Syracuse Football Roundtable, Week of November 19 (Temple)

Mark Konezny-US PRESSWIRE

TNIAAM's football experts talk about what's next in conference realignment, gush over the Missouri win and preview the season finale at Temple.

Each week, we'll be holding a roundtable discussion with TNIAAM's football "experts" to get a read on the program's most pressing issues on- and off-the-field. Have differing opinions? Feel free to share them in the comments.

Thoughts on Maryland leaving the ACC for the Big Ten?

Jeremy Ryan: I don't get it. I mean I get it in that these decisions are made for money and money only. But Maryland is going to throw away decides of ACC tradition to chase the dollars in a conference that doesn't want them?

Matt McClusky: Took me by surprise, but I don't blame Maryland for jumping at the money and the overall stability the ACC provides. The bigger question, one I attempted to answer earlier this week, what does it mean for the conference's future? That could be a scary answer.

Andy Pregler: This is a weird one for me to digest. I can't exactly figure out what the heck Maryland is thinking other than more television revenue. Switching conferences isn't going to automatically make their athletic budget go up or make their football program successful. The only sports memory I have of the Terps is a National Championship in basketball a while ago so erm.... yeah. I'm ok with the move mostly because it means UConn or Louisville joins in their stead which to me is an upgrade. Realignment won't ever stop so when the ACC gets better, it's ok for me.

Chris Daughtrey: Fine by me. I know Sean was looking forward to building a rivalry with the Terrapins, but I honestly couldn't care less about Maryland and their f*ck ugly uniforms. Now it just leaves a spot for UConn. Do I sense a segue?

Dan Lyons: As far as SU is concerned, this really only impacts us negatively if Florida State/Clemson/whoever else becomes more interested in testing the waters, and if the $50 million exit fee is by-passed (likely). As far as Maryland is concerned, I would've liked to play them for a number of reasons, but I'd also love to renew our UConn rivalry and I think that Louisville would be a great addition to any league, outside of academics anyway. I just hope that SU fans stay classy about the whole thing. Maryland is doing what it believes is best for its school, just like we did by moving to the ACC. I know a lot of people are now worried about our status, but even in the end-game scenario with the fewest schools involved (the four, 16 team conferences), I don't see 64 schools more attractive as an overall athletic and academic package than Syracuse, so I think we land on our feet no matter what.

John Cassillo: The move was essential for Maryland, who's been losing money hand over fist. So while the exit fee was set at $50 million, they'll be able to negotiate that down. Plus, under the likely new revenue model in the Big Ten, they may take home as much as $47 million annually -- twice what they'd be making in the ACC. I wish they'd stuck around for the sake of conference stability, but since they are gone, I'm just hoping it doesn't lead to more defections.

Sean Keeley: We're on Spaceball One and the call came in for ludicrous speed. We're all just hanging on for dear life and hoping they cancelled the three-ring circus in time. The same of all this stuff is that, if we could all take a step back, we could sort it out in some kind of orderly, regional way. But because college athletics is what it is, we're left with this mish-mash.

Choosing between Louisville and UConn, who's your choice for ACC expansion?

JR: In the near-term Louisville is the better choice because of the current state of their football and basketball programs. But it would be nice to keep at least one of SU's longtime rivals moving forward, and it isn't going to be Georgetown. I'd take both if I could, but UConn if I get only one.

MM: I won't waste too much time with this one -- I think it should be Louisville.

AP: My gut feeling is to take Louisville. They have a much more successful football program and the basketball program is pretty solid thus making the conference better as a whole. I know that for the Syracuse side of things, keeping the recent history with UConn may be better for us but I'm going to go with conference > single program. I know academics are pushed more in the ACC then elsewhere but alignment is all about the big bucks.

CD: For me, it's UConn hands down. The 90s were my formative years as a Orange fan so, to me, the Huskies are pretty close to 1A when it comes to rivals (and Geogetown still sucks). The only thing that even hints at a rivalry between Syracuse and Louisville is that the Orange have consistently beaten them in football and the Boeheim.Pitino connection in basketball. Plus, UConn just makes more sense to me as an ACC school.

