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Syracuse vs. Florida State Football Preview: Q&A With Tomahawk Nation

Hey, it's our favorite ACC friends!

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Once you've resigned yourself to losing to Florida State, the week before is a whole lot more fun. That's sort of what we've done here at TNIAAM, and look: what a pleasant week with our pals from Tomahawk Nation in advance of Syracuse's upcoming loss. Remember, if you use humor, you're not being a defeatist. It's just self-effacing.

Below, Dylan Kidd from SB Nation's excellent Florida State blog, Tomahawk Nation, stops by to chat with us about all things Seminoles football. On top of his responses here, you can also check out ours over there to tell FSU fans everything they have to know about Syracuse.

With Syracuse breaking in both a new QB and a new offensive coordinator against Florida State, will the Seminoles defense take a few drives to get a handle on what the Orange are doing?

It’s certainly possible that the ‘Noles could struggle with some looks that Syracuse hasn’t put on tape with the new coordinator and quarterback. The defense is a bit banged up, but there’s still a whole lot of talent there. It’s young talent in a lot of places, though, particularly in the front seven. I think they may very well be susceptible to some early struggles against the run, which can open up some shot plays for the Orange down the field. The question will be whether Syracuse can take advantage of these opportunities. NC State did this against FSU, and the ‘Pack were able to hit those shots, emptying the well time and again with wrinkles that they hadn’t put on film before Florida State. I do think the Seminoles will adjust, as they did against NCSU, and once they do I suspect it will be a long day for the Orange, as the talent disparity will show up with all of Syracuse’s upheaval of late.

FSU fans probably saw George McDonald's asinine comments on Tuesday night; how would the 'Noles program and fan base deal with similar dissension within its ranks?

That’s a really interesting question. It’s sort of hard for me to envision that kind of situation in FSU’s program because Jimbo touts his "one voice" policy, which basically means that he is the only coach who talks and we rarely get to speak to assistants. Jimbo is also still the play-caller-in-chief, so it would have to be a defensive coordinator being demoted to create a comparable situation. So you’d have a demoted defensive coordinator who wasn’t supposed to be talking to the media in the first place making comments that, let’s face it, have to be seen as detrimental to the program. I don’t think he’d survive the night in a Jimbo Fisher regime unless he was an incredible recruiter. As for the fans, I think they’d absolutely railroad the guy. If the performance was bad enough to get an FSU coordinator demoted, and then said coordinator took public shots at the head coach, he’d better check under his car for a few days after, or at least avoid his twitter mentions, because y’all know #FSUTwitter would be on the warpath.

Florida State appears like they're off to a slower start than last season, while still managing to bury teams anyway. What's the biggest reason for the slight decline in performance this year vs. last year?

Some of it is the loss of talent to the NFL, as the Seminoles lost two excellent college receivers, two running backs, its best defensive tackle, linebacker, and two safeties. There was always going to be a drop-off in talent, at least in the secondary and at nose tackle. The offensive line has not played to expectations, and Jameis misses ultra-reliable #2 and #3 wide receivers. The team is also pretty banged up right now. The starting nose tackle is done for the year and two backup defensive tackles are injured, starting center is out for a month or two, top receiver out with a concussion (more on him later), and a possible starting LB may be back this week after missing everything to this point with a foot injury. And that’s just for this week. In each game there have been a substantial number of injuries or suspensions. Finally, this team just isn’t a continuation of the 2013 squad, and FSU fans are finally starting to realize this. It wasn’t realistic to expect this team to be the death machine it was to close the year last season from week 1 of 2014. It wasn’t until right around this time last year that things came together for the 2013 ‘Noles. As long as FSU keeps winning they’ll be fine, but it sure would be nice if things clicked in time for Notre Dame next weekend.

How do FSU fans feel about Jameis Winston at this point? Obviously there's plenty of good with a Heisman, a conference title, a National Championship and gaudy stats, but there's also the (less-than-positive) off-the-field stories that come with it. Are you guys just taking it in stride, or has the fan base started to turn some ire toward their star quarterback?

