After dominating last weekend, Syracuse needs to be careful on offense to defeat Maryland.
Syracuse is coming off a 13-0 win over Wake Forest, improving its record to 4-4. The Orange is now back in the driver’s seat to get six wins and go to back-to-back bowls. Now the team travels to College Park, Maryland to take on a Terrapins team decimated by injury.
1. How will the defense follow up Saturday’s dominating performance?
Chuck Bullough and the rest of the defensive coaching staff took advantage of the week off after a miserable performance against Georgia Tech. The Orange limited Wake to less than 200 total yards and forced 12 punts. Now the Orange needs to back it up with a dominating performance against the Terps offense down to its second-string quarterback and without its top two receivers, Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, who are both out for the season. Syracuse’s offensive line, which dominated Wake last weekend, now faces a Maryland offensive line that includes a freshman left tackle making his first college start. The Orange D-line should have no problem getting to Caleb Rowe or C.J. Brown, whoever the Maryland starting quarterback is.
2. The SU running game needs to get back to keep up the work
Saturday the Syracuse offense was slow to the game against Wake Forest. Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley had some trouble breaking through in the first half. But things got better in the second half, including a 67-yard run by Gulley. The Orange needs to keep feeding the backfield and running the ball. Eventually the defense will get beaten up and a hole will open for Gulley and Smith to break off bigger runs. The running game will be a big help for Terrel Hunt going into a rough environment at Byrd Stadium. If Hunt improves just by making the right throw each time he drops back, the SU offense will move up and down the field much better than it has so far in ACC play, and Hunt might throw his first touchdown pass since Tulane.
3. Terrel Hunt still needs to raise his level of play
Hunt got a lot better in the second half last week, though much of the improvement had to do with better play calling. In the second half, Hunt was throwing and completing more short passes as opposed to looking for deep throws. Hunt looks to have found another “H-Back” that he has great chemistry with, as Brisly Estime broke out with nine catches against Wake. Now Hunt needs to take advantage of having two receivers he seems to have confidence in—Ashton Broyld and Estime—to improve his game and get the Orange to another bowl game.
4. Jarrod West needs to be more involved in the game
It was nice to see West make an impact on the field after what seemed like a four-week absence without a touchdown pass. Now West needs to step up and be the number one receiver he was expected to be coming into the year. West caught a screen, slipped a few tackles and almost made it into the end zone, but replay review showed that he was down before the ball crossed the goal line. But the run set up a Terrel Hunt rushing touchdown just a few plays later. West can have a huge effect on the Orange offense if he can just make a few catches like that each game. West just needs catches that convert third downs, move the chains and set up touchdowns, even if he only catches two or three passes a game.
5. Can Syracuse limit the turnovers?
The Orange did not commit a single turnover against Wake, which kept them in the game even with all the drives that ended with punts instead of points. Most of the time, the team that wins the turnover battle wins the game. Terrel Hunt needs to continue to take care of the ball and move the offense, which is why the second-half play calling of shorter routes was just what the Orange needed. Maryland has forced 16 turnovers in eight games this season. Syracuse cannot afford to turn the ball over two times on Saturday and still win the game. Hunt cannot be careless with the ball or throw into double and triple coverage. Turnovers are important in any game, but in a toss-up game on the road, the Orange needs to limit its turnovers to have any chance at beating the Terps.
In the end, the Orange can beat the Terps. Even if C.J. Brown, the Maryland starting quarterback, is healthy and starts this week, he will be without his top two receivers. The Orange offense is confident coming off a stellar performance and should be able to shut down Maryland. If SU feeds the backfield beast, and Terrel Hunt can make small improvements from last week, the Orange should be in good position to win.
Posted by: Seth Goldberg