DL: This is tough. A few days ago I say UConn because it helps us keep a great rival and helps swing some ACC influence up north, but the more I think about it, Louisville might make more sense. Despite their academic reputation, they bring a ton to the table. They have one of the most profitable athletic departments in the country already, they have an excellent basketball program and have shown that they are serious in putting a good football product on the field. Also, as selfish as it is, they are much less of a recruiting rival for our football team than UConn is. I'd honestly be fine with either, but Louisville probably makes more sense, as much as we like to believe that academics are a major factor here. Maybe the U of L people can make the argument that being aligned with the UVAs, Dukes, Wake Forests, and Georgia Techs of the world will help their own academics some how?

JC: If the ACC wanted to get the best fit for the conference, then UConn would be a no-brainer. But obviously "fit' isn't all that important in terms of expansion, as the Big Ten just taught us all. The rules of conference realignment, if anyone needs to be reminded are: football and television revenue, with a slight nod to academics in the case of the ACC and Big Ten (and maybe Pac-12). Still, I think the choice has to be Louisville. Florida State and Clemson do not want another "basketball school" added to the mix, so why not placate everyone by grabbing a school that excels in both major sports? I'll also note that neither of these teams make a real dent, and in an ideal world, the best decision would be to grab a team like Penn State, Vanderbilt or Northwestern (look, I even wrote sales pitches!). But I know that's close to impossible.

SK: I get every reason why Louisville makes sense but I still kinda want UConn. It's selfish but I want more Northeastern schools in the conference because I want more pull. The way things are going we might not end up with a choice here anyway.

Why was Alec Lemon so wide-open on that final drive on Saturday?

JR: Beats me. It isn't like he was invisible to that point.

MM: I think Missouri Tigers head coach Gary Pinkel would love to know that answer. How was Lemon, who torched the Tigers all game long, specifically in the fourth, so open the closest defender was Syracuse University athletic director Daryl Gross, PHD? Either way, Lemon was brilliant and that touchdown capped a heroic effort and probably saved the season for Syracuse -- hyperbole be damned.

AP: Because Lemon is awesome? I seriously think that there was some serious confusion in the Missouri secondary or their game notes called for Marcus Sales to be the primary guy. On the final TD where Lemon was WIDE open, it was a play that took advantage of an aggressive and confused Tigers' secondary. I think the entire final drive was a product of excellent play calling that took advantage of that tendency.

CD: Unfortunately (again), I wasn't able to watch. But if I has to venture a guess, I'd say blown coverages. It's the only way any player gets wide open.

DL: I think this quote really sums it all up:


"It was a mix-up in coverage," cornerback E.J. Gaines said. "Some of us were in man (coverage). Some of us were in zone." So which coverage should you have been in, he was asked. "Well I'm not really sure to be honest, still."

Also, Alec is a tremendous receiver who runs near perfect routes, and Hackett did a great job of drawing up plays to get him open. If no one is going to stop it, there's no reason not to go back to the well.

JC: Those drops in the first few minutes may have gotten Mizzou's defensive backs a bit too comfortable with him being open downfield. So coupled with the coverage mix-up Dan cites above, it sounds like the recipe for a fairly easy touchdown.

SK: There's an old saying in Missouri. If you don't like the weather, wait a few minutes. Apparently that applies to zone coverage as well.

Who was your standout defensive player for Syracuse against Missouri?

JR: I don't know if I can give it to just one player. They gave up 508 yards of total offense, but also held Missouri to 3-14 on third down conversions and came up with clutch stops when they were needed. Can we make it a team award?

MM: How about Keon Lyn? The junior corner played one of the best games of his career in my opinion, registering 6 tackles and a pick. A big reason Syracuse caught up to Mizzou after getting down big early was the play of the secondary, Lyn in particular.

