Syracuse’s upcoming contest against Maryland on Saturday could be a turning point for this team. Starting the season 3-0 after an embarrassing opening performance against Villanova would not only silence the doubters a bit longer, but also give the team momentum heading into the Notre Dame game. The Fighting Irish have a bye this week, meaning they should still be ranked in the top 10 heading into the primetime tilt.
Before Orange fans can look ahead to the Irish, the team has to knock off Maryland, a team the Orange manhandled on the road last season. Syracuse bullied its way to a convincing 20-3 win in College Park. The offense racked up 382 yards and the defense forced four turnovers. Durell Eskridge and Julian Whigham had interceptions, and the defense forced five fumbles overall, recovering two of them.
Terrel Hunt was relatively unspectacular throwing the ball against the Terps, only tallying 140 yards and an interception. The running game carried the Orange, with Jerome Smith gaining 118 yards and two touchdowns. Hunt added 67 yards of his own.
This year, the Terps will be starting the same quarterback, CJ Brown. Brown threw for 211 yards and two picks last season against Syracuse. He leads a 2-1 Maryland team coming off a home loss to West Virginia. Brown is a two-way threat. He’s stacked up 553 yards passing and four TDs, plus 219 yards on the ground. The Orange is the last non-conference opponent Maryland will play before opens its first season of Big Ten play.
Orange fans saw what kind of damage a dual-threat quarterback can cause during the Villanova game, so the team will have to play responsible defense. The early start means SU better be awake for kickoff.
Aside from containing Brown, the other x-factor is Hunt. We’ve seen just how different the Orange offense looks with and without Hunt under center. Last week Hunt used his legs to keep the defense on its heels all game. The passing still needs polish, and Hunt needs to be better. The receivers and the play calling deserves blame, too. SU is in luck because Maryland is among the worst teams nationally in pass defense. The Terps secondary is giving up 343 passing yards per game, ranked 119th out of 128 schools.
The rushing game will be key for the Orange as always. Like Smith last season, Adonis Ameen-Moore is a power back that could take advantage of the Terps soft defense. Maryland is currently giving up 133 rushing yards per game. Prince Tyson-Gulley is still trying to break out this season and Maryland might be the opponent to do it against.
After a pathetic showing in its first game, the Orange has a solid chance to start the season 3-0 heading into the showdown with Notre Dame.
Posted: Jason Weingold