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2023 Boca Raton Bowl: Syracuse vs. USF Tale of the Tape

It’s the most wonderful time of the year because bowl season has arrived. Everyone gets to see some of the most interesting matchups of the college football season with the month that caps everything off.

One of the games worth checking out is the 2023 Boca Raton Bowl, featuring Syracuse and South Florida. Both teams come in with 6-6 records but how will the Boca Raton Bowl turn out? Let’s take a look at each team.

Syracuse Orange (6-6)

Despite Dino Babers getting fired, Syracuse has to feel good about how things turned out, winning six games to make it to their second consecutive bowl game. All six of their wins came against teams that failed to become bowl eligible and all six losses came to teams that wound up being bowl eligible.

Averaging 25.4 points per game (good for 81st in the nation), the Orange would definitely qualify as a run-heavy offense. They finished 29th in the country with 185 yards per game. The passing offense, however, averaged just 173.7 yards per game, a paltry 116th (out of 130 teams) in all of college football.

LeQuint Allen rushed for 1,062 yards and nine touchdowns while quarterback Garrett Shrader contributed 469 yards and eight touchdowns on top of that.

Shrader had a tough season dealing with injuries but threw for 1,686 yards and 13 touchdowns on a 62.6 completion percentage. The Orange are a bit one-dimensional offensively but have shown to be more than capable of grinding things out on the ground.

On the defensive end, the Orange are solid if unspectacular. They finished 49th in the country by allowing 23.8 points per game. They were better against the run (147.1 yards per game, 54th in the nation) than the pass (231.2 yards per game (74th). Marlowe Wax led the team with an impressive 99 tackles while Kevon Darton provided the pressure with five sacks. 

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South Florida Bulls

This is a big season for the Bulls, who are going bowling for the first time in five years. They also won six games this season, though they managed something Syracuse did not: defeating a bowl eligible team (Rice). They also lost to two teams that didn’t qualify in Florida Atlantic and UAB.

USF has a much better offense (on paper) than Syracuse, averaging 30.7 points per game to rank 48th in the country. Unlike the Orange, the Bulls were far more balanced. They finished 31st in the air (270.7 yards) and 30th on the ground (184.7 yards), the latter one spot behind Syracuse.

Byrum Brown was the starter at quarterback this year, throwing for 3,078 yards and 23 touchdowns while completing 64.3 percent of his passes. The Bulls had five receivers with at least 200 yards, Sean Atkins leading the way with 961 yards and five touchdowns on 86 receptions.

The ground attack for the Bulls was also solid. Three players had more than 350 yards rushing this year, led by Nay’Quan Wright with 757 yards and seven touchdowns. Brown was not far behind, rushing for 745 yards and a team-leading 11 touchdowns.

Defensively, the Bulls are bad. Allowing 34.9 points per game, they finished 120th out of 130 teams in that category. Finishing 70th against the run (154 yards per game) was bad enough but they finished dead last in passing yards per game with 301.2 against. They don’t have much in the way of a pass rush either, as D.J. Gordon led the team with 3.5 sacks.

Who Will Win?

The wild card here is Shrader. If he is able to go, the team should be balanced enough to take advantage of a porous Bulls defense. USF has the offensive firepower to keep things close, especially since Brown can make something out of nothing.

Neither defense is great but the edge clearly goes to the Orange. If they can find a way to get a couple of stops, the run game has what it takes to grind things out. Though most predictions have this one as an offensive showdown, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Orange keep the Bulls offense off the field.

If Shrader isn’t able to go, it will make things infinitely tougher for the Orange. Yes, the Bulls defense is one of the worst in the nation but having a backup at the helm changes things. For now, let’s assume Shrader will be in there at quarterback. Look for Allen to have a strong day, picking up more than 100 yards and a touchdown when all is said and done.

Prediction: Syracuse 30, USF 21

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The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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