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Playin’ Nice: Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician

John Cassillo of our friends at Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician give us some scoop on the Orange.

Troy Nunes Magician

1. Both teams are coming into this 2-1. How are Syracuse fans feeling about this team right now?

It's a mix of feelings, really. Despite some long-term struggles for the program, there are a lot of Syracuse fans that are already getting impatient with this offensive scheme's (lack of) consistency. The loss to Middle Tennessee was a shock to the system. With tough games against LSU, Florida State, Clemson, Louisville, Miami and others, starting 3-0 was essential to making progress and getting to a bowl game. People would probably be more comfortable with another losing season if we were scoring at least 35 or 40 points a game.

2. Dino Babers wants this to be a high-octane passing team, but it looks like the Orange are struggling when it comes to explosive plays. What's been going on there?

Amba Etta-Tawo was a big-play machine for Syracuse last year, and without him, we've lacked a real option in the deep passing game. With no option over the top we've been forced to keep the passing game short, and that's made us pretty predictable. We're either running the ball up the middle or throwing screens, letting defenses hang around the line of scrimmage. That changed a little last week, but there's still a ways to go.

In general, this offense is a big passing game predicated on a strong rushing attack — or at least it's supposed to be. The Orange haven't been a capable running team since Babers arrived, so that's why progress is taking a little bit longer.

3. It looks like the defense has some solid raw numbers. Improved, or just a light schedule to date?

Both? Last year, Syracuse only managed 15 sacks and overall, the pass-rush was virtually non-existent. Mix that with a young and injury-depleted secondary and you get a team that was lit up weekly. This time around, we're healthier, the younger players are more experienced and we've departed from portions of the Tampa-2 to generate more pressure up front. The pace of the offense will never result in a "great" defense by default, but just having a capable one is already paying dividends.

4. Eric Dungey has had his moments since Dino Babers came in, but who are some of the other players LSU fans should familiarize themselves with?

Steve Ishmael is the team's (and nation's) leading receiver with 34 catches already, so Tiger defenders will want to know where he is at all times. Sophomore Sean Riley also seemed to come into his own a bit against Central Michigan. He had 247 all-purpose yards, was a threat running and out wide, and has become a very dangerous kick returner.

Defensively, Zaire Franklin is a versatile and smart middle linebacker who can cover a lot of ground and factor into plays all over the field. If SU can do anything to slow down the Tigers' rushing attack, it'll be because of his involvement. Chris Slayton's also shown himself to be an effective run-stuffer through three games at defensive tackle this year.

5. What's the general feeling with Syracuse fans on this game, and will there be a healthy contingent making the trip?

I think we've circled it as an exciting road trip for awhile, but are pretty convinced of a loss given the circumstances. Road game at a top-25 team with a top-notch defensive line sounds like a tall order for an Orange upset. Being that it's LSU at night makes that task even tougher for Syracuse -- though we'll take the added atmosphere around the proceedings.

Since we had a healthy amount of warning on this game being scheduled, I'd expect a good deal of Orange fans to show up. There's a sizeable SU contingent throughout Texas that will likely trek over, and I've seen a lot of folks (self included) that have geared vacation plans around this game. It may not look like much compared to the nearby visiting crowds around the SEC, but for a smaller northeast private school, I'd think the (estimating here) 3,000-ish we end up bringing is a fair number.