A lot of things need to go right if the Syracuse University football team wants to have any shot at knocking off No. 8-ranked LSU in the Carrier Dome on Saturday. Basically, everything needs to go right. Not just right, but perfect. Everyone needs to be on top of his game, from Scott Shafer right on down to the third string player at every position.
It’s going to be a tall order to upset LSU, is what I’m saying. This is one of the biggest, fastest, most athletic teams the Orange have faced in a very long time, and it certainly doesn’t help going into the game without all of the team’s best weapons. Having Eric Dungey in at QB certainly would have been ideal, but Shafer officially ruled him out today.
That puts an awful lot of pressure on walk-on QB Zack Mahoney, but he’s not the only one facing some seriously tall odds. The Orange will need the run game to perform, which hopefully means we’ll get a larger dose of Jordan Fredericks – who has been, without question, the team’s most effective runner this season. Fredericks has rushed for 197 yards on 31 carries – an average of 6.4 yards-per-carry – with a couple touchdowns, and the true freshman looks to have the best combination of power, speed, and quickness among the top three options in the backfield.
It’ll help both Mahoney and the running attack to have Steve Ishmael fully healthy, as well as getting Josh Parris back. Not only will they help in the passing game against a very solid LSU secondary (11 pass breakups and an interception through two games), they’ll also help with blocking and opening up lanes for the Orange running backs.
Most importantly for this offense, however, might just be the play of the offensive line. The good news is that the unit gets its leader, Rob Trudo, back to face an intimidating defensive line of the Tigers. LSU has eight sacks and 12 tackles for loss through the first two games, and are allowing just 101.5 rushing yards per game. Between the way they harass the quarterback, defend the pass, and bottle up opposing runners (3.2 yards per carry) this will be the stiffest test faced by the Syracuse line yet.
Mississippi State gained just 43 rushing yards, and while Auburn gained 160 yards on the ground, quarterback Jeremy Johnson was pummeled all game and sacked five times. The offensive line most certainly has its work cut out this weekend against the LSU front seven.
The biggest threat to the Orange this weekend is, of course, Heisman frontrunner Leonard Fournette. The running back is putting up numbers that can really only accurately be described as “silly.” We’re talking like Bo Jackson/Tecmo Bowl level. The best defense against Fournette might just be keeping him off the field, and that means holding onto the ball. That means putting together 10-12 play, sustained drives that eat up 5-6 minutes a pop and, hopefully, result in points more often than not.
If the Orange want any hope of keeping drives alive, it all starts up front. With a green QB who never could have expected to be in this kind of position and a running back trio that, at times, struggled to gain ground against CMU in the second half last week, it’s up to the line to clear a path or two up front. With LSU’s team speed, going east to west might not be the best idea in the world, so the line is going to need to plow the road up the middle at least part of the time, hopefully enabling Fredericks, Devante McFarlane, and George Morris to get a few seven or eight yard runs – maybe longer – to keep the offense on the field and pick up some first downs.
Everything needs to go right this weekend for Syracuse to have any hope of pulling off an upset, and as the old saying goes, these kinds of wars are won in the trenches.