Following a bye week, the 3-1 Syracuse Orange are back in action this Saturday against our old conference-mates, the USF Bulls. Oh, and Eric Dungey and Ervin Philips will also return. Everyone rejoice!
Below, Collin Sherwin (who you should follow on Twitter) from Bulls247 (formerly SBNation's Voodoo Five), stops by to share everything we'll need to know around the Bulls. We answer some questions over there too, which you can check out here.
Miss us? It's been a few years.
So much. Honestly. Your Internet fans are some of the best (SHOUT OUT HOYA SUXA!), TNIAAM is one of the best sports blogs out there (RIP DOCTOR Daryl Gross), and your basketball games at the Sun Dome often sounded more like the Carrier Dome. Except for "Upstate NY Townie Wearing A Carmelo Anthony Jersey With No Undershirt While Drunk" Guy, we loved having you here.
Can we get a throwback Octonion this week? For old times sake. We really need something down here to make us smile and feel good once again.
The Bulls opened as a five-point favorite over Syracuse, but you'd have to think that had something to do with Eric Dungey's assumed absence. Now that he's playing, does that probably shift things in Syracuse's favor?
I would assume, and the line is down to -3 for that reason. Syracuse’s run defense seems to be stout, which would take away USF’s biggest weapon: a three-headed running back monster of Marlon Mack (one of the best backs you’ll see all year), D’Ernest Johnson (watch out for his hands out of the backfield), and Darius Tice (perfect changeup guy with breakaway speed).
The running joke down here is USF can’t score more than 17 points, so Stevie Nicks White Winged Dove references abound. If Dungey can have you put up 20 or more, you’re probably going home winners. From what I can tell about Dungey he’s a dual-threat type of guy, and that’s what’s given USF fits in the past few seasons. The defense did a very nice job with Paxton Lynch last week, but that’s the exception to the rule.
Just like you did when Ryan Nassib marched down the field in 2012 in the last minute on Homecoming. I was sitting right behind the bench when it happened, and even the players knew what was coming because our DC Chris Cosh was so terrible at his job. Palpable "we're going to fucking blow this" was everywhere. You started the slide that got Skip Holtz fired, so thanks for that.
What went wrong against Memphis? Obviously USF kept it close, but the Tigers were able to pull out the win despite not playing their best ball.
USF flat got outcoached. Memphis’ Justin Fuente made some pretty questionable decisions himself, but the Bulls made sure to counter with things like "punting on 4th and McDonald’s straw from the 46-yard line" and "nine runs and three passes in the third quarter despite Memphis having their entire team and training staff in the box."
Willie Taggart even ate it after the game. "Put that one on me," he said. But people have been openly questioning the sanity of the decision making as it was happening all season, and another case of USF’s super-ultra-conservative style blowing up in their face. We are the John Birch Society of football teams: so damn conservative we’re totally ignored by the mainstream with good reason.
Defense was very good though. So there’s that.
How's the Willie Taggart era going? Seeing progress? Or is this thing doomed?
I don’t see how he’s coaching this team on Christmas. We’re 1-3 and I don’t see a bowl game happening, which it was all but said out loud to be the baseline for him to return. The fans have totally checked out on him, and quite frankly the players seem pretty pissed off too. It doesn’t help that he spews the exact same rhetoric every week after games & at press conferences.
If he is done, he’ll have left USF in a much better position than he found it. There’s plenty of talent on this team, though absolutely not at quarterback. They’ve got three years of UCLA transfer Asiantii Woulard starting in 2016, but it seems a longshot Taggart will get to coach him.
If he is done, he can look inward as to why. The game management and game plans have ranged from puzzling to dumpster fire for three seasons now. He was bound and determined to bring a Stanford-style system to Florida, where we have 4-star skill athletes growing out of palm trees. It was stubborn and stupid, and will probably cost him his job. If you blow us out, that move might get made after this game.
The USF offense pretty much revolves around Marlon Mack, am I right? Or is there another factor that keeps things moving along?
Don’t forget about Johnson and Tice. USF has three really good running backs. Though the line blocking for them is spotty however, and there’s no chance they keep teams off balance by throwing the ball. Barring a massive course correction this week, look for USF to zone read & power their way into the line a lot, then take occasional-and-far-too-few shots downfield off play action. A lot of this is because quarterback Quinton Flowers, as Brock Huard said during our game against Maryland, is "a running back playing quarterback."
What's the key to exploiting the Bulls' defense? Who's the weak link Syracuse should be attacking?
Middle screens and deep shots against dime. Our best DB’s are good, but when we’ve got to put a lot of them on the field, there’s guys who can’t really cover out there. Auggie Sanchez is our Mike linebacker, and he’s a guy you can high/low and bracket. All the linebackers go through spells of missing tackles, but then they make some really good plays too. The front four has been better than I thought they’d be, and they lost their #1 guy to grades before the season in Derrick Calloway.
If you can protect Dungey for a few seconds, he’ll have spaces to throw the ball.
The Bulls beat the Orange if _______.
Their defense can get off the field and force at least two turnovers. The Bulls aren’t scoring more than 20, so they’ll need the under to hit to win. Also USF will need to run the ball effectively in the second half. They’ve done so in the first half of games often this year, but then defenses adjust, USF doesn’t, and it gets all tire-firey at the end.
The Orange get a nice win on the road over USF if _______.
They don’t turn the ball over and can get 5-6 chunk plays. The Bulls don’t turn it over a lot, but they’ll go 3-and-out plenty, so just get your defense on the field and fair catch it when Mattias Ciabatti punts it. He’s a beast and hopefully a Ray Guy finalist.
Prediction time: What happens in this one, and how?
Syracuse’s defense keeps getting off the field, and their offense finally starts to pull away in the 4th quarter. Orange wins 34-17. Willie Taggart gets booed off the field again. USF also very possibly makes some sort of coaching announcement after the game: either the dreaded vote of confidence, or the axe.