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Syracuse football 2021 opponent preview: Albany Great Danes

Let’s find out what’s so “great” about the Danes...

Albany v Pittsburgh Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Even with kickoff several months out, we’re still counting down to the 2021 Syracuse Orange football season in various respects. While we’d all love to see a depth chart of some sort, we’ll potentially take the “consolation prize” of talking about all 12 opponents far too early. Last week, we discussed week two foe Rutgers. This time around, it’s week three against:

Albany Great Danes

School: State University of New York at Albany

Mascot: Great Danes

#BRAND Slogan(s): #BeGreat

Alternate #BRAND Slogan Suggestions: #DaneToBelieve OR #GreatExpectations

Recommended Blog: How about a forum? Big Purple Fans is an option.

Conference: Colonial Athletic Association

History vs. Syracuse: None! Since Albany only moved up to the FCS level in 1999 — and only started playing in the CAA in 2013 — there’s only been so much time available for these two New York State foes to schedule one another.

Coach: Greg Gattuso, 7th year. Gattuso is a Pittsburgh native who played D-line at Penn State in the early 1980s, then jumped right into coaching. After a year as a grad assistant with his alma mater, he spent time coaching high school and Duquesne from 1985 to 1992, before taking over the Dukes in 1993. They had a 97-32 record in 12 seasons, then he joined the Pitt staff from 2005-10 and Maryland from 2011-13 before taking the head job at Albany. Gattuso’s Great Danes teams have struggled on and off in the CAA, but made the second round of the FCS Playoffs in 2019. They were 1-3 during the CAA’s spring season, and they’re 34-40 overall under Gattuso.

2020 Record: (1-3) (1-3) *spring season

Albany v Pittsburgh Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Recapping Last Season:

Technically, “this” year. FCS games were largely held in spring this year, and plenty of those seasons — including the CAA’s — were cut short. Albany played just four games, going 1-3 (as mentioned) with a 24-20 win over New Hampshire, single-digit losses to Rhode Island and Maine, and a 14-point loss to Stony Brook to close things out.

On the year, Albany averaged just 18.8 points per game, while rushing for 118.5 yards per game and throwing for another 172.3 per. Like we did when previewing Ohio’s handful of MAC games this past season, would take all of the Albany numbers here with a grain of salt as well. Senior running back Karl Mofor had 460 yards on the ground for the season, handling an overwhelming amount of the rushing attack for the Great Danes. Redshirt sophomore QB Jeff Undercuffler (great name) passed for 556 yards, six scores and three picks while completing 54.9% of his throws. The receiving corps. was pretty balanced, with five different players catching between 11 and 16 balls, led by redshirt freshman Mike Gray.

Defensively, Albany allowed 24 points and 272.5 yards per game, while collecting one interception and eight sacks. Redshirt freshman defensive linemen Jared Verse led the team with 10 tackles for loss (four sacks), while CNY’s Danny Damico led the team in tackles with 34. The Manlius native also hauled in the team’s lone interception. The Great Danes also had two fumble recoveries on the season.

2021 Season Outlook:

On top of the typically challenging CAA schedule, Albany also has two pretty difficult road trips in September — the Syracuse game and a season-opening matchup with perennial FCS power North Dakota State. Since the Great Danes’ season didn’t wrap up too long ago, there’s still potentially plenty of roster shuffling to happen. But they’ll likely have a lot of the key names back.

Mofor’s numbers looked pretty impressive in four games this spring, and that’s just a continuation of the strong career he’s had. In 2019, he led the CAA in rushing yards with 1,290 and also had over 500 yards on the ground in both 2017 and 2018. While Undercuffler’s numbers didn’t pop off the page this spring, the QB had a pretty impressive 2019 campaign: 3,543 passing yards and an FCS-leading 41 touchdowns. Gray was the biggest standout among the receivers, but it’ll be interesting to see what former UNLV transfer Mekhi Stevenson can do after barely appearing this spring.

On defense, Verse certainly seems like a player to watch after making All-CAA second-team in his first season following 2019’s redshirt year. The Great Danes have some disruptive linebackers on the squad, including Damico and AJ Mistler. Senior defensive back Tyler Carswell tallied three pass break-ups last year to lead the team, and showed an ability to generate pressure as well.

Syracuse Game Date: Saturday, September 18

Location: Carrier Dome Stadium, Syracuse, N.Y.

Odds of Orange Victory: 96%

Very Early Outlook vs. Syracuse:

This isn’t a bad Albany team at all, and really, the offense could show itself to be pretty effective given the weapons they have — especially at quarterback and running back. And if the Orange O-line issues haven’t been figure out (please), then maybe you hear Verse’s name a couple too many times for comfort during the broadcast. Still, this is an FCS opponent and Syracuse should have the superior talent by a significant amount. Don’t expect a shutout, but SU should be able to take care of business here.