Syracuse has a tough task on its hands this weekend. In some regards, SU caught a break last week by playing Central Michigan. Chippewas’ quarterback Cooper Rush posed no threat on the ground, and after John Robertson ran all over the Carrier Dome, the Orange really needed the week time off from a running QB. The team responded well, getting to Rush for five sacks.
But the Orange face a big play tandem this weekend. It’ll be another running QB in Maryland’s CJ Brown, and talented wideout Stefon Diggs, Brown is the Terps leading rusher, running for 219 yards at 6.3 yards per carry. The Orange defense needs to keep him in check. Last year, SU held Brown to just five yards. Diggs is one of the best deep threats in the country, a top talent recruited by the power programs in high school who is just starting to live up to his potential. He had 127 yards receiving last week against West Virginia, including a 77-yard score. He was recently profiled in Sports Illustrated.
Saturday, the defense needs to do more of the same. Last week, the Orange finished off sacks. The D was constantly in Rush’s face. Cam Lynch contained the pocket. Eric Crume did his job and got to the quarterback. For as much of a revelation as Erv Phillips was on offense, Ron Thompson had the same effect on the defense. Look for Zaire Franklin Saturday, who did good things. Franklin broke up passes, stuffed the run, and got pressure on the quarterback.
When Brown can run, it opens up the passing game for Diggs, who missed last year’s matchup with the Orange. Brown’s improvisation can open up opportunities for Diggs on the outside. Coupled with some of Syracuse’s struggles in the secondary could lead to a big day through the air. Wayne Morgan and Julian Whigham need to build off the Central Michigan game to prevent that. The challenge this weekend is tall for the SU defense, but last week was a big step in the right direction.
Posted: Seth Goldberg