I think there’s a significant portion of the FSU fanbase that is out of patience with #5. I’m not sure how fair that is, but this segment is almost looking forward to him being out of the program. And it’s unfortunate, because he’s a generational type of player at the school, and to some extent one’s memories of his era will be marred by the off-field stuff. The sexual assault accusation is really the lens through which all of this ire flows. If you take that out, which the evidence in existence would support, everything else seems to fall within a pattern of behavior of the consummate goofball who will do anything to be one of the guys, is probably significantly entitled, and fails to realize or simply doesn’t care that every little thing he does is automatically news because of who he is. If the worst thing he’d done was steal $30 worth of seafood and stand on a table and repeat a vulgar meme, then the discussion of his legacy is completely different. As it is, he’ll never shake that stigma, and there will always be an asterisk next to his name in the mental record books of many Florida State fans.

Emphasis is likely to be on the Florida State offense's abilities on Saturday, but what about the defense? Who do Syracuse fans need to be most concerned about when the Orange have the ball?

There are a lot of FSU defenders who can get after the new quarterback, which probably isn’t something you guys want to hear. Mario Edwards Jr. is a monster at defensive end who plays a significant amount toward the inside, rather than being a straight edge guy. Eddie Goldman is a fantastic talent at defensive tackle. On the edge, watch for Chris Casher, DeMarcus Walker, and freshmen Jacob Pugh and Lorenzo Featherston, as well as Ukeme Eligwe, slowly working back from a lisfranc injury. You’ll also see a lot of Jalen Ramsey, the all-world talent in the secondary who has moved to Lamarcus Joyner’s "star" position, which is a nickel corner/linebacker hybrid spot. The biggest thing for this unit is discipline, as they’ve struggled when they’ve gotten out of their lanes, failed to adjust to motion and misdirection, and screwed up their pattern matches over the top, allowing big plays. As you pointed out earlier, there may be some opportunities for the Orange earlier since FSU has seen nothing from either the coordinator or QB, but he’d better have a lot of different concepts ready to go, because once FSU adjusts things will probably get tough.

Are there any Syracuse players who truly concern you going into the game? Seriously, we won't be offended if the answer is "no one." We're just curious.

I worry about Cam Lynch because I think he’s just a good player and the ‘Noles have really underperformed on the offensive line this season and are probably more injured on that unit than they’re letting on. I like Syracuse’s ability to roll a bunch of different running backs out there and I think they’ll want to do that against FSU for a lot of reasons, including setting up some shots and keeping the clock moving. Finally, Riley Dixon! Y’all know we FSU fans have a serious case of punter envy. And this guy can kick the ball and also do other stuff! We could put together a pretty attractive trade package of a couple of DB’s, maybe a wide receiver, linebacker, or O-lineman if you guys would be interested. Like really. Please?

Okay, might as well get a prediction here. How big of a win does Florida State record, and how?

My prediction may surprise you a bit. I am operating under the assumption that all-everything wide receiver Rashad Greene will not play on Saturday. He had a concussion against Wake, and I personally see no reason for him to play against Syracuse with Notre Dame on deck. I freely admit that I do not have a medical license, but that may or may not stop me from dispensing medical opinions on the side, because licensing’s just a human construct, y’all. Anyway, I am of the opinion that the Seminole offense runs through #80 to an extent that a lot of Florida State fans don’t quite realize. I think that Syracuse will move the ball and score some points early, but FSU will adjust. I also think the ‘Noles will struggle on offense for a lot of this game without Greene. Add to that a noon game up in the Carrier Dome in a classic look-ahead spot, and I think FSU wins a 27-10 game that draws the ire of much of the Florida State internets. Leading to an even more fun Notre Dame week for us.


Thanks again for taking the time out for these, Dylan! And again, everyone: Be sure to follow @TomahawkNation on Twitter and head over to Tomahawk Natoin for all of your pre-game Florida State info.