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Syracuse football vs. UConn preview: Five things to watch

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And no, the 2-3 zone is not one of them.

NCAA Football: Florida State at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

After a dominating win over Florida State, the Syracuse Orange only have the UConn Huskies in the way of the program’s first 4-0 start since 1991. UConn is bad — like second worst team in S&P+ bad — and their fans know it. Most of that is on the defensive side of the ball, so naturally, the ‘Cuse offense should have a field day. But what else should we be watching for?

How healthy is Eric Dungey?

I didn’t think this would be a regular in “Five Things” so early in the season, but here we are. “Eye irritation” kept the senior out of the second half of the Florida State game and allowed for Tommy DeVito to step in and throw for 144 yards with a touchdown in the air, plus another score on the ground. Which QB does the offense run better with? It’s Dungey (when the play-calling makes sense), and so his health in this game and moving forward is important for the Orange. Much like every game to date, I bet we see Dungey in the first half, with someone else coming in sometime in the second half (probably DeVito and Rex Culpepper) if the game is going the way it should.

How will defensive line handle a mobile QB?

The defensive line looked amazing versus the ‘Noles and will have a unique challenge on their hands this week. UConn’s offensive line has allowed just one sack this year, but it’s not because the Huskies secretly have one of the better lines out there. David Pindell can move and will constantly be on the move. It seems like ‘Cuse always struggles versus mobile QBs, and while Pindell is no Lamar Jackson, he could still cause problems for the Orange defensive linemen. Last time out, the unit had four sacks, seven tackles for loss and five QB hurries, so UConn should make for an interesting follow-up.

NCAA Football: Florida State at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s see if anything really changes in the running game.

This week saw the newest version of the depth chart give Moe Neal the “OR” at running back with Dontae Strickland. Combine that with the emergence of Jarveon Howard and this is a varied rushing attack. People familiar with Dino Babers pre-Syracuse always said that the running game set up the passing game, ‘Cuse hasn’t quite had that to date. John and Dan talked on this week’s podcast about just wanting four yards per carry. That’s the team average right now, so let’s see if they continue this three-man rotation and level of relative success versus a not great defense.

Will the tight ends get more involved?

Coming into the season, we thought Ravian Pierce was going to have a Nick Provo-like season. Instead, he has been used as an extra blocker, only getting six receptions on the season. The big man still has two touchdowns, but the Orange’s three straight runs inside the five early vs FSU don’t seem to show confidence or willingness to make him or any other tight end a focal point of the red zone offense. Will that change this week? Or will the Orange stay conservative? The offense is simply average in terms of finishing drives (compared to the rest of CFB when you look at S&P+), something that will need to change as the Orange play better teams.

Is Christopher Fredrick good to go? If not, how will the defense cope?

Fredrick had a huge pick versus Florida State, and while he may not be showing as much flash as Andre Cisco or the physicality of Antwan Cordy, the redshirt junior has probably been the most consistent defensive back for the Orange. With no ACC mandated injury report, it’s unclear if Fredrick’s apparent hand/wrist issue late versus Florida State is going to keep him out of any action. If it does, how does the secondary cope? Calling back to TNIAAP yet again, Dan called out that Fredrick was one of the few players who didn't seem checked out during the Western Michigan second half. Seeing how a young secondary handles losing a veteran presence vs.UConn is far more preferable than against Clemson.