Welcome to the Syracuse football roundtable! Following a much-needed, resounding victory over Central Michigan, Syracuse fans (and our staff here) are in improved spirits as we head into week four. But we'll have to see if the positive vibes can last when the Orange take on Maryland at the Carrier Dome.
As is and will be the norm all season, we've opened the floor to the TNIAAM football wing to discuss this week's burning questions about Syracuse on- and off-the-field, the ACC and more. Join us below:
How many nightmares have you had/will have you about this... thing?
Michael Burke: Too many. Seriously, if Maryland wants to ensure victory, they should make several replicates of that "mascot," bring all of them to Syracuse, and have them roam the home team’s sideline during the game.
Ben Norowski: I really want to know how many people approved that and thought it would be clever or well received by the college football community. It's one of the most ridiculous looking ideas I've ever seen. Thank god we're not an Under Armour school because I would be terrified to see what they could turn an Orange into...
Jared Smith: Haha. Zero. Actually, it sorta reminds me of a ninja turtle and I am a huge ninja turtle fan. Now, if this was a ninja terrapin then I'd be its biggest fan, but because it isn't a ninja terrapin, I wont have nightmares, however, I will hate it with a passion.
Matt McClusky: Let's not pretend Syracuse won't do something stupid like this with Otto in 3, 2, 1...
Sean Keeley: Definitive proof. There is no God.
John Cassillo: Several nightmares? ALL of the nightmares? It's like they said to Michael Bay: "hey man, remember what you did to the beloved Ninja Turtles? We'd love for you to invite the same disdain in our direction." For an athletic department that's more than broke, they sure do spend a lot on CGI reptiles. And clips from "Iron Man" and "Wedding Crashers." And fireworks for field goals.
Syracuse's secondary didn't need to do much last week -- will they be prepared for Maryland's electric receivers, Deon Long and Stefon Diggs?
MB: Truthfully, it’s hard to say. Even against Villanova, the Orange secondary wasn’t really tested. And neither Long nor Diggs played in last year’s Syracuse-Maryland meeting, so we don’t have much of a basis here. But I’ll say that, yeah, our guys be ready -- if only because I trust that Shafer and the coaching staff used this past week to figure out a plan at containing the duo.
BN: I hope so. I believe the issues in game one were largely in part to the lack of pressure/scrambling ability of the quarterback. I think if our defensive line contains and pressures well, the secondary will look much better, as they did last week vs Central Michigan. I think we can contain Deon Long, but Stefon Diggs is very good and will get his yardage. We just need to keep him out of the end zone.
TIS: Our effectiveness against Long and Diggs will be very much dependent on how much pressure we get on Quarterback CJ Brown. Our front seven had a field day at CMU, and if we have a repeat performance on Saturday, any damage done by The Terps' receivers should be limited.
JS: History hasn't tells me no. That's the one thing I've learned the last couples season covering SU sports, or just college football overall, there's not many good secondaries out there. Only the elite programs really have defensive backs that can shut other wide receivers down the rest really hope its defensive line can get pressure on the quarterback, which makes the quarterback less effective. That is why having big, athletic wide receivers is such an advantage in college football.
MM: Diggs caught five passes for 127 yards last weekend against West Virginia and has 17 receptions in three games this season. So it's safe to say the Orange secondary will get a much bigger test Saturday at dome. My question about Syracuse's defense deals with the front seven: Will the front line create pressure on C.J. Brown? Making Brown uncomfortable will certainly help ease the pressure on Syracuse's shaky back line.
SK: They didn't have to deal with them last year so we can't really use the 20-3 win as any kind of frame of reference. If recent history is any kind of predictor, they probably won't be able to contain them. What matters more is that the defensive line and linebackers can put pressure on Brown to force throws and get him off his rhythm. If not, we might be in for a long day.
