The Seminoles are coming off a heartbreaking 22-20 loss at Wake Forest. Syracuse, on the other hand, is the only team in the ACC without a conference victory. The Orange fell at home to Pittsburgh last week, 27-20.
Syracuse blew out FSU last season in the Carrier Dome, 30-7, to snap a 10-game losing streak to the Seminoles. The Orange have never won in Tallahassee.
Syracuse at Florida State
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 26 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Florida State -10
When Syracuse Has the Ball
Syracuse sophomore quarterback Tommy DeVito’s first real extended playing time came last season against FSU, and he excelled in relief of the injured Eric Dungey, going 11-for-16 passing for 144 yards and two total touchdowns. The numbers aren’t bad for DeVito this season, as he has more than 1,600 passing yards to his name with 12 touchdown passes and five interceptions, while completing nearly 64 percent of his throws.
DeVito, however, has feasted largely against the likes of Holy Cross and Western Michigan. In ACC play, the Orange are averaging just 12 points per game and rank 11th in total offense and 12th in scoring. Running back Moe Neal is a versatile player for Syracuse. Out wide, Trishton Jackson and Taj Harris are a nice combination, as the two have combined for nearly 1,000 yards receiving and eight touchdown catches. The Syracuse offensive line has allowed 35 sacks this season — the most in the country. If Saturday’s contest is close, kicker and reigning Lou Groza Award winner Andre Szmyt could be a big factor.
Since a dismal first couple of games, the Florida State defense has gotten better and last week held Wake Forest to a season-low 22 points. Among ACC teams, however, only Boston College allows more yards per game, and only Louisville allows more points.
On the interior of the defensive line, FSU may have the best duo in the ACC with Marvin Wilson and Cory Durden. Safety Hamsah Nasirildeen leads the Seminoles with 41 total tackles and leads the ACC with three forced fumbles. Nasirildeen was ejected for targeting early in last week’s loss to Wake Forest and will return this week. FSU is deep and talented in the secondary, but the unit hasn't played particularly well. Dontavious Jackson is the best of an unimpressive group of linebackers.
When Florida State Has the Ball
Florida State has been much improved this season under first-year offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, but its worst two offensive outings of the season have come in the last two weeks. After playing musical quarterbacks for a few weeks, FSU seems to have settled on redshirt sophomore James Blackman. Blackman passed for 280 yards and a pair of touchdowns last week against the Demon Deacons, but he made some critical mistakes, including an interception deep in Wake Forest territory.
At the skill positions, FSU is solid. Despite a poor offensive line, junior running back Cam Akers is coming off a 157-yard rushing effort and ranks second in the ACC with 773 rushing yards. His 11 total touchdowns lead the conference. Akers rushed for a career-high 199 yards in the last meeting against Syracuse in Tallahassee. Tamorrion Terry is the top wide receiver for FSU with 522 yards receiving and six touchdown catches.
Although he has taken a significant step back numbers-wise, senior defensive end Alton Robinson is the Syracuse defender who should command the most attention on Saturday. Robinson recorded 10 sacks a season ago, including one against the Seminoles. The Orange have 23 sacks as a team, with senior Brandon Berry leading the way with 4.5 and junior Josh Black adding four.
Lakiem Williams and Andrew Armstrong, both senior linebackers, are the top two tacklers for the Orange this season with 51 and 50, respectively. Andre Cisco leads an opportunistic Syracuse defense with two interceptions. The Orange rank third in the ACC in interceptions and second behind only Clemson in turnovers forced. As a team, Syracuse ranks 10th in the ACC in total defense but sixth in scoring defense.
Florida State kicker Ricky Aguayo is just 4-for-9 and missed a 50-yard attempt that would have given the Seminoles the lead with under three minutes to play last week against Wake Forest. A missed Syracuse field goal as time expired allowed FSU to slip past the Orange, 27-24, in the last meeting between the schools in Tallahassee.
Florida State's defense has outdone its offense in recent weeks, and the Seminoles will face a Syracuse team that has offensive line problems similar to its own. Field conditions this week are supposed to be better than last for FSU, and it will be facing a Syracuse team without an ACC win. If the Seminoles are to avoid missing a bowl game for a second straight season, and if head coach Willie Taggart is to have any kind of future at the program, this is a must-win game.