Syracuse’s loss to Pitt has certainly dampened the mood on the 2018 season. The Orange fanbase went from believing this team could potentially win 10 games to panicking as to whether or not SU will get a bowl game.
Regardless of where you lie on this spectrum, the Orange’s flaws have certainly been exposed over the last two games. The defense has allowed consecutive running backs to surpass 190 yards, Syracuse’s own running game has fallen off and Eric Dungey has thrown three interceptions while simply not looking like himself throwing the ball.
Now that Syracuse’s problems have become a lot more apparent thanks to some tougher competition and the natural wear and tear of the season, there are a couple of names that shift the narrative in the second half of the season and help Dino Babers get his first post-bye week win in his SU tenure.
Saturday’s suspension for violating team rules was the latest disappointment for the junior’s 2018 campaign. Butler came into this season with hopes of being the next All-American to come out of Babers scheme. Instead, he has yet to crack 50 yards in a single game and has gone catchless in two contests, including his self-inflicted suspension against Pitt. Syracuse does not have a lot of experience on the outside, and a violation of team rules is a bad look for a guy who has not produced to his potential. Butler needs this incident serves as the turning point for what he can become. Because there are a lot of younger receivers who have looked much better and could contend for starting spots.
With a secondary that has allowed devastating big plays throughout the season, there’s a lot of people you could point the finger at. But in reality, most of the secondary has lived up to or exceeded their expectations. But Bradshaw’s numbers and performance have not matched his teammates. He has had trouble wrapping up ball carriers as evidenced by him having the fewest tackles amongst starters in the secondary. He also has yet to intercept a pass, despite setting a personal goal to have eight picks this season. The Orange is going to face some impressive aerial attacks in the second half, and Bradshaw is going to need to step up to complement Christopher Frederick and the safeties.
After securing the starting running back reigns, Neal has been trending downwards. While that does include an outing against one of the best defensive lines in college football history, Neal has just 59 yards over the past two weeks. Prior to that, he never had fewer than 70 yards in a single game this season. The Orange began the season with four straight games of at least 215 yards. Much of which was thanks to Neal. But the past two games, Syracuse has tallied just 238 yards on the ground. The Orange’s skid has been caused by a combination of not stopping the run and not being able to run. Neal has the ability to change half of that in the final six games.