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Fizz Breakdown: Here’s How Syracuse Can Become Bowl Eligible in Missouri

A Team Fizz alum takes us out to the Midwest to break down the Tigers.

Columbia Missourian

There is good news and bad news for Orange fans breaking down this weekend’s game at Mizzou. The Tigers have struggled this year with the transition to the SEC, but they’ve also played their best football in the last 3 weeks. After hanging with Georgia for a half in MU’s SEC opener the Bulldogs threw down a three-touchdown ass whooping. More of the same came in blowout losses to South Carolina and Alabama, and a close defeat at the hands of (egads) Vanderbilt.

But starting three weeks ago, The Tigers got their first SEC win over lowly Kentucky and made t-shirts. Then played a close game against Florida, losing 14-7. And Missouri got its most impressive victory last week, going to Tennessee and beating the Vols in 4 OT’s.

At the center of the season’s struggles has been quarterback James Franklin. He was coming off a huge sophomore season but in ’12, he’s battled injuries and regressed in a manner similar to Ryan Nassib last year. In ’11 Nassib lost mechanics, missed throws, and turned it over way too much. Franklin’s numbers this year aren’t horrific, he’s completing 57%, but only has 8 TD’s and 7 INT’s. The yardage also isn’t there.

We all know Ryan has figured it out this year. The worry for SU is that Franklin may have figured it out last week. Coach Gary Pinkel said: “James looked for the first time like the healthy guy we expected him to be and made some great throws and did some great things. That’s two straight weeks where he’s practiced and felt good.”

If Franklin is finally healthy Syracuse could be in real trouble, especially if the Tigers’ top weapon has figured it out too. Dorial Green-Beckham was the #1 recruit in the country but had been relatively ineffective all year. After a mere 7 catches and one TD in his first 5 games, Green-Beckham was suspended after being caught with marijuana (he has a court appearance today). Since his two-game absence, he’s been a different player. In the last three weeks, he has 15 catches and against Tennessee had two scores.

Defensively, Missouri has been historically very good under Pinkel. They’ve produced tons of NFL talent (both Smiths in SF and Sean Witherspoon of the Falcons to name a few) and this year have good players as well. Sheldon Richardson has been very solid on the defensive line, but hasn’t been the impact player many thought he’d be coming in as a highly touted JuCo transfer. Kip Edwards could be an NFL prospect at corner and his partner E.J. Gaines isn’t too bad either. That being said, the pass defense for Mizzou is mediocre and thus there are two keys to the game:

1. Play up tempo

While Mizzou is more accustomed to an up tempo game than most SEC teams, the Tigers haven’t played a spread team that moves as fast as Syracuse all year. The Orange offense is rolling right now and the tempo could be a huge factor in this game.

2. Win the turnover battle

There’s reason for concern on both sides here. Richardson has a knack for the strip sack (he’s got 3 forced fumbles on the year) and Syracuse has been terrible in protecting the football this season. But SU has had huge wins when forcing opponents into mistakes and Missouri is susceptible to that. MU has been sloppy all year, fumbling an astounding 21 times (although they’ve only lost 7) and Franklin has the 7 picks.

If Syracuse can execute offensively, Missouri will start to press. That’s when MU will likely turn the ball over. If that happens, Syracuse wins. Last week’s win over Tennessee (51-48) sounds like a shootout, but the game was 28-28 at the end of regulation. Missouri has topped 30 points against an FBS team only once in regulation this year. That was against Kentucky. They made a t-shirt. You don’t want to be put on a t-shirt.

Mizzou’s defense has kept them in games all year, so if Syracuse can get going, that might break the Tigers’ spirit. But if Franklin and Green-Beckham have figured it out, it could be a long night for the Orange. It’s senior night and that crowd can be hostile. This game will be close and Syracuse certainly can win. But these two programs are mirror images. You never know what you’re gonna get.

Posted: Craig Hoffman

23 Comments on this Post

  1. Russell MacEachern

    Egad’s..what a time for Beckham to wake up!I watched 3 Mizzou games and was VERY unimpressed and I see Nassib finishing up the season strong and us thumping Mizzou on there home field!They look offensively challenged to me and our D is getting better with each game!!SU34 Mizzou20..thats my prediction…

  2. @ Russ – way to put it out there. I am nervous, especially with them at home. They have not lost at home very much, especially out of conference. This is not the first team we have faced this season with all-star wideouts and a good QB. We can hold the passing attack, but only if the front four can bottle up the run, and that is where we have been weak this year.

