The hype has already begun for Friday's epic showdown between Syracuse and USF. The winner will have the inside track towards sixth place in the Big East, while the loser will take over (or remain in) the conference basement. Also on the line may also be one of the biggest prizes that the sport has to offer -- a spot in the coveted, prestigious, trans-fat-laden Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl. See why college football is so awesome? EVERY GAME MATTERS.
Anyway, to get us ready for this game, we've turned to Sean Keeley of Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician to find out what the Orange have been doing this season. My Q's and his A's are below, and soon his Q's and my A's will appear on his site. Let's do this.
JD: Syracuse barely beat Rhode Island and needed some serious officiating help to beat Toledo and Tulane. Yet they destroyed West Virginia a couple of weeks ago. Which of these teams is more representative of the 2011 Orange?
SK: Unfortunately, the West Virginia game has to be considered the anomaly at this point. Every other game seems to have been a mish-mash of good, bad & ugly whereas the WVU win was what this Orange team looks like when it's firing on all cylinders.
We really can't seem to figure out exactly what the thing is that makes this squad beat itself so much. Letting Tulane nearly come back and beat you, practically losing to Toledo and losing to a UConn team that gave up five turnovers are just things that should never happen.
There is a good football team in there. It shows up every so often. Ryan Nassib is a competent quarterback and he's got an offense loaded with weapons. Chandler Jones anchors a talented defense capable of making big plays. The pieces just don't come together often for the Orange. And we're still trying to figure out why.
JD: Ryan Nassib might be the best quarterback in the league, non-Geno Smith division. But only Johnny McEntee and (insert starting Rutgers QB here) have lower yards per completion than he does, and Nassib only has one 40-yard pass play all year. Is that the design of the offense, or is he just wired to take what the defense gives him and not screw up?
SK: It's a mixture of Nassib being more of a game-controller and the fact that he doesn't have a premiere wide receiver capable of being an ongoing deep threat. There's a reason Nick Provo has already shattered the single-season receptions record for a Syracuse tight end. This offense dinks and dunks, making full use of its RBs, TEs and WRs on short sideline routes.
The receiving core is solid. Alec Lemon and Van Chew are good. Dorian Graham has emerged as our speedster and the most likely WR to be open deep. We may or may not be missing out on WR Marcus Sales, who is gone this year after an arrest.
We do throw it deep a few times a game. It just doesn't work out all that well most of the time.
JD: Obviously getting Chandler Jones back from his knee injury was a shot in the arm for the Orange defense. What other injuries have affected Syracuse this year, for better or worse?
SK: The injuries in the defensive secondary have been the most painful. They've robbed us of depth and they've taken some of our top talent out of the games when we've needed them most. Since returning from his injuries, Phil Thomas has proven himself an interception machine. Shamarko Thomas is a quality safety. Keon Lyn is emerging as an up-and-coming corner. All of them have been injured at some point and so have the back-ups. We've just now getting back to full strength and the unit is slightly improving. But it's been a rough year for a unit we expected to be better.
JD: Excluding Mikhail Marinovich's mustache, what has been your favorite random thing about Syracuse football this season?
SK: Obviously, the Mustacheovich was the best thing about the season (R.I.P.). Other than that, I'll go with this random story about backup quarterback (and smoldering sex symbol) Charley Loeb. We have a lot of fun with "Ridiculously-Good-Looking" Charley Loeb on the site, and the fact that some random girl in Louisiana turns out to have a mega-crush on him is just too perfect.
JD: We've seen you eat some really horrible concoctions in the name of blogging and Syracuse. (I am of course thinking of the Chipotle video from one of your recent NCAA Tournament runs.) Let's say you were forced to visit a Beef 'O' Brady's and would not be allowed to leave until you ate at least one thing off the menu. What would be the one thing that you would absolutely refuse to eat off this menu under any circumstances?
SK: I've been known to eat some pretty horrible things so I don't know how challenging this will be. Then again, I've never been to a Beef 'O' Brady's so I suppose I don't know what I'm getting myself into.
I think I'd have to go with the "Big Catch." I just can't imagine eating fish at a place like that. I'm going to guess freshness is not a concern with their generic "white fish." I do like their attempt at a vegetarian meal - basically a bowl of vegetables. Yep, definitely a "vegetarian's delight."
Thanks again to Sean, and also thank him for helping to give Ken and me the chance way back when to start ranting and raving about USF on SB Nation for your enjoyment.