JC: They'll have to be. Which means the defense's effectiveness is mostly coming down to whether or not Syracuse can generate enough pressure on C.J. Brown to force quick releases. If they can do that, that takes Diggs and Long out of their game, and takes a lot of pressure off of Syracuse's secondary. If Maryland's free to throw it downfield, we're going to see a few big plays made against those defensive backs.
The Orange largely contained the Terps' mobile QB C.J. Brown last year; can they replicate that again at the Dome this Saturday?
MB: Yeah, I really believe they can. C.J. Brown sucks away from College Park. On the road against a bad South Florida team two weeks ago, he threw two picks and ran the ball 10 times for minus-three yards. In away games last season, he completed only 52.6 percent of his throws and threw as many interceptions (four) as he did touchdowns. And the SU defense will be confident (but hopefully not overconfident). It’s the perfect formula for success.
BN: Being at the Maryland game, it was easy to see why the Orange had such an easy time containing C.J. Brown, as Maryland was missing their best WRs and their replacements couldn't get separation at all. With Diggs and Long playing, I'm a bit worried, based on how easy it was for John Robertson to move around the pocket, but I really think that was an anomaly and we'll be ready to defend C.J.'s dual threat ability.
TIS: The Orange were awesome last year against Brown, and I think Coach Bullough's aggressive style can be effective against a dual-threat QB as long as we make tackles at the line of scrimmage. Brown was very good on the ground against a West Virginia defense that plays a lot like ours. I don't think we'll shut him down, but we will be more effective than the 'neers in containing him.
JS: I'd like to say yes, but, again, history has shown the Orange have issues with mobile quarterbacks. The biggest thing is if Brown is accurate with his passes. If he is, then SU can't keep a bunch of defensive players in to watch him. If he isn't, then it makes it easier. I know last season the Terps were without their three best wide outs and it made it easier to contain the quarterback because he had nobody to throw to.
MM: Two words: John Robertson. The Villanova quarterback, who seemed to do hat he wanted against Syracuse, was either a good test for the Orange or it was a precursor of what to expect Saturday. I'd throw out last season's successes against Brown, as both teams are different now, and I'd be worried that Robertson may have given Maryland a template. Brown's ability to not only run but to extend passing plays has to be keeping Syracuse defense coordinator Chuck Bullough up at nights.
SK: I don't see why not. If the defense plays like they did last week, they should be able to disrupt him and the offense. Do that and it gives our offense a chance to get ahead. The Villanova game should act like a primer for what not to do and I'd like to think the defense and the coaches have learned from those mistakes.
JC: Is the pass-rush going to perform like last week's? Then it's just a matter of keeping him from getting to open space outside of the pocket. We can't necessarily rely on the secondary, so it's up to this group to generate the sort of pressure that removes Brown's advantage (see previous answer). If he doesn't have time to throw downfield, that allows the defense to pull in and that gives him a whole lot less space to run.
What's your favorite thing about Maryland not being in the ACC anymore?
MB: Maryland was one of the ACC’s weaker links, and now the Terrapins are the Big Ten’s problem. That makes the ACC > Big Ten argument that much more legitimate. Top to bottom, you can at least make a case that the ACC is better at football than the Big Ten. We have the best team in either conference (Florida State), they have the worst team in either conference (Purdue), and we have more teams (eight to five) that are either ranked or have at least a half-decent case to be ranked.
BN: I don't really have a favorite thing besides we replaced massively mediocre with Louisville's solid programs and knowledgable, friendly fan base. The trip to Maryland was pretty easy and a lot of fun last year and I'm a bit disappointed I won't be able to do it again (although their fans were non-existent).
TIS: That our women's lacrosse team won't have to lose to them three times every year any more? Sorry, unnecessary roughness... I honestly don't have a favorite thing. I liked Maryland in the ACC, and always enjoyed playing them in all sports. Obviously, I want them to crash and burn this weekend, but in general I honestly wish them the best and hope we can play them regularly.
JS: Louisville is now in the ACC. It is good seeing Louisville in the same league as Syracuse again.
MM: That the Terps, after crisscrossing America's heartland all fall, will routinely close out seasons with an old bitter rival, Rutgers.
