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.
Biggest issue from Saturday's loss to Cincinnati (other than penalties and stupid mistakes)?
Matt McClusky: Simply put, Syracuse can't close. There's something wrong with this team when it comes to putting "it" all together, and things inevitably fall apart at the worst possible times.
Andy Pregler: The inability to stop the run. Cincinnati was able to run up, down and around the Orange defense pretty consistently all game which was frustrating. The mood in the stadium at halftime was that the scoreboard was wrong and Syracuse wasn't winning. I think that Syracuse visibly losing the battles in the trenches had to be a huge part of it.
Chris Daughtrey: Execution, the third head of the "How did Syracuse blow this game?" triumvirate. The play that stands out to me is the one where Nassib perfectly squeezed a bullet into an itty-bitty window only to have Beckett Wales drop it in the end zone. I'm sure Nassib threw it hard. But in that case, he had to. And Wales had to catch it. And Nassib isn't entirely blameless. The one long catch Lemon had, Nassib under threw. Lemon had to literally stop and wait for the ball to arrive. If that ball is out front, Lemon has a TD.
Dan Lyons: You always take the best answers! After penalties and stupid mistakes, it has to be the run defense. Cincinnati gashed us all day, and things only got worse when they gave up on having Munchie Legaux trying to throw on us. The Bearcats were basically able to do whatever they wanted on the ground between Winn and the other two quarterbacks, who only combined for a handful of passes.
John Cassillo: The fact that a backup quarterback finished us off in the second half is awful depressing. But at the same time, it's the offense's ineptitude that stops us from keeping up with Cincinnati in that second half. Drops, poor play-calling and a lack of motivation played equal parts in a sad performance over the final two quarters.
Sean Keeley: So many to choose from. I'll go with Syracuse's inability to ever separate themselves from any team at any point. Save for the UConn game, I don't think we've been able to ever take momentum and run with it. We're incapable of building on success. Every new drive is a completely new experience unrelated to the one before it.
This Saturday's game against Louisville is on ABC. Happy we're on national TV, or scared we're going to get pummeled in front of the whole country?
MM: A noon game on any network or station is usually not a big eye catcher. More eyes will be on the Orange than for the usual Big East Network games, but I'm not too concerned a blowout will lead to any national retribution. Honestly, the national TV cameras catching any of the 25,000 empty seats will be more damning than the final score.
AP: Both. It's better to have the upset win on ABC and get the guaranteed coverage rather than gamble to get nothing on SportsCenter later, right? But in reality, I don't think this game is going to be close and thus I am worried we'll get pistol whipped on National TV. Best bet is to hang around and stay within 10 until the final minutes.
CD: I don't think Syracuse football fans have enough pride to be scared of a pummeling. Frankly, I think it's what most of us expect. So I think that it's similar to the USC game. Happy to be in the spotlight with a small chance of pulling a pretty big upset on the national stage.
DL: I'm happy we're on national TV, I think that's always a plus, and to the common fan, we're going to look like pretty big underdogs, so unless we absolutely embarrass ourselves, I think it's a net positive. I hate the noon start though, especially since I will be in town. Waking up is hard.
JC: If we were some sort of paper tiger 7-2 team, I'd be scared of what this game could do to our national perception. But as a 4-5 team struggling to get to six wins, I think the outcome can only be neutral or positive. If we win, it's a huge upset the whole country watched. If we lose, it was supposed to happen, and Louisville collects the pelt of another subpar opponent.
SK: Is it weird that it makes me feel better about the game? Louisville should be scared sh**less because this is the first time a national audience is really going to get a good look at them and that's usually when teams fall flat. Throw in that they're on the road and there's a decent recipe here for an upset.
MM: Teddy Bridgewater is better right now and his ceiling is much higher. Nassib's shown improvement and great leadership, but Bridgewater just brings more to the game.
AP: Gah. Right now, I'll take Nassib by a hair but Bridgewater has so much potential. I can't tell you where I heard this but some "expert" said Bridgewater should be the early favorite for the 2013 Heisman. That's how much talent I think everybody knows he has in him, but he still has technique and decision making curves to conquer. Nassib will be in the NFL barring injury. Unless Bridewater becomes B.J. Daniels next season, so will he and probably with greater success.
CD: Who wears an orange helmet? I kid. I dunno. I don't think either is one of those transcendent players where you could put them in any system with any teammates and they'd be able to function effectively. Nassib does his thing and Bridgewater does his. There's nothing to say that, if their positions were reversed, their win totals would be as well.
