One of these teams will look to take a big step toward becoming bowl-eligible on Saturday in Tallahassee, and to the surprise of many, that team is not Florida State. Syracuse arrives at Doak Campbell Stadium with a record of 4-4 and 2-2 in ACC play. The Orange were idle last week after a hard-fought loss at Miami the week before.
Meanwhile, the Seminoles are off to their worst seven-game start since 1976, which happened to be the legendary Bobby Bowden’s first season at head coach. At 2-5, FSU is in real danger of missing a bowl game for the first time since 1981 and having its first losing season since that aforementioned year of '76. The Seminoles are coming off an embarrassing 35-3 loss at Boston College.
Florida State has won nine straight in the series with Syracuse, including four by an average margin of more than 32 points since the Orange joined the ACC in 2013. Entering the season, the Seminoles had not lost to Miami or Boston College under head coach Jimbo Fisher, but that all changed in 2017. Syracuse hopes that holds true for it, too.
Syracuse at Florida State
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 4 at 12:20 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ACC Network/Raycom Sports
Spread: Florida State -4.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Eric Dungey
Syracuse's dual-threat quarterback was unavailable last season when the Seminoles invaded the Carrier Dome and beat the Orange, 45-14. He did, however, play well early in his last trip to Tallahassee two years ago, and that Florida State defense was much better than this one. After an injury-riddled career, Dungey has finally managed to stay healthy this season and has either passed for 300 yards or rushed for 100 five times this season.
Dungey is coming off his worst passing performance of the season, throwing four interceptions in a loss to Miami — as many as he had all year coming in and more than the Seminoles currently have as a team. Mobile quarterbacks like Jalen Hurts, John Wolford, Anthony Brown and most notably, Lamar Jackson have given FSU fits with their legs this season. Dungey will look to continue that trend against embattled FSU coordinator Charles Kelly’s defense.
2. FSU O-line vs. Syracuse D-line
After failing to run the ball with success against two defenses struggling to stop it in Louisville and Boston College, Florida State will have a new challenge on Saturday — trying to pass protect against a defensive line that has struggled to generate pressure. That has been an issue for the Seminoles for three seasons now, and with the offensive line having to be reshuffled due to the injury to guard Landon Dickerson, things have only gotten worse.
For the year, Syracuse has managed just 10 sacks, which ranks dead last in the ACC. Chris Slayton is the best defensive lineman for the Orange, but the junior defensive tackle is much more of a run stopper than a pass rusher. Sophomore defensive end Alton Robinson leads the team with two sacks, while no other Orange player has more than one. If the Seminoles can keep Syracuse out of freshman quarterback James Blackman’s face, he could have a nice day throwing the ball against a young secondary.
3. Syracuse receivers vs. FSU secondary
Florida State’s secondary was expected to be one of the best units in the country. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened, but there is still no lack of talent there with cornerback Tarvarus McFadden and safety Derwin James both expected to be high NFL draft picks. While the duo doesn’t get the national or even regional acclaim they deserve, Syracuse may have the best one-two punch of wide receivers in the ACC.
Senior and Miami native Steve Ishmael leads the conference with 66 catches for 843 receiving yards. At 6-foot-2 and nearly 210 pounds, Ishmael is a big target who uses his size to outleap defenders and stretch opponents vertically. Ervin Philips is more of a possession receiver and is second only to Ishmael in receptions in the ACC. Against talented wideouts, it has been a mixed bag for FSU. While the Seminoles held Miami’s Ahmmon Richards and Louisville’s Dez Fitzpatrick in check, others like Wake Forest’s Greg Dorch, Duke T.J. Rahming and Alabama’s Calvin Ridley were able to stretch the FSU secondary.
From a talent standpoint, Syracuse isn’t in Florida State’s league, but the Seminoles are a battered football team — both mentally and physically. The Orange have shown the ability to hang with good teams, beating Clemson while losing by nine points or fewer to the likes of LSU, NC State and Miami. FSU is a 4.5-point favorite, but the Seminoles have yet to cover the spread or win at home. Syracuse has a bowl appearance on its mind, while Florida State seems to have lost its fight.