The Syracuse Orange get an opportunity to impress the country when they face the Purdue Boilermakers on ESPN2. Can the Orange get a BiG non-conference win? We offer some things we’ll be watching for on Saturday afternoon..
Andy: Is the secondary ready to go man to man?
Christian, Steve, and I talked about this in the most recent TNIAAM Podcast, so if you want to listen instead of read, head over there. The summation is that Penn State was able to pretty effectively shut down the Boilermakers when they ran man coverage. We know that Duce Chestnut and Garrett Williams can handle that style of play, but Tony White has loved to use zone to better cover the rest of the secondary and disguise pressures. This will be a great test of his coaching flexibility and trust in the rest of the defense to play a style that is a bit out of their comfort zone in order to gain an edge in a tight matchup.
Christian: Threat identification
If you’re a reader of my basketball stuff, you hear me say this all the time with the Syracuse defense. Now it shifts to football as it’s clear where Purdue gets most of its offense. Quarterback Aiden O’Connell is averaging 288 yards per game, good for fourth in the Big Ten. His favorite receiver, Charlie Jones, leads the Big Ten with 143 receiving yards per game and with 10.5 receptions per game. The thing is, no one else on the Purdue roster has more than six catches or more than 60 receiving yards this season. Also, no one on Purdue has more than 80 total yards rushing over two games this season. It’s a very one-dimensional offense with a clear target to attack. Shut down that target, and Purdue will have to adjust in a way that should open doors for Mikel Jones and Marlowe Wax.
Steve: Which direction does the style of the interior head?
Both lines will be tested in this one. While Purdue isn’t a strong running team, I still don’t have the fully warm and fuzzies from especially the edge run defense. If they play action the Orange could get caught out as well. I think they’re up to the task but it’s still a work in progress. The offensive front just needs to continue to improve. Getting reps and getting out against UConn should help keep them healthier but we need them to establish themselves and not let the Boilermakers shut down one facet of the offense or the other. The more diverse looks that can be successful, the more successful this game goes.
Kevin: Can the Orange offense succeed if they aren’t perfect?
Syracuse hasn’t committed a turnover through two games. They are also 10-10 in red zone opportunities. Both of those are unlikely to continue through the season so how the Orange react to adversity is going to be something to watch. If they turn it over or come up empty after a long drive, especially if they are trailing Purdue, will Syracuse stick to the game plan or will they press when they get the ball back? Hopefully the coaching staff won’t make the mistake of ignoring Sean Tucker like we saw on occasion last season and the players will maintain their composure against a tough opponent.
Mike: Will SU go from pass-heavy to full air-raid?
Garrett Shrader has looked great through the air so far, and there’s a strong chance of him needing to throw a lot again this week. The Boilermakers have not defended the pass well in the early going but locked down Penn State’s ground game in the opening week, allowing under 100 total rushing yards. Building off what Kevin said, the threat of a high-scoring offense on the other side may coax Syracuse into going deep more often then the previous two matchups. This is where we should really see who Shrader has built up the most chemistry with.
That’s what we’re looking for, what are you watching this weekend?