DL: Teddy Bridgewater, although I do think they're the two best quarterbacks in the conference. Bridgewater throws the ball with a bit more touch, he's athletic but doesn't rely on his speed, and he's younger which is great for Louisville's program. This is no knock of Ryan, Teddy Bridgewater is the real deal.
JC: Since he's come back down to earth, Nassib's numbers don't necessarily stand out as much as they once did -- Bridgewater has the same amount of TDs, with only 300 less yards. When considering the fact that Louisville's top receiver's been out all year, and Bridgewater leads in the most important stat (wins), the Cardinals' passer gets the nod.
SK: I think in terms of taking a quarterback to win a college football game, you go Bridgewater. Though I do think it's a closer race than a lot of people realize.
Beyond Bridgewater, which Cardinals player should we be most worried about?
MM: The Cardinals ground game provides Senorise Perry and Jeremy Wright. Combined those two have 1,300 yards on the ground and 20 rushing touchdowns. With Bridgewater at the helm and those two behind him, the Orange front seven may be in for another long day.
AP: I'm really scared of what Senorise Perry will do to the Orange defense. He has slowly been building back up after an awful game against USF and just looking at the stat line, after a 79 yard game last week, he should be poised for a 100 yard game against the reeling Orange defense. What's worse, if he gets going and Bridgewater can sit back, this offense is going to be damn near impossible to slow down.
CD: I feel like a broken record, but I have to go with the running back, Senorise Perry. Over 700 yards and 11 TD on the season and, despite recent improvement, the SU run defense is inconsistent at best. The saving grace is that Bridgewater isn't a real threat to run, which is good since the Orange have been at their worst against running QBs. Still, Bridgewater isn't Chandler Whitmer either. He's a guy who can and will beat you with his arm. But I still like Syracuse's chances better if they can hold Perry down. If both he and Bridgewater go off, the Orange don't have a chance.
DL: With the last two weeks in mind, running back Senorise Perry. It seemed like we had the whole "run defense" thing figured out after shutting down some of the upper echelon backs in the league, but things have taken a nasty turn as of late. Perry is having a better year than I realized. He has over 700 yards on an impressive 5.2 yards per carry, and seems to have a nose for the endzone with 11 touchdowns. Combined with 650 yard, nine touchdown back Jeremy Wright, Perry and the Cardinals have a pretty scary rushing offense.
JC: I figured it was just too easy to say Perry, so I'm going with two of the team's dangerous defensive backs, Adrian Bushell and Calvin Pryor. Combined, they've got three interceptions, while Pryor's also forced four fumbles (big concern for us). Most importantly, you'll pretty much find them all over the field. Both record a lot of tackles (114 between them), and are occasionally involved in blitz packages as well. We'll need to keep a constant eye on both.
SK: Do they have a running back? Yes? Then fear that guy (Senorise Perry). We apparently used up all our running back stopping ability already.
Obviously we're in a difficult spot now. What are the odds Syracuse makes a bowl game (in percentages)?
MM: Right now? I'd say 25% just because Missouri has been so bad this year and Temple is still beatable. Should SU win Saturday, those odds will dramatically rise.
AP: I'll be debbie downer and go with 10%. I don't think they win this week (if that wasn't obvious already) with the nail in the coffin coming in Missouri. Even though the Tigers aren't great, they played Florida tough and it's a road game against an SEC team. Unless Syracuse pulls off the upset and wins this week, the Orange aren't going to go bowling.
CD: I'm going to play the optimist and say 50/50. Regardless of rankings and statistics, the Orange CAN beat Louisville on Saturday. After that, Temple and Mizzou are nothing to write home about. So long as the Orange don't kill themselves (again) I'm still optimistic. Ask me again after the Louisville game.
DL: I'll say 25%. It's definitely realistic, as neither Louisville or Missouri are quite as good as we've made them out to be (although public opinion seems to be swinging in the other direction in regards to the Tigers), but not something that I would bet on. But that's why they play the game on the field, and why I don't bet on games - for better or worse, Syracuse football doesn't subscribe to common perception or sense. That's why we all have such an abusive relationship with it.
JC: Unfortunately, I'm going with 10 percent. Louisville may not be as good as their record indicates, but they're still better than we are. And Missouri's poor record is equal parts due to the strength of its competition and quarterback James Franklin's injury (both of which will not be factors in our game). If we win one of those games, obviously the conversation changes. But right now, I just can't get my hopes up.
SK: In a weird, perverted, masochistic way, I still think we've got a decent shot to win two out of the three. Beating Louisville is just the kind of thing this Syracuse would do, before going out and losing to Missouri. It almost makes poetic sense given just how unbelievable erratic we've been. I'm giving us a 40% chance for now but that drops exponentially if we lose this game. No way will we win two road games to close the season.