Hello there! Welcome to Know Your Foe. I am your drunken host Chad. Those of you familiar with my work on this here website may be asking yourselves "Hey! The basketball guy is doing football stuff!" To which I would reply: 1) that's not even a question and 2) I also enjoy and watch the football, certainly enough to feel comfortable writing about Penn State's opponent every Tuesday. Here, we'll take a somewhat-encompassing look at the schools suiting up against your Nittany Lions. The format here will be tweaked; please feel free to suggest what else you would like to see in this space. This week's foe: the Syracuse Orange.
Last Season: (8-5, 5-2)
Syracuse struggled out of the gate in 2012. They suffered defeat in four of their first six games, only managing to beat two cupcake opponents in Stony Brook and Pitt. The offense didn't quite find it's rhythm until the 40-10 thrashing of UConn, and boy did they find it. Over their last seven, the Orange scored less than 30 points just once en route to a 6-1 record down the home stretch against the Big East, finishing with a 38-14 demolishing of West Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Alas, much of that offense, particularly in the skill positions, is gone. Ryan Nassib was selected by the Giants in the fourth round of the NFL Draft, and their two leading receivers, Marcus Sales and Alec Lemon are also now professionals. Oh, and their head coach Doug Marrone, who guided them to their first two winning seasons since 2001, took the Buffalo Bills job after four seasons at Cuse.
After Marrone's departure, defensive coordinator Scott Shafer was chosen to step in and continue the relative upward climb up from the abyss that was Greg Robinson's reign. Shafer was the DC at Michigan for one season, 2008, a season which saw the Wolverines finish near the bottom of the FBS in many defensive rankings including scoring defense (80th in the country) and pass defense (87th). His units have improved vastly since then; looking at Syracuse's 2012 defensive numbers, it's not hard to see why he was given the chance. While they ranked a respectable 47th nationally in yards per game allowed, Cuse were 22nd in the country in ypg allowed versus teams with winning records (six games).
As for their freshman class, the Orange signed up 22 in the class of 2013, a class ranked t-73rd, 73rd, and 70th by Rivals, Scout, and 247, respectively, but their biggest offseason acquisition comes in the form of Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen, a 6'5" pro-style QB that may very well be the starter come Saturday. Allen is a former high school All-American but couldn't beat out either Blake Bell or surprise Sooner starter Trevor Knight for the first-team job. He is currently listed as the co-starter with Terrel Hunt on Syracuse's depth chart, so there's a real possibility we'll see four quarterbacks at MetLife Stadium.
Losing all of that production in the passing game won't necessarily spell the end for Syracuse's offensive prowess in 2013. The returning backfield duo of Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley combined for 2,001 rushing yards last season. Smith is the workhorse back, garnering most of the carries (228) in 2012 and at 6'0" 226 lbs, he's the thunder to Gulley's lightning--the senior averaged 5.3 yards per carry and 5.1 "highlight yards" per carry (yards gained once the line "did its job"). The combo, behind four starters with previous experience on the offensive line, will provide an early litmus test for Penn State's retooled front seven.
Speaking of retooling, the Orange have three vacancies to fill on the defensive line, a unit which was 42nd nationally in rushing yards per game allowed last season. Three linebackers, who account for 20.4% of the team's tackles in 2012, return and should represent one of the team's biggest strengths. The secondary, which wasn't particularly impressive last year (62nd in passing ypg allowed), lost its best player in Shamarko Thomas. Here's your chance, Fergunberg.
PUNTING STATS: Returning starter Johnathan Fisher averaged 39.2 yards per punt and placed 17 of his 50 kicks inside the 20-yard line. KICKING STATS: Senior Ross Krautman was 12-16 from inside 40 yards last season, 3-7 on longer distances.
Via Penn State's defeat of Michigan, Michigan's defeat of Syracuse in the Final Four, and the magic of the transitive property of equality, our basketball team effectively beat their basketball team in 2013. Step your game up, Boeheim.
Staff of Syracuse.com: mostly 6-6 with a dash of 5-7
USA Today: best case, 7-5, worst case, 3-9
SB Nation: 5th in the ACC Atlantic
Athlon Sports: 6th in the ACC Atlantic
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