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Syracuse vs. Holy Cross preview: Five things to watch for

Just because it’s an FCS opponent doesn’t mean we can’t learn things.

Western Michigan v Syracuse Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

When the Syracuse Orange renew their “rivalry” with the Holy Cross Crusaders on Saturday, ‘Cuse will be expected to win quite handily. That said, this season has been anything but straightforward for Dino Babers’ team, and there’s still plenty to prove and learn for the student-athletes on the field. What should we expect? A tight playbook and plenty of player rotation. What should we look for in that? Well...

How much does the tight end stay involved?

Multiple football writers on this site have been calling for more tight end passing involvement since Dino arrived. If anything, this season has taught us that the lack of downfield opportunities may have been because of blocking needs, rather than a lack of desire of the coaching staff. Aaron Hackett finally had what felt like a break out game for the position, snagging 6 catches for 48 yards and two touchdowns. Was this a particular weakness of Western Michigan that SU exploited? Or is the offense finally going to start to unveil more opportunities for the tight end to be active in the passing game?

Keep improving the Trishton Jackson - Tommy DeVito connection.

If the Orange Offense is going to be explosive, it’s going to be when Trishton Jackson and Tommy DeVito are on the same page. After the disaster that was Maryland and the beatdown that was Clemson, Jackson and DeVito finally got into a rhythm this past Saturday, connecting for 6 completions that yielded over 140 yards and two touchdowns. DeVito’s deep throws add an important layer to the offense, and Jackson has proven he can burn defenders to make those throws work. If Jackson gets going, it opens more space for Taj Harris and Sean Riley to operate.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 24 Syracuse at Boston College Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Can Jarveon Howard re-enter the mix?

Everyone’s expectation is that this game allows for more depth players on Syracuse’s roster to see the field, and Howard is probably the most interesting on offense. The running back was used in spots last season, mostly effectively. One would think he would get more chances this season, but Abdul Adams becoming eligible after transferring and Moe Neal’s continued excellence over both has led to very limited snaps for Jarveon. With just 18 carries on the season, I could see that number doubling after Saturday. It will be a great opportunity to see if the coaching staff needs to experiment with more halfback heavy sets to get all three running backs on the field more regularly.

Mikel Jones: Starting Linebacker?

Mike Jones saw plenty of time at linebacker Saturday, which allowed ‘Cuse to move out of it’s depth chart listed nickel package and into a more traditional (and Brian Ward desired) 4-3. Jones was an early enrollee with 4 star pedigree, so seeing him early in his career is not that much of a shock. That being said, starting a true freshman in the ACC is a ballsy move that shows at this point, Jones has shown enough to impress staff and earn confidence to work through mistakes. It worked out for them last year with Andre Cisco. Which speaking of...

How deep is the secondary?

Cisco’s omission from Saturday’s contest was a legitimate surprise, and Dino was cagey about his return. I would highly doubt we see Cisco this Saturday given the level of opponent, and so Ward and his staff continue to see just how deep this position group can be. We’ve seen Antwan Cordy get plenty of run, and while he struggles when there is a size disadvantage, he’s proven to be far more than just a blitzer. Holy Cross shouldn’t threaten them too much, but it will be interesting to see who gets run out as the game progresses, and if anyone surprising impresses and shows enough ability to crack a Cisco-less rotation.