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Syracuse vs. Florida State: Defensive breakdown

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NCAA Football: Florida State at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Much of the same struggles that plagued the Syracuse Orange against NC State and Clemson these past couple weeks appeared once again, at nearly every level vs. Florida State. Talent discrepancies are always seen at the line of scrimmage first. Bigger, stronger teams have been able to move Orange linemen out of the way with ease for the majority of the season, and when offensive linemen can move up into the second and third levels of a defense, the run game is wide open.

That was the case this week. Florida State did whatever they wanted offensively and that extended to the passing game as well. The Seminoles stretched zones and safety range was exposed this week by way of corner and seam routes. Florida State runs one of the most efficient pro-style offenses in the country, operating out of the gun, under center, and pistol formation and their route concepts are NFL-caliber.

The second touchdown to Travis Rudolph came out of a bunch formation. In college you’re taught that teams “condense to expand.” But in the red zone, you have to be more careful against Florida State because they modify their route tree some. Rudolph stemmed Christopher Fredericks out some and then bent the route back with a hard stick. It’s difficult to cover in the red zone with no help, especially as a young defensive back in college. I hadn’t gotten coached up on it until I got to the Buffalo Bills.

The lone bright spot on defense Saturday had to be the freshman, Fredericks at cornerback. Forcing two fumbles and nabbing himself an interception, watching him develop this season has been a treat. He’s the prototypical body type in Coach Bryan Ward’s Tampa-2 defense and defensive backs coach Nick Monroe has done a great job bringing him along.

This Saturday, the Pittsburgh Panthers will utilize a similar rushing attack featuring James Conner, a strong offensive line and a formidable passing attack. Just two weeks ago, Pitt managed to put up 43 points on a strong Clemson defense and absolutely dismantled Duke on Saturday with 56 points.

Nathan Peterman has been absolutely surgical this season, throwing for 22 touchdowns and only five interceptions on the year. Facing plenty of weapons on the outside and a smart senior quarterback, the Orange secondary will be put to the test this week. If they can hold up and slow down the pass, the Orange may have a shot at pinning their ears back and letting Paris Bennett and Zaire Franklin key on Conner.

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Anything else you may have noticed against Florida State, or see happening vs. Pitt this Saturday? Share your thoughts below.