If I told you at the beginning of the season that Syracuse’s defense through three games would be more impressive than the offense, you wouldn’t believe me. If I had also thrown in the fact that the Orange had multiple games scoring more than 40 points, it would have made that statement even more crazy. And then if I included that the defense lost one of its most important pieces in the first quarter of the season, you would have looked at me like I had ten heads. Regardless, that’s certainly been the case. Now, part of this may be due to expectation, but the fact of the matter is that the defense has surprisingly overperformed, despite the obstacles.
The Fizz recently released its quarterly grades for the all three phases, including the defense. Diving into some of the ranks, the Orange actually is amongst the best in the country. SU ranks tenth in the nation in rushing defense with Michigan and Alabama in the two preceding spots to Syracuse. Along with that, SU ranked six spots ahead of conference powerhouse Clemson. The Orange has also only surrendered one rushing touchdown all season.
Where Syracuse suffers to a degree is in the passing game where it ranks 61st out of 129 teams. However, this isn’t a terrible ranking given the circumstances. SU did hold Middle Tennessee’s Richie James, one of the best wideouts in the country, under his 109 yard career average. Teams are throwing more on the Orange, likely because they see the void at safety left by Antwan Cordy. However, the secondary has certainly stepped up its play even with the redshirt junior’s absence. Last week, the pick six was a result of a great hit by Cordy’s replacement, Jordan Martin, which popped the ball straight to Evan Foster for the easy score. It’s extremely promising to see the chemistry in the secondary despite its youth and influx of transfers.
If there’s one aspect where the Orange leaves something to be desired defensively through three games, it’s getting pressure on the quarterback. Syracuse is tied for the fourth fewest sacks in the FBS with two. But that doesn’t mean the line has struggled to bottle up offenses. SU still sits in the top third of the nation in total tackles for a loss, so the line is still causing problems, despite its trouble getting to the quarterback.
The Orange’s first Power Five opponent comes this week against LSU, which could skew some of these numbers for next week. However, this test can show SU’s true defensive colors and should be a solid barometer for what’s to come from it.