Heading into 2015, it was fairly clear that the Fizz had very low projections for SU football.¬† I‚Äôm still proud to be the only one who sees the Orange qualifying for a bowl, and I‚Äôll stick with that statement ‚Äì but it will look awfully bleak if Syracuse doesn‚Äôt walk away with a win this coming Saturday.
The Orange is on the road for the first time this season, as the team travels down to Tampa¬†to take on the USF Bulls, a former Big East foe. ¬†The Bulls have started the season with a tough 1-3 record. ¬†USF’s win was¬†a blowout against Florida A&M and the team has dropped three straight, including a close game against a surprising Memphis team last weekend. ¬†The last time the Orange traveled to Tampa, it walked away with a season-saving comeback¬†led by Ryan Nassib in 2012.
This game has giant proportions for many reasons for the Orange: the first being that it is actually a winnable game.¬† SU has already worked its way through the easy part of the schedule, but USF begins a tough stretch where the Orange will not return to the Dome until the tilt with Pittsburgh, which the Fizz has aptly named the ‚ÄúClark‚Äù Bowl.¬† If SU walks away with a win on Saturday, it just needs to finish the season 2-5 to reach a bowl game.
Secondly, this game is huge because of SU‚Äôs injury situation.¬† Coach Scott Shafer has already said¬†that freshman quarterback Eric Dungey and sophomore hybrid back Erv Phillips will both be ready to play, and that should¬†make fans ecstatic.¬† Dungey showed rare poise and decision making skills under center before taking a nasty hit to the head, and the way he shows up on Saturday will be a good barometer for the rest of the season.¬† Phillips, on the other hand, hasn‚Äôt played since the blowout win over Rhode Island in week one, where he scored two touchdowns.¬† His presence will be greatly felt in the passing¬†game, giving the Orange a mid-range option that is¬†sorely needed.
Led by sophomore Marlon Mack, USF‚Äôs biggest strength is its running game.¬† Mack has averaged 5.4 yards per carry in 2015, totaling 392 yards in four games.¬† After watching Leonard Fournette thrash the Orange rush defense, Mack will definitely look stoppable.¬† USF also relies on Quinton Flowers and Darius Tice out of the backfield.¬† The Bulls‚Äô offensive system plays to the Orange‚Äôs strengths.¬† Without a decent passing game, the SU defensive front should be keyed in on the USF backs all day, and the Bulls should struggle to move the ball.¬† Look for the Orange to pull away and win this game and don’t be surprised if it takes a quarter for Dungey to look like himself in his first road test.
Prediction: Syracuse 27, USF 17