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Syracuse Football: So We Should Probably Talk About This Whole Bubble Screen Thing

Syracuse's offense just isn't working against good defenses. The athletes aren't the problem. The playcalls are.

Jeff Zelevansky

Syracuse Orange football fans have gotten used to waiting on an offense to catch up to itself. We sat through a couple rough years of Nate Hackett learning on the job before his offense caught fire in 2012. Last season, we waited as George McDonald had to sort out his quarterbacks before his offensive scheme began to take hold.

So when McDonald said before the season, "We're going to open it up on offense and go full-bore fast. Like an Oregon, Texas A&M style of offense," a lot of SU fans started wondering how many weeks it would take before that actually happened.

And it looks like we're still wondering.

Brent Axe wrote about SU's offensive philosophy following the 31-15 loss to Notre Dame this weekend and pondered the not-all-that-existential question plaguing SU fans right now.

You can build the same car as Texas A&M, Oregon and even Notre Dame, but it's the engine that makes the car run smoothly.

The Irish showed the Orange what the bubble screen can do if you have the athletes to turn the corner, the quarterback to time the throws and the blocking on the outside from your wide receivers to seal off the lanes to create big yardage.

On Twitter, I asked during the game why our defense isn't better against bubble screens since that's all our offense works on in practice, knowing full well the folly of the question. It assumes that all bubble screens are equal.

Clearly, all bubble screens are not equal. Neither are all football players.

The MetLife games are all about building brand, attracting certain athletes and raising Syracuse's national profile, as we've been told. And while those are noble long-term goals, in the short-term, we have to suffer through a clinic in which our offense is shown back to us at a level we can't seem to reach.

And so it begs the question. With games against other top-tier football teams such as Florida State, Clemson and Louisville on the horizon, should we continue down this road or should we start thinking about Plan B?

Usually I'm all for putting your head down and making something work, but, in this case, I'm not sure that's actually an option unless you just want to cede a handful of games before we take the field.

Notre Dame has the 38th-best defense in the nation right now. That 38th-best defense shut down our offense so thoroughly that our punter was our leading rusher. So what's it going to look like when our offense goes head-to-head with the No 3 defense (Louisville), No. 8 defense (Pitt), No. 15 defense (BC), No. 26 defense (Clemson), No. 30 defense (Wake Forest) and a Florida State defense much better than its ranking?

We know SU's athletes aren't going to suddenly become better athletes in the coming weeks. They'e not going to learn how to hit the corners faster or get down the field quicker. These are innate qualities.

The only thing that CAN change is the way in which our athletes are used. Sure, if Ashton Broyld and Brisly Estime are at full-strength, the Orange have a lot of weapons to use. But they're not and plugging in other people to those slots doesn't work.

It's Week 6 of the season so maybe this is all too-little-too-late, but, it's going to be a growing concern every week until SU proves that it's capable of running this offense against a quality defense and coming away with more points to show for it.

Otherwise, you know that feeling you have every time Syracuse goes three and out? Get used to it.