  3. Keep in mind Mizzou will be fighting for their post season life in this game. Lose this and they ain’t bowling, because A&M is going to thump them next week. Mizzou is a quality team – don’t let their record fool you.

    I still think Syracuse will win if they play smart football – limit penalties, no turnovers. This is the kind of game we should be glad we have Nassib – a senior who will make good decisions and stay calm in a hostile, night time environment. Go CUSE!

    checked the weather in Columbia – 35 and clear at night….

  4. Russell MacEachern

    I think if our running game keeps up there stellar work it will open our passing game and I was’nt impressed by them the 3 times I watched!!Besides,I predicted we’d be 7-5 in the preseason and don’t like being wrong HaHa….I’ll stand by my predictions!My only concern is Beckham waking up in time for us!Our DBs better be ready!

  5. Couple or three things to mention. Years ago we beat up on Missouri so we do have a history against them SEC or not. Second DA mentioned again Ryan’s poor play last year. That was an HCDM/dougie issue after this year proves that. And thirdly I hear that Missouri is rated 9Th in take aways. It could effect PTG and his wavy ball handling, also Ryan on sacs to!!

  6. Russell MacEachern

    God,were or who choses these lousy Thursday night games?I thought last nights MAC doubleheader showed better football and the lack of fans in the seats contribute to a crummy atmosphere…c’mon ESPN put on some better games nationally!!And we complain about no fans?Our fans at least make a little noise to motivate our team!!

  7. @Russell MacEachern;Russell I with you on all that you’ve written. I believe in your prediction of the score between the two.

    The only thing that I didn’t read in the above post by Craig Hoffman was the fact that this game is important to Syracuse as well. If they win this game they travel back to the upstate area knowing that they are going to a bowl game at the end of the year. Russell your 7-5 over-all record for the year looks spot on the money kiddo.

  8. OrangeCrush27

    Sheldon richardson possibly out according to the P-S?? That would be huge for ‘Cuse…

    Not to mention ex SU commit DT Harold Brantley chose Mizz over ‘Cuse after he gave his verbal, last February…

  9. BREAKING NEWS: Missouri suspended star DT Richardson!! (First round NFL pick.) Huge for the Cuse and J Smith…pound that ball with the run and open up the passing game. Offensive balance and hope for Cuse win here!! Go Cuse!

  10. Ron – of course the game is important to Cuse, although I’d say it’s more important to Mizzou because SU still has Temple to get bowl eligible.

    Richardson being out is huge. We all know that a huge part of Ryan’s struggles when they happen is pressure and no Richardson means far less pressure. Not to mention the mental blow you give a team who is now without their best player.

  11. @Craig Hoffman;I assumed the reason that you didn’t mention the importance to Syracuse was because of the Temple game the following week. I guess I was just nitpicking the article a little.

    With Temple losing it’s struggle to get the 12th game this year,
    do you think the Owls won’t be fired up for Syracuse?

    It’s a good article Craig,keep up the good work.

  12. This kid is the same dumb@ss that asked about whether or not he watched the UGA-Buffalo game said – “I watched that game. I turned it off, too,” Richardson said. “It’s like watching Big Ten football. It’s old-man football. If we execute, nobody in this league can touch us. Period.”

    Well apparently they cannot execute because they are 2-5 in the SEC with their wins over Kentucky and Tennessee; neither whom have won a conference game this season……

    I really hope Syracuse pounds Jerome Smith and PTG up the middle. Open up the running game and Nassib will pick them apart over the top with play action

  13. Thanks Ron. Glad to be back doing a little Fizz work here and there. Richardson clearly isn’t the brightest of the bunch. Not only did he make those asinine’ comments but this suspension is pretty epic on the stupid meter. He missed classes, didn’t make up the work and got suspended. He got every chance and apparently couldn’t be bothered to pretend he was a student and now is out. Genius.

  14. @Hoffman;you welcome Craig,we may not always agree,but the Fizz always gives the fans something to debate and I truly enjoy the debates.

    For instance;I’ve read somewhere here about our young quarterback(Zach Allen) coming in next year and starting. I believe that the starter next year will be Charlie Loeb with John Kinder and Terrel Hunt as the back-ups. I think Zach Allen will red shirt his freshman year so that he can learn the system. What do you think?

    GO CUSE;

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