I was perusing Syracuse’s advanced statistical profile this morning, as ya do, and I noticed one thing about the Orange that felt very familiar: they have not been very good at creating explosive plays on offense, and they’ve been bad at limiting them on defense. NC State and Syracuse are football siblings in those respects this season.
Where they diverge is in the nature of the explosive plays allowed defensively: NC State has been bad with both running and passing plays. Syracuse has been fine against the run, but abhorrent against the pass. I mean really, really bad. Like 125th in the country bad.
The Orange have allowed six pass plays over 30 yards, six over 40, two over 50, one over 60, one over 70, and one over 80. (If you cringe at those figures, which you should, I should point out here that NC State has allowed a similar laundry list of big pass plays.)
Basically we have two defenses that have reliably lapsed to a significant degree in pass coverage up against a couple of good quarterbacks, and what happens when you throw all these things into the same pot? There may be no tellin’, but I have a guess.
Syracuse definitely is not equipped to deal with Ryan Finley or NC State’s receivers, which I suspect will be the difference in the end. Secondary problems have plagued the Orange for a few years now, and this does not appear to be the year they turn the corner in that respect.
There are big pass plays to be had for everyone on Saturday. But State is deeper at the skill positions than Syracuse, which relies heavily on two guys—Steve Ishmael and Ervin Philips—to carry the passing game. Those two have 72 catches between them; the rest of the team has 45. They are the only Orange receivers with double-digit receptions. State has five guys in double digits already.
I think that’ll be the difference. Syracuse’s offense is not really designed to make big plays through the air, and its quarterback is the team’s leading rusher. Eric Dungey is a good player and can do a lot on his own, running or throwing, but State wins the chunk play battle on Saturday, and wins thanks to it.