The good news? The Syracuse Orange did what they needed to do last week against Albany, winning by a large margin. The bad news? I don’t think many people are encouraged that the improvement we saw against the Great Danes can or will translate into the future. That future starts right now as the Liberty Flames are back in the Carrier Dome, looking to repeat what they did last year - beat the Orange in Central New York.
Three wins heading into ACC play would do a lot for Syracuse, especially given that the conference strength appears historically weak this season. Can the Orange set themselves up for future success with a victory Friday night? The TNIAAM makes their picks here, and you can as well in the poll below.
Liberty 17, Syracuse 7
Yeah, it feels kind of lazy to just pick the Rutgers score. But I’ll make this clear, and if you’ve seen me on TNIAAL before, you know my feelings on this hot topic - I don’t think Malik Willis is as good as most people think. This is by far the toughest defense that he’ll face this year and the Orange speed is much improved from last season. That helps with stopping the run game that Liberty destroyed Syracuse with last season, and this year’s SU rush defense is top notch.
That being said, you’re probably wondering why I’ve picked Syracuse to lose. And it’s simple - I don’t trust the offensive coaching staff to call the correct game plan or to choose the correct play in certain situations to set the Orange offense up for success. At this point, the question behind who should start at QB needs to take a back seat. The coaches have to figure out what to do first to win. I don’t think they do that against Liberty, which will be frustrating.
Liberty 27, Syracuse 21
I’m not giving Liberty 27 points because I don’t trust the Orange defense. That’s far from the case. But I do think Malik Willis’s mobility keeps them preoccupied enough to get thrown off at some point in the second half. The bigger issue, though, is whether or not you trust Syracuse’s offense — and specifically, the play-calling. Sean Tucker should be able to run on Liberty, even if not at the level we saw vs. Ohio or Albany. The hope is that SU can just resist the urge to start throwing too much if they fall behind, however. I’ll believe it when I see it.
Syracuse 27, Liberty 21
I’ll be the #LoyalIdiot this week. The laboratory week against Albany pays off, and Gilbert actually utilizes the run game like we think he should, en-route to another Tucker 100-yard outing. That opens things up a little for DeVito to have a little room to throw, and the Orange put some points on the board. I think the defense holds the running game that got away from them last year in better check, and Willis gets some of his, but they can minimize the impact. The question will be whether the offense can live up to my lofty expectations.
Syracuse 20, Liberty 19
I’m operating under the assumption that Taj Harris and Garrett Williams are back in action tonight. I think Syracuse is going to be looking to avenge last year’s loss when Liberty simply over-powered them in the second half. The Orange are going to use the run early and often and that opens up a deep throw to Anthony Queeley. This game comes down to the final minute when Hugh Freeze opts to go for 2 and the win instead of playing for overtime. Josh Black and Mikel Jones combine to stop Malik Willis short of the goal line to allow Syracuse to steal one.
Syracuse 19, Liberty 17
This feels like the “show me what you got,” game, and I hope the Orange show that they have a better than people expect defense, with a clock controlling run game that will wear Liberty down. If the Orange come out with a gameplan similar to what they ran against Ohio and Albany (heavy on the RPO, limited shots down the field), I don’t think the Liberty defense has enough to stop the Orange consistently. Conversely, this should limit Willis’ exposure to the Orange defense, which will shut down his passing options and force him to the ground. I have no doubt Liberty will put up points, I’m just betting Tony White is able to do what he’s done all year, and keep those extremely limited.
Now it’s your turn...
Who wins the "Hugh Freeze Bed" Bowl?
This poll is closed
Syracuse, and we all salivate at the potential of a bowl
Liberty, and we quickly reserve apple-picking times for the next few weekends