1. Syracuse didn't seem to have high hopes coming into this season, but is 3-0 to date. Is this all house money, or is this team a step ahead of projections?
Yeah, we're definitely doing what we should've done (SU beat Rhode Island, Wake Forest and Central Michigan to get here, after all). But not how we thought we'd do it. For about two and a half games, freshman QB Eric Dungey has been a revelation for us at the position, running a dynamic, fun option attack. Dungey can run and throw, and has been using his legitimate dual-threat capabilities to keep defenses on their heels. So if he can come back soon, this team will be ahead of projections. If not, then not much has changed for this program.
2. The run defense has been pretty effective for most of Scott Shafer's tenure -- what style of defense does the Orange run, and what can you tell us about this group?
Syracuse runs a base 4-3 most of the time, and blitzes a ton with the linebackers, in particular. While the defensive line is an effective tool against the run and pass, it's really the various looks from the linebackers that make this front seven formidable. This year, the linebackers aren't as great in coverage as they have been in the past, but do continue to get into passing lanes (and even have a couple picks already). The secondary, on the other hand, is a disaster and will get burned by any QB with a pulse. They typically emphasize big plays over sound coverage, and that will (and does) hurt against most opponents.
If you're looking at individual players, defensive end Ron Thompson is an athletic monster -- a former tight end who also gets some goal line carries. He's the team's best pass rusher and can be found all over the field. Zaire Franklin is a captain at middle linebacker and is also constantly in the mix. Don't pay attention to the DBs. With luck, ignoring them means they're not really there...
3. Syracuse lost its starting quarterback in week one, and last week's starter Eric Dungey took a nasty hit last week. What's the status of this position?
Well... since Dungey was targeting and intentionally knocked out of Saturday's game (yes, I'm still bitter), we're sort of in flux. Dungey's almost definitely not playing, which means you're seeing a mix of third-stringer Austin Wilson and walk-on Zach Mahoney. Wilson can throw the ball well, though not always accurately, while Mahoney possesses some mobility (tough not with the same speed as Dungey). In the second half against Central Michigan, offensive coordinator Tim Lester platooned the two to try and recreate Dungey's more complete skill set. Hopefully he just sticks to one this weekend, because... Saturday's plan didn't really work.
4. Any other players on offense that LSU should familiarize themselves with?
Without Dungey, this game won't reflect overly well on any of the offensive players, but Jordan Fredericks is a true frosh at running back and does a nice job running both on the edge and between the tackles (though the Chippewas had some success stacking the box against him later in the game). Steve Ishmael is a big, legitimate talent who could be an All-ACC receiver by next year. His speed, combined with fellow speedy receiver Brisly Estime, make for two very real deep threats who have the speed to create for themselves all over the field. That requires a QB getting them the ball, however (something Dungey could do, but his replacements may not be able to).
5. When we previously spoke in the spring, there wasn't much optimism for this game. Has the 3-0 start changed anything, and could the Carrier Dome be rocking on Saturday morning?
The 3-0 start would've changed things had Dungey not been knocked out. While we knew we wouldn't be able to stop Leonard Fournette, a Dungey-led offense would at least be able to score some points and keep things interesting for a half. Our fans suck at coming out to support the team, but they'll show up to this one a bit more than the previous three games. If things get out of hand, they'll empty out by the third quarter to beat "traffic." So yeah, I guess I'm still lacking for optimism here...
6. Any suggestions on bars/restaurants/hangouts for any LSU fans making the trip up north?
If you're hanging around on/near campus, would recommend going to Faegan's. which is your typical bar fare in terms of food, but has the best beer selection on the Hill. Chuck's is worth a trip, if you like dive-y college bars and that whole atmosphere. Off-campus, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is a good stop to make, even with the typical wait over there. Empire Brewing Company's also downtown and a great place to grab some food and local beers. Oh, and go to Varsity pizza. It's historic for those of us who've attended SU or live there, but ESPN does usually talk about it once per season too. The opponent banner flip is a cool tradition on the wall, and the pizza and wings are excellent. Expect a crowd, but very much worth dealing with it for the atmosphere and SU sports history in the place.
Other things to see on campus: Ernie Davis statue outside the Carrier Dome is worth stopping by, and if you're a hoops fan, swinging by the Melo Center on South Campus could be worth your time too.