We continue previewing the Syracuse Orange football season just a bit too early but not way too early and so far, the Orange are 1-1 after defeating the Northwestern Wildcats and falling to the USC Trojans. Up next? The always dangerous FCS game. This year, the Stony Brook Seawolves travel up to the Dome in hopes of pulling off the upset Orange fans are all nervously hoping to stave off.
Stony Brook Overview:
To be honest, I couldn't find as much info on the SeaWolves as I could other teams thanks to that whole FCS subdivision thing. But what I did find scared me. First, a quick intro to their program: the Seawolves went 9-4 last season, and are defending their fourth conference title (all since 2005). The Seawolves also have a conference jumping problem that makes Syracuse look much better: After joining the Big South in 2008, Stony Brook will be bolting for the CAA next season. Much like the Orange, the Seawolves are looking to exit on a high note. Unlike the Orange, they have the tools to do it. Led by a high powered rushing attack and preseason All-American linebacker Jawara Dudley, Stony Brook is predicted to win the Big South a second straight year.
How the Orange Should Attack the Seawolves:
Remember, this is an FCS matchup so the Orange should be able to move the ball effectively through the air and on the ground. But a nasty history of playing these teams suggests otherwise so we actually have to dig into this matchup. The cornerback position is the wek spot for the SeaWolves due to inexperience. The top two projected corners did not compile any stats from last year. Two new members of the defensive line join Stony Brook, one Leston Simpson Jr is a transfer from Minnesota. The Stony Brook linebacking core is the strong spot. Led by Dudley, this experienced group will the one to gameplan for.
I see the Orange going a route based on offensive line performance in the previous games. The if the line does a better job in pass protection and picking up blitzes, they can allow Ryan Nassib, Alec Lemon, and Marcus Sales to carve up the secondary. If the line does a better job aggressively handling defensive fronts and getting to the second level of the defense, the Orange can run Jerome Smith and Prince Tyson-Gulley until the play action pass becomes a legitimate option. However, because this is Syracuse, they will find a way to make it far more complicated than it needs to be.
How the Orange Defend the Seawolves:
Every preseason preview on Stony Brook focuses on their running back duo of Miguel Maysonet and Iowa transfer Marcus Croker. Croker was second in the B1G for rushing but was dismissed for violation of a team policy. The running back duo is a huge reason the Seawolves are the favorites in the Big South. Last year, while splitting time, Dudley racked up over 1,600 yards and 15 TD and Croker had over 1,300 with Iowa. Bottom line: you know exactly what's coming with Stony Brook, you just might not be able to stop it.
The Orange's front seven will have been already tested against Northwestern and USC. If they fare decently in those two games, then there is hope that this potent rushing attack will be neutralized. The problem is that Stony Brook will have decent time of possession and be able to waste clock, limiting Syracuse's chances to pull away from the Seawolves. Therefore, the defense needs to keep the Stony Brook possessions short. The defense needs to break the front five or six of Stony Brook to hit these runners in the backfield. Both runners are physical and won't go down on one hit from a corner. Expect the linebackers to play a big role and I'm betting on Dyshawn Davis to use his fantastic athleticism to lead the team in tackles and be the leader.
The crowd. This game is not selling at all so it may just be a neutral site game for both teams. New York City is home for Syracuse too, correct? So Stony Brook is just playing another home game right? Whatever fans do show up need to be loud and proud.
This game should not be close but it will be and Stony Brook is the best FCS team to come into the Dome in the Marrone era. I like the Orange to win this one, but it will be close only because Stony Brook just won't give up the ball. Low scoring game won on a late field goal by the Orange, 20-17.