Who are The Orange?
Where: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY. The only college-specific covered football stadium in the FBS (no, UTSA, the Alamodome doesn't count). Capacity: 49,250 (35,500 for basketball)
Conference: ACC Atlantic after leaving the Big East in 2012 (BOO)
Head Coach: Dino Babers (first year at Syracuse, 37-16 as a head coach at Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green)
Offensive Coordinators: Sean Lewis (first year, QB coach) and Mike Lynch (first year, O line coach), Veer and Shoot
Defensive Coordinator: Brian Ward (first year), Tampa-2
USF is 7-2 all time against Syracuse, 4-0 in the Carrier Dome. Most recently, USF pounded Syracuse 45-24 in 2015 in a game that many consider to be the turning point in USF football. I credit that moment to this play.
In Week Two, Syracuse plays another former Big East rival, Louisville, and may or may not get stomped. Keep aneye on that game, it'll be new head coach Dino Babers' first test.
Here's the Bill Connelly Syracuse preview. General gist: Syracuse will move the ball pretty well, just not as well as they will when Babers gets settled.
Remember the slow, methodical offense that Syracuse showed up with last year? Forget it entirely. Dino Babers is bringing a plaid-speed, Baylor-like offense to Syracuse. Ian Boyd picked over the Dino Babers veer and shoot, but let's try to sum it up.
We'll likely be seeing some heavy power-running to open things up while the WR's stick to the outside for screen and deep shots. The run-pass-option will be heavily used, relying on a good running game to open up the outside when linebackers start to bite on the run action. The key to the whole thing is speed, which is pretty much the opposite of last year, as Syracuse had one of the slowest offensive tempos in the nation. How quickly can Syracuse adapt to this new style? Probably a few games.
Syracuse returns...pretty much everyone. Eric Dungey will be back under center for The Orange, as will most of the skill positions. Players to keep an eye on will be WRs Steve Ishmael and Ervin Philips. With the new offensive scheme, their numbers are likely to jump. Ishmael averaged 9.3 yards per target last year, while Philips gashed USF in particular for 15 yards per catch against the Bulls. Dontae Strickland came out of spring as the #1 RB for the Orange and a dangerous option, averaging 15.2 yards per catch on 9 receptions.
The biggest question mark on offense will be the line. Syracuse lost three starting linemen and a RG. However, if the Babers veer and shoot takes hold early, the damage done by the loss of experience will be lessened. Quick throws, fast play and deep shots should, in theory, give the line less work to do on passing plays and soften up the opposing D line for rushing.
If you're going to shut this offense down, the secondary is going to have to step up something big to shut down the threats on the outside. Remove the WR's, and what's left is an average running game at best.
The offense isn't the only thing getting a makeover. The defense looks to be less aggressive and more zone-based. Again, Syracuse returns most of the team for Brian Ward's first year. However, the losses on defense will be felt heavier. Syracuse lost all (ALL) their DEs, and every DE that Syracuse plays this year will either be a DT-turned-DE or fresh meat. This is going to hurt particularly hard seeing that the two team leaders in sacks are both gone.
The linebackers are all back, notably MLB Zaire Franklin. Last year, the junior had 70 tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles and a pick. He'll have his work cut out for him covering the inexperience on the line.
It's likely that Syracuse will not have the greatest pass rush of all time. Luckily for the Orange, they return basically their entire secondary. Unfortunately, it's a unit that allowed 256.7 yards per game last year. With another year's experience under their belt, they should be better, but the lack of a pass rush might make their job difficult.
Syracuse Special Teams
Punter: gone. Kicker: gone. Place kicker: nothing special. This might actually be Syracuse's biggest loss: punter Riley Dixon. He averaged 44 yards per punt last year and only allowed 14 returns.
However, as Bill Connelly put it, "if you're going to lose your punter, you might as well do it at a time when your offense is probably about to improve. Even if everything doesn't click for the offense, I'd be surprised if the Orange are still punting 5.5 times per game.
Brisly Estime can be a dangerous return-man, or he can be decidedly docile. He averages 22.2 yards on kick returns and 18.1 on punt returns with two touchdowns.
Syracuse is a bit on an enigma this season. Their offense or defense could be good or bad. Their offense will have to hope they manage to get a hold of the veer and shoot quickly, and the defense will have to hope their line can get some work done in the trenches. In all, it should be a much closer game this year if the Dino Babers era starts well.