SK: Knowing that while they will be Oregon of the East when it comes to dumb uniforms and gimmicks, they will almost certainly never have the chance to become Oregon of the East in the win column. Good luck with Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Nebraska, Michigan and Penn State every season...
JC: That we don't have to see those fans regularly. No offense to some of the guys at Testudo Times, whom I do like. But the Terps fans I met at Byrd Stadium last year were not the friendliest folks at all. Realignment has really done a number on the tone of discourse among college football fans, which is a shame.
What do the Terrapins need to do in order to defeat Syracuse at the Carrier Dome?
MB: C.J. Brown has to be effective with his legs. That’s how Villanova almost shocked Syracuse three weeks ago; Wildcats quarterback John Robertson ran the ball 34 times (34 times!!!!) for 135 yards, and he always seemed to be picking up first downs at the most opportune times.
BN: The Terps need to do what they did against WVU - Force turnovers and make game changing plays on special teams. They also need to control the clock and hold the Orange to three and outs (maybe then Randy won't be able to complain about the number of plays we'll run). WVU showed they could be exploited on defense, however, so they will need to review that tape and get their secondary organized and ready to play.
TIS: Maryland's defense was not at all impressive last weekend, so they are going to have to protect C.J. Brown, and give him time to throw. They will need to score at least 30 points to win this one, which may be asking too much.
JS: Not turn the ball over. Pass it well. If Maryland can do that on offense then they will have a good chance to score points and pick up a nice road win.
MM: Keep the Orange defense on its toes by using Brown in the same way Nova used Robertson. For a number of reasons, CMU was the perfect opponent for Syracuse -- especially with the Chippewas' down two of their best players. But Maryland plays a different style and has more options and weapons than the Wildcats.
SK: Make them look the way they did against Villanova. Make the defense look like it's a Swiss cheese factory (does that even make sense?) and don't let Syracuse's offense get into a rhythm that will allow it to keep pace on the scoreboard.
JC: Get C.J. Brown running in open space, which in kind should free up Long or Diggs (or others) downfield. Conversely, get Maryland receivers open downfield, and that should open up some running room for Brown. Stopping Maryland's offense is no easy task for Syracuse, and the Terrapins do have the personnel to take advantage of the Orange's inadequacies in the secondary.
If Syracuse can do (fill in the blank), they're likely 3-0 by the end of Saturday afternoon.
MB: I hate recycling answers, but if Syracuse can prevent C.J. Brown from killing them on the ground (which I believe they will), they are very likely to be 3-0 heading into next Saturday’s primetime showdown with Notre Dame. Man, just the thought of being 3-0 going into that game...
BN: If Syracuse can limit turnovers and play solid special teams, they're likely 3-0 by the end of Saturday afternoon. This is why WVU was in such a tight game against Maryland despite racking up 700 yards of offense. I believe our offense is good enough to at least hit between 400-500 yards and our defense is just as good as WVU's. I think if we're able to do that and keep our turnovers down we'll easily contain Maryland.
TIS: 180 on the ground, 200 in the air, and 2 or fewer turnovers.
JS: Run the ball. (Though, that doesn't fill in the blank well.) Control the tempo. Use the fans. This is how SU goes 3-0 on Saturday.
MM: Keep the Terps from piling up points and Syracuse will be 3-0 to start 2014. Maryland has put up some big point totals so far this season, but it hasn't played against any significant defenses yet either. Sure, Syracuse probably doesn't have a stout defense, but bending and not breaking could be key Saturday. In other words: force UM into long field goal attempts.
SK: Put pressure on Brown and put together an offensive performance comparable to the one they had against Central Michigan.
JC: Keep Brown in check, and be ready to score points themselves. Even keeping Brown contained could still allow Maryland to score, so the Orange offense needs to be ready to put on a showing similar to last week's. Let Terrel Hunt guide the tempo of this game -- as you know he can -- and hopefully the rest should fall into place.