After the Orange suffered a 35-20 setback to NC State last weekend, head coach Dino Babers and Co. fell to 4-6 on the season with the Seminoles and a trip to Pittsburgh left on the schedule. Given the overall strength and talent level of the former and the latter is brimming with confidence after an upset at Clemson, it would not be a surprise if the Orange have seen their last win of the 2016 season.
Meanwhile, for Florida State, head coach Jimbo Fisher's team at 7-3 overall and 4-3 in the ACC is out of the picture for an ACC Atlantic Division title, but can still finish strong and win at least 10 games for the sixth time in the last seven seasons. The Seminoles, who came into the year with legitimate national title hopes, will have to settle for less, as losses to Louisville, North Carolina and Clemson put those dreams aside.
Syracuse had significantly lower expectations in Babers' maiden voyage in central New York. Although the odds of making a bowl are long, Babers helped establish an identity for the program going forward with his no-huddle, up-tempo offense. The Orange made strides on that side of the ball, but an injury to quarterback Eric Dungey has slowed progress there.
As the teams set to face off on Saturday, Florida State is a heavy favorite, but a motivated Orange team to earn bowl eligibility can make things interesting if it can get its offense rolling despite the loss of Dungey.
Florida State at Syracuse
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 19 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ABC/ESPN2
Spread: Florida State -21
Three Things to Watch
1. QB Health Check
Dungey suffered a head injury two weeks ago against Clemson and has been ruled out for Saturday's game. The sophomore has suffered head injuries in the past, and there is some doubt over whether or not he plays the following week against Pittsburgh. For the season, Dungey has completed 230-of-355 passes (64.8 percent) for 2,679 yards, 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions, but look for Zack Mahoney to take over in his spot. Last week, Mahoney completed 13-of-24 passes for 190 yards, a touchdown and an interception. On the Florida State side, quarterback Deondre Francois injured his shoulder in his team's 45-7 romp over Boston College. Fisher took him out and put in senior Sean Maguire. Francois' injury is not considered serious, though, so look for him to play against the Orange.
2. Heisman hopeful
Sure, the Seminoles may be out of the national title picture, but running back Dalvin Cook is still a longshot candidate to make it to New York as a Heisman finalist. As of now, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson is the odds-on favorite to come away with the award, but that doesn't mean Cook can't make some lasting impressions in these final two regular season games. For the season, Cook has rushed for 1,242 yards and 13 touchdowns on 214 carries, averaging 5.8 yards per attempt. He currently ranks seventh in the nation in rushing yards and could use another big game to polish up his resume.
3. Deep threat
If the Orange are to have any shot Saturday, they will need a big game out of wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo, the graduate transfer from Maryland who has had a breakout season. A Biletnikoff Award semifinalist, Etta-Tawo has 79 receptions for 1,246 yards (sixth in the FBS) and eight touchdowns this season. In the loss to NC State, Etta-Tawo caught an 81-yard touchdown pass from Mahoney. While the Orange have a number of reliable pass catchers, Etta-Tawo is the most dangerous deep threat and could make the Seminoles pay over the top if they don't give him special attention.
Even with Eric Dungey in at quarterback, this would be a tall task for the Orange, who are still a couple years away from consistently being able to compete with teams of Florida State's caliber in the ACC. Without Dungey, this is simply a mismatch. Florida State should be able to find success both in the air with Deondre Francois and on the ground with Dalvin Cook in what should be a comfortable win on the road.
Prediction: Florida State 41, Syracuse 17
— Written by Adam Kurkjian, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and is a reporter for the Boston Herald. He has covered the World Series, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup playoffs, Boston Marathon and Little League World Series, among other events from the high school, college and pro ranks. Follow him on Twitter @AdamKurkjian.