Discuss on FacebookBy Savie Maneen
The Orange is off this week on a bye, right at the midway point of the season. The team is 4-2 overall, two-thirds of a way to bowl eligibility. While they are 0-1 in Big East play, achieving their stated goal of contending for a conference title is not outside the realm of possibilities.
Despite the winning record though, SU has proved vulnerable. Injuries, inconsistency and an influx of inexperienced youth have created their fair share of obstacles.
At the same time, there have been plenty of bright spots in the season’s first half – come-from-behind wins, OT thrillers and highlight reel plays.
With that being said, we’re going to take a look at six reasons for Orange fans to be excited about the second half of the year, as well as six causes for concern. Each day from now until next Friday’s kick-off with West Virginia we’ll unveil one reason for excitement, and one reason for concern.
So without further ado, let the countdown begin... Reason to Get Excited
1) The Big East is wide open.
USF won at Notre Dame, then got thrashed by Ray Graham and Pitt. The Panthers then got thumped by Rutgers, who’s now had at least two different starting QB’s for the third straight season.
At 4-1, Cincinnati has already matched its win total from 2010. But those wins came against Austin Peay, Akron, NC State (currently winless in the ACC) and Louisville. The Cardinals went bowling last year, but are just 2-3 this season, with losses to Florida International, Marshall and UNC. They’re also still looking for a QB.
That, too, is the case for defending Big East champion (and Paul Pasqualoni-led) Connecticut. The Huskies are shaky at the QB position, and have already lost to Vanderbilt, Iowa State, Western Michigan and West Virginia. Their two wins came against Fordham and Buffalo. Some in Storrs are already calling for Coach P’s early exit.
That leaves only the up-and-down Orange and the nationally-ranked Mountaineers. WVU is good, but they’re not LSU, ‘Bama or Oklahoma. In each of their five wins this year, their opponent has been within a touchdown in the second half before ultimately losing.
As folks learned last year, anything is possible in this league.Cause for Concern
1) SU opens the second half of the season with its toughest test.
Syracuse hosts #13 West Virginia on Friday, October 21, in a nationally televised ESPN broadcast. While WVU isn’t as dominant as some of the teams ahead of them in the polls, they’re still very good. It’ll be especially hard for the Orange to start off the second half of its season with a win.
The Mountaineers are led by first-year head coach Dana Holgorsen, who’s been one of the hottest names in coaching the past few years. He’s produced prolific offenses everywhere he’s been (Texas Tech, Houston, Oklahoma State), and that now includes West Virginia (which was already dangerous to begin with).
WVU is 4th in the nation in pass offense, and averages over 40 points a game. Junior QB Geno Smith is 5th in the NCAA in passing, averaging over 359 yards per game. He also has not one, but two receivers who rank in the top 25 nationally in receiving yards – Stedman Bailey (11th) and Tavon Austin (23rd).
Conversely, Syracuse is giving up nearly 300 yards a game through the air and is 111th in the country in pass defense (there are only 120 schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision). Four of the six teams SU has faced this year surpassed 300 yards passing (Rutgers threw for 297 yards against the Orange). Two quarterbacks reached the 300-yard plateau by themselves – future first rounder Matt Barkley, and lowly Tulane signal-caller Ryan Griffin.
On the other side of the ball, West Virginia ranks in the top 20 nationally in total defense. They’ve held four of six opponents to less than 17 points, and haven’t surrendered 20 or more points in a Big East game since the 2009 season.
Like the Orange, the Mountaineers will have had thirteen days to prepare for the game. And don’t think WVU hasn’t forgotten last year’s Orange upset in Morgantown. The Mountaineers have been waiting a long time for another shot at SU.