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Syracuse football: what to watch for vs Florida State

Can the Orange score a major upset?

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Florida State Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange (4-2, 0-2) look to stop a two-game losing streak when they travel to face the #4 Florida State Seminoles (5-0, 3-0). Syracuse will be looking for the first win over a top-five opponent since the 2017 win over Clemson.

Here’s what we’re watching for on Saturday:

Kevin: Defensive Discipline

It’s hard to decide what aspect of the game you want to focus on when Florida State has the ball. Trey Benson is averaging 7.6 yards per carry. Jordan Travis has a 12-1 touchdown to interception ratio. Keon Coleman and Johnny Wilson have combined for 40 receptions and 8 touchdowns. The MOB is going to have to play strong assignment football. If they are caught guessing on Saturday, it’s going to lead to a lot of big plays for the FSU offense. Syracuse’s best chance is to force the Seminoles to be patient and go on long drives to get points.

Mike: Stack the Lines

The Orange offensive line is nowhere near the strength they’d like for an opponent of this caliber. Unless Shrader goes back to scrambling like crazy, he’s going to need some extra protection in the pocket. SU’s defensive front just doesn’t have the size to break through FSU’s bulky blockers on their own, so they’ll also need some help in this one. After Drake Maye picked apart zone coverage last week, the way to counter another dangerous arm may be to bring a lot of pressure and force Travis to get rid of the ball quickly.

Dom: Pressure the backfield

I’m using Caleb Okechukwu’s words here, but it’s true — the best chance to stop Florida State is to get them into uncomfortable situations on offense. Syracuse will need to get some additional tackles for loss with the Seminoles’ run game, put more pressure on Travis in the pocket and force Florida State to make big play gambles. As it is, Syracuse’s offense will already face a tall task, but the Orange’s defense can’t let its opponents get hot early and put the team into a tough deficit to dig out of.

Max: Control the clock

If Syracuse wants any chance to escape Tallahassee with a win, its offense must chew as much time off the clock as possible. Despite back-to-back losses, one strength of the Orange has been their ability to convert on third and short. Positive gains on first and second down will set up Garrett Shrader nicely for read-options or short passes on third. If SU continues its short-down success, it will slow the game down and keep FSU’s high-powered offense on the sideline.

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