The calendar month has turned to October and Syracuse Football is STILL undefeated. SU hasn’t accomplished this feat since 1993. This season has already been a massive success and one that the team and fans should be very proud of.
With that said, “you can’t come this far just to come this far.” Yeah, the Orange are off to an insane 5-0 start including a 2-0 beginning to ACC play which is the program’s best ever in the conference. However, nobody wins trophies for getting through September undefeated or for being one of the final handful of teams without a blemish one month into the season.
Here’s the reality, Syracuse has seven chances to earn one win to claim bowl eligibility. At this point though, the expectations need to be altered. This is an SU team that took Louisville to the woodshed, overcame on of the best programs in the Big Ten West, and prevailed amidst all kinds of adversity against Virginia.
This is a ‘Cuse team that could contend for the ACC Atlantic Title, perhaps the ACC title too. At the very least, Syracuse needs to come out on top against one of the six (plus Notre Dame) conferences foes it sees in Spooky Season and November. So if the Orange want to do just that, who needs to step up their game in the back half of the schedule?
Sean Tucker and the Run Game
Before Syracuse played a glorified high school football team last week, the ground game was sputtering like a 1930s Model T. Sean Tucker was all but clogged up against Purdue and Virginia. The running back garnered just 102 yards on 39 carries which is under a 3 yards per carry average.
Against the Seahawks, we saw the Tucker we are used to seeing. The All-American took 23 carries for a career high 232 yards and a trio of touchdowns in basically two quarters of work. Yeah, this is an impressive stat line, but it came against an inferior foe. What can you do against the Clemson defensive front, or NC State’s front seven, what about the stingy defense at Pitt. Tucker and his blockers need to find more consistency and success moving forward for the Orange to win.
Jackson led Syracuse in receiving last season and most expected him to make the leap to an all-conference level of play. Well that hasn’t happened. The wideout has taken a backseat to the breakout of Oronde Gadsden II and just hasn’t been much of a factor. The speedy playmaker has racked up a dozen catches for 168 yards and a score.
That level of production is definitely solid but Syracuse needs more. Gadsden is essentially WR1 at this point, despite the fact that he plays tight end technically. Who’s the WR2 for this team? Well it has to be either Jackson, DeVaughn Cooper, or Sean Tucker (LOL).
Cooper is solid but his game has a cap because he’s mainly a slot guy. Perhaps Jackson is the same way but he’s been split out more in the boundaries this year and is trying to expand his game. The fourth-year receiver has had ample chances to make plays on the outside with teams stacking the box against Tucker. So Jackson needs to start elevating his game and making things happen.
Let’s get this straight, we’re not saying Chestnut has underwhelmed with his play this season. The corner just hasn’t really been given a chance to flash his talents in the box scores. Chestnut is one of the most sure handed tackling defensive backs in the ACC and finally had a chance to get on a highlight reel against Wagner.
The freshman All-American picked off a pass and ran it back for a score. That marked his first interception of the year after having four last season. Teams have really been going after Garrett Williams this year and not so much Duce. I expect the sophomore to get tested more and more down the final stretch of SU’s season especially against stronger passing teams. Circle your calendars when the Orange meet NC State, Clemson, and Wake Forest as games where Chestnut can show what he can do.
Caleb Okechukwu & Steve Linton
The Syracuse defensive line has been ravaged with injuries this season. The linebackers have been hit hard too and its affected SU’s pass rush early in the season. Stefon Thompson was one of the best blitzers on Syracuse’s roster but he hasn’t played in a month and he won’t play until 2023. In his absence, the Orange need other players to put pressure on the opposing quarterbacks.
Caleb Okechukwu and Steve Linton looked very solid and disruptive against Wagner. The duo teamed up for a pair of tackles for loss and several quarterback pressures throughout the game. Leon Lowery also was very impressive. The New Jersey native led the team with 3 and a half tackles behind the line of scrimmage and was explosive. Syracuse needs its headliners in Okechukwu and Linton to carry the mantle in the trenches and could also benefit from auxiliary help from Lowery.
#22 SU is back in action next Saturday against #14 NC State.