone twice, including the game winner against Central Michigan. Coach Scott Shafer has referenced that he would like to use a running back by committee, and give the player with the “hot hand” the most carriers. But, Jordan Frederick’s appears to be the guy carrying the torch with the greatest efficiency thus far. We will have to wait and see what transpires in the back field tomorrow.


No matter the outcome, this game has both regional and national relevancy. Syracuse has ignited its fan base, and they are building believers both inside and outside the borders of Central New York. ESPN decided the 12 noon start, which means they will be one of the first games on national TV this Saturday. The country is salivating for its first true upset of the College Football season, and wouldn’t the Dome be a great place to host it. As of right now the Orange are still in the College Football Playoff picture. The coaching staff and players have to be saying, “Why not us?"



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