AP: It may be a cheap stat cop out, but Dyshawn Davis led the defense with tackles for a loss and four solo tackles for seven total. The defense needed Davis to hold down the fort in the middle and overall, the entire front seven did a great job after the first quarter. They have been a tested unit all season and I think this has been one of the more downplayed stories of the year.

CD: Um. The one who had the most tackles?

DL: Jay Bromley was unbelievable on Saturday. The six tackles and two sacks is a nice stat-line for an interior player, but it really doesn't tell the full story of his impact. He commanded double teams all night, and was still incredible disruptive. Bromley's been great all year, and he has to be one of the great Marrone success stories, considering how late in the game Syracuse discovered him.

JC: Marquis Spruill was extremely active, so despite only four tackles on the stat sheet, he had a hand in tons of other plays and spent a lot of time in the backfield. His 1.5 tackles-for-loss (including one sack) are indicative of a fantastic effort by the defense overall, though. Especially in the second half, the entire group really buckled down and made some great plays.

SK: Gosh, tough one. So many good performances to choose from. Dyshawn Davis was the statistical juggernaut but I feel like Jay Bromley really emerged in this one. It might not show up on the stats but I felt like he was always disrupting things and changing the course of plays, not to mention making things happen for others like Davis.

Temple's Montel Harris rushed for 351 yards and seven scores last week. How do we stop him?

JR: Well, for one thing, Harris' feat came against Army. Syracuse's defense is a little better than that. I think the Orange should load up on the run and dare Temple to throw deep. I think SU would be happy to get into a shootout with the Owls.

MM: Temple should be worried with how to stop Ryan Nassib and Alec Lemon! But the easy answer here is that Syracuse's defensive front seven need to be ready for anything. Apply pressure and tackle in space. It won't be easy, but Syracuse isn't Army (the team Harris roughed up last week), this is a more than doable assignment.

AP: Up the difficulty level to All-American? Half kidding. Syracuse defense > Army defense. That will slow him down. Stay disciplined when attacking the gaps up front so Harris can't shift and cut back. Also, grab an early lead and force Temple to have to throw the ball instead of running the ball.

CD: Well, you have to start off simply by not being Army. All due respect to the Black Knights, but they're bad more often than not. And then, you have to take Harris' totals with a grain of salt. The Owls only attempted four passes. So, really, the gaudy totals are more a result of the type of game it was rather than any outstanding talent on Harris' part. Credit him for getting the job done. But when he's getting 36 carries against a team that's 3rd to last in FBS in rushing defense, he'd better put up those number. So, to me, you stop Montel Harris the same way you "stop" James Franklin who, apparently, we were so worried about. Knock them on their asses.

DL: Don't have Army's defense come play for SU this weekend? Army has the 122nd ranked rushing defense in the country, so even though Harris' performance was amazing, it needs to be taken with a tiny grain of salt. Temple can't throw the ball at all - the Owls are ranked 120th in passing offense at a paltry 118.6 yards per game. Frankly, when you can't move the ball with one facet of your offense, Scott Shafer is going to exploit that. I expect the defense to bottle Harris up on Friday.

JC: I don't care whose defense you're facing; 351 yards and seven scores is still a ridiculous box score. That said, we certainly do have a better D than Army. For those who may be superstitious, we currently rank 44th nationally in rushing yards allowed per game (146.45) and over the past few weeks, we've certainly gotten our acts together on that front. Harris won't be easy to stop. But if we can keep him in between the tackles, we should be fine.

SK: First of all, let's recognize that despite their prowess on the field of battle, Army is awful on the field on football. That stat reminds me of Stony Brook and their two-headed RB monster. If you just went by stats, we should have been terrified. But then you remember who they got those stats against. Harris is very good and he's probably good for a lot of yards, but if there's anything I have faith in, it's our front seven.

John Cassillo authors Atlantic Coast Convos, which chronicles every aspect of ACC (plus Syracuse & Pittsburgh) football. Check out the blog, and follow him on Twitter: @JohnCassillo

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