Coming off two embarrassing losses to South Florida and #3 Louisville, the Orange finally gets a softer task when it travels to East Hartford to face Connecticut this Saturday. Although the Huskies are 2-1, their two wins were both three point victories against the FCS’s Maine and a lowly Virginia team. However, Vegas clearly doesn’t see it that way by opening UConn as seven point favorites. While that line has been split in half in recent days, this is a game that Syracuse needs to win in order to maintain any hopes of a bowl game. SU has winnable games in four of its next five contests, making this matchup against the Huskies a potential momentum builder for the next month of the season.
Offensively, UConn is a ground and pound team that is spearheaded by its talented running back Arkeel Newsome. The Huskies have 50 more rushing attempts than passing. The team likes to run off the tackles with the downhill running Newsome. As if chasing Lamar Jackson and Marlon Mack wasn’t enough, this scheme gives the Orange’s young defensive ends yet another test. Along with Newsome, Connecticut features a dual threat quarterback in Bryant Shirreffs. The signal caller is the team’s leading rusher and keeps defenses on their toes with the read option. As a high volume rushing team, the Huskies establish the running game to set up play action passes. In the air attack, UConn targets senior receiver Noel Thomas, who has accounted for almost half of the team’s receptions. A heavy dosage on the ground should favor Syracuse who has a thin secondary, but don’t be surprised if that prompts the Huskies to up the ante in the passing game.
Defensively, UConn has a strong interior line with Mikal Myers and Foley Fatukasi, which puts a damper on Orange running back Dontae Strickland’s prospects for Saturday after a career high 127 rushing yards against South Florida. One thing the Huskies lack is a knack for the ball in the air. Despite playing weak quarterbacks, UConn has only intercepted one pass. With Eric Dungey nearing his yards total from last season, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him eclipse that figure against a below average Huskies secondary.