Day & Time: Saturday, September 15, noon ET
Location: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.
Line: Syracuse, +3.5 (it’s been moving in favor of FSU of late)
Radio: Cuse.com, TK 99/105, WAER 88.3, SiriusXM: 977 (home) | 955 (away)
Florida State blog: Tomahawk Nation
Rivalry: Florida State, 1-10
Current Streak: 10, FSU
First Meeting: Knowing the win would need to count for another five decades, the Orangemen beat Florida State 37-21 at Archbold Stadium in 1966. Floyd Little had 193 yards rushing and three touchdowns, while SU picked up 337 total on the ground. While Syracuse’s gains were almost entirely on the ground, FSU’s were pretty much all through the air.
Last Meeting: The Orange couldn’t stop Cam Akers (199 yards rushing), but did pretty well on offense — at least when Eric Dungey was in the game. Dungey had 397 total yards and three scores, and also got hurt during the game, which certainly hindered Syracuse’s ability to keep things moving on offense. SU had a shot to tie the game with a long field goal late, but unfortunately missed as time expired in the 27-24 loss.
Head Coaches: SU: Dino Babers (3rd year, 10-16); Florida State: Willie Taggart (1st year, 1-1)
Coach Bio: Taggart’s a Bradenton, Fla. native, but wound up playing quarterback for Western Kentucky from 1994-98. He stuck around WKU until 2006, then headed west to Stanford where he served as running backs coach for three seasons. Taggart proved enough there to earn the head job at his alma mater and after dragging the Hilltoppers to a bowl in 2012, he was hired by USF. Things were rough for the first two years with the Bulls, but he’d go 8-5 in 2015 and then 10-2 in 2016. That earned him the Oregon job, which he left after one season to take the FSU gig.
Last Year: Everything sort of hit the fan all at once for Jimbo Fisher’s tenure at Florida State. Deondre Francois was knocked out of the opener versus Alabama in the first half, and was sidelined for the season. Fisher’s pro-style offense crept to a halt without him, and the ‘Noles were 3-6 with 17 points being all that stopped them from an 0-9 start. The frustration from fans followed Jimbo everywhere and that, plus his own exhaustion around certain program elements, helped drive him right to Texas A&M despite rallying to make a bowl game.
Last Game: Florida State trailed for nearly all of Saturday night’s game against FCS Samford, starting down 13-0, and looking up at 23-21 come halftime. They’d remain behind until four minutes left in the game, when the ‘Noles took a 29-26 lead on a Francois TD pass to Tre’ McKitty and a subsequent two-point conversion. FSU added a pick-six for good measure a minute and 40 second later to cap off a 36-26 struggle of a win, in which they both forced five turnovers and allowed 475 passing yards.
”Fear Me, I’ve Killed Hundreds of Timelords”: He hasn’t gotten the touches this year, but it’s probably Akers. His 199 yards (on just 22 carries!) versus Syracuse last year were his season-high. And while he’s been underused this year, he still leads FSU in rushing with 158 yards on 28 carries, and has turned into a more capable receiving threat as well (seven catches in two games, compared to 16 all last year). His power and breakaway ability could spell trouble for an Orange front that struggled against WMU.
If Syracuse Wins: We’re 3-0 (“24 years!”) and somehow eyeing a 4-0 start with UConn coming to town the following weekend. College football media is buzzing about us the same way they do Duke and Wake Forest when those schools win some games early on. It’s not a national title, but it’s a start when you consider where we’ve been these past 15-plus years.
If Syracuse Loses: It’s fine. I mean, we want the win, obviously. But this one game doesn’t dictate how Syracuse’s season goes or the trajectory this rebuild is currently on. No matter what Vegas or advanced metrics may tell you, there’s still a talent gap here and I guess we didn’t find enough luck to get past it this time.
Fun Fact No. 1: Syracuse is probably the reason why Taggart is Florida State’s head coach right now. Willie was on the hot seat at USF when a 3-1 Syracuse team came to town in 2015, and there was talk that a loss to the Orange could have canned him (the Bulls were just 7-21 under him at the time). South Florida stomped SU, 45-24 and never looked back. Taggart won 18 games between 2015 and 2016, which led him to Oregon, and then FSU.
Fun Fact No. 2: Strangely, Florida State is not the only school Syracuse has a 1-10 record against. The other is N.C. State, though the Pack have only won four straight in that series. Of course, both streaks are also up for grabs every season in the Atlantic Division that we’re doomed to sit in for all eternity.