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Syracuse football: what to watch for vs. South Florida

Two programs back on the rise collide in primetime Boca Bowl action.

NCAA Football: South Florida at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange (6-6) look to end their year off with a win against former Big East foe South Florida (6-6) in the Boca Raton Bowl on Thursday night. SU is seeking its first bowl win in five years and will have to do so without starting quarterback Garrett Shrader, who recently had shoulder surgery.

Beating the Bulls won’t be easy. Freshman phenom QB Byrum Brown led the USF offense to over 30 points per game, and SU will be without some of this year’s starters on both sides of the ball. Considering these factors, here’s what we’re tracking ahead of tomorrow’s clash.

Mike: Last Ride for Defensive Leaders?

Two players I was very happy to see appear on the depth chart are LB Marlowe Wax and S Justin Barron. Both captains are in their fourth years at ‘Cuse and both were honored before the final Dome game of the season. We don’t know yet whether or not either will return for 2024, but it’s looking like they’ll at least suit up for the Bowl and a chance at another winning season - they’ll be needed to contain the Bulls’ stampede.

Kevin: Syracuse Showcase

Bowl games are usually weird exhibitions because coaches and players let loose a bit more. However, the returning Orange are given an opportunity to make an impression on the new coaching staff, or other coaching staffs, in this one. We’ve spent the last two weeks talking about the players Fran Brown is bringing in, but the current roster will get their opportunity to show the new staff they are ready to be part of the restoration project. I’ll be curious to see if we see some younger players put together their best game of the 2023 season.

Steve: Offensive Creativity

We’ve seen some creative looks from the offense over the past few weeks. It’s not going to be anything new here with the top two quarterbacks on the depth chart out for the game. The game will also be reportedly called by Mike Lynch as Jason Beck has departed for New Mexico to become Bronco Mendenhall’s offensive coordinator. That’s a lot of question marks for a group that’s had to reinvent itself on the year. I’m thinking we’re going to have to see another reinvention to pull out the win on Thursday.

Dom: Don’t worry about the final result

While a win to cap off this crazy year would be nice, the final score in this game isn’t what will matter the most. We all know that just getting to a second-consecutive bowl game was a victory in itself after this roller coaster season, so enjoy it while it’s here. As Kevin said, there’s still some stakes in any bowl game especially for the players and coaches. In particular, with the talent coming in 2024, look to see who from the current Orange roster stands out the most — remember LeQuint Allen’s breakthrough in last year’s bowl?

Max: Embrace the chaos

What a rollercoaster season it’s been. The sky looked to be the limit when SU started out 4-0 and Shrader was running wild. Five straight losses lit the fuse for head coach Dino Babers’ firing, and the Orange are now without their quarterback once again. Players in and out of the transfer portal, along with chances to the coaching staff further complicate the personnel in this one. Likewise, many jobs will be on the line, and whoever takes the field for Syracuse should take the national media buzz in stride.

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What will you be looking for in the Sunshine State?