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Countdown Q&A-Week 11, Syracuse

Syracuse v Pittsburgh Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Welcome everyone to Week 11 of the Countdown Q&A where the points don’t matter and everything is made up (throwback joke). I keep hurling out questions week after week and they keep providing answers. The information you gather from these little soirees may not change your opinion on the outcome of this week’s contest but it can certainly be used to impress your friends and family who are dying to know what the Syracuse Orange running back depth is looking like eleven weeks in.

Let’s give a big ‘Card Chronicle’ welcome to Mr. John Cassillo from ‘Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician’, the SB Nation site for this Friday’s foe, also known as “New York’s College Team” the mighty Syracuse Orange.

CS: John, nine games into the season one may argue that Louisville and Syracuse are in a bit of a ‘Freaky Friday’ situation, as the typical “we actually prefer to stay at home during bowl season” mantra of the Orange has somehow been passed on to the Cardinals, and inversely, the Orange were already bowl eligible before the kids got all hopped up on Jujubes and Starburst this Halloween. What one thing can you point at to indicate how Babers got this thing turned around?

This is obviously Bobby Petrino being punished for his sins.

But in all seriousness, the biggest thing is health. In the past two years, we’ve lost a boatload of starters on both sides of the ball to injury, most notably Eric Dungey. Having nearly everyone still available and playing at a high level is great. Unlike previous years, we also have quality depth to plug in where needed. So this team looks far more like a P5 football program than any other since we’ve been in the ACC. As a secondary note, we’ve also been a bit more consistent on offense, which makes us a whole lot tougher to stop.

CS: Admittedly, I love me some Eric Dungey, and in my opinion his healthy presence on the field the last couple years likely would have resulted in a few more wins and a bit quicker maturation of the Syracuse team under Dino. This preseason I called him a Top 3 QB in the ACC and he hasn’t let me down statistically speaking. What does having him out there bring to the offense, and the team in general?

When he’s healthy and playing at the top of his game, Dungey is an electrifying player and a spark for the rest of the Orange (on both offense and defense) with his fearlessness and competitiveness. Having him on the field means occupying an extra defender to stop him from running, potentially opening up holes in the defense, too. Despite the ground game looking better overall this year, he’s still our best rusher and the need to respect his legs does seem to open up opportunities for other ball-carriers.

Throwing the ball, his ability to extend plays and complete passes on the run make him a terror to defend against. Backup Tommy DeVito has the stronger arm for sure, but Dungey’s abilities outside the pocket help make up for that difference between the two.

CS: While Syracuse has been predominantly known for their offensive firepower since Babers arrived the defense has performed better than seasons past, especially in a few key areas that could be beneficial against the Cards. According to our friend Bill Connelly the Orange defense is very good at getting off the field on third down, including being ranked 8th nationally in third and medium situations and 1st nationally in third and long. More or less, if you get in a 3rd and 4 or longer situation on offense, your odds of success are very slim. In contrast UofL’s 3rd Down offense…well John, it stinks. The Cards average 3rd down distance this year is 8.5 yards and their success rate when in 3rd and medium or 3rd and long, as described above, is only 39.4%. Where can the Cards offense look to target to flip some of those numbers in their favor?

If you get into a sure passing down situation, you’re going to face a ton of pressure from our front four, and that helps us stop teams from exploiting our biggest weakness: downfield coverage by the secondary. The longer teams have to throw, the more likely they’re going to hit us for big gains through the air, so we’ve tried to skip that second part this year, and just force quick releases as much as possible. If your line’s up to the task of some extra pass protection, it could be beneficial.

Any sort of inside ground game (I know, not your strong suit) could also be effective. Smaller backs don’t necessarily get past SU’s front, but a more physical runner (see results vs. Pitt, Clemson) has the opportunity to really carve the Orange up.

CS: For those who may not have known Syracuse is 1st in the country in Special Teams S&P. What can we expect to see from that group on Friday?

That will likely come to fruition in the form of quality field position for the Orange all day. Sterling Hofrichter is an excellent punter, and in the rare (this year) cases he’s needed, he’s adept at pinning teams deep. Having a very good coverage team also helps there.

Central Connecticut State v Syracuse Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Early in the season, teams were doing everything they could to avoid kicking or punting to return man Sean Riley (one return TD this year), and the results were a lot of short fields -- maybe shorter ones than they would’ve had by just kicking to him. So if you avoid that poor strategy, you won’t suffer the same fate as teams like UConn, FSU, WMU or Wagner.

Also, if you haven’t heard, we have the best kicker in the country. Andre Szmyt started the year as a walk-on and since then he’s earned a scholarship with 45-of-45 PATs and 23-of-25 field goals. He’s also 3-for-3 from 50 yards or more.

CS: Really appreciate the time, energy, and athleticism (respect the Q&A!) of John, coming over and knocking these questions out. A lesser man would cower, but not him. How about a couple quick ones to close up shop…

Syracuse football has some pretty cool names on the roster this season, what are your top three to say/type? (The correct answer is Trill Williams three times)

Yes, Atrilleon “Trill” Williams does have the best name on the team, and possibly the best name in the ACC. Alongside him, I’d nominate Markenzy Pierre and DuWayne “Not The Rock” Johnson. Andre Cisco is also a contender, allowing us to use Sisqo gifs during games with frequency.

CS: Louisville, by most accounts, will likely get back to their winning ways on the hardwood this year under new head coach Chris Mack. How are the Fighting Nose Pickers looking in 2018-19?

I commend your faith in Louisville’s ability to bounce right back in a very tough conference. Best of luck to you guys there...

As far as the Syracuse Orange are concerned, we’re looking pretty good once again. We’re ranked in preseason, everyone’s back and we actually have depth and bench scoring this year. Combine that with one of the country’s top defenses once again and we’re looking at a return to single-digit seeds and contending near the top of the ACC.

CS: Two years ago, in the dome, on a Friday night, Lamar Jackson kicked his Heisman Campaign into full gear dropping 610 yards and five touchdowns against Syracuse. Would it be safe to assume the Orange have not forgotten about this?

Louisville v Syracuse Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Lamar Jackson is not allowed within the Syracuse city limits anymore. It’s why we don’t have an NFL team. We folded it to make sure that he could never torment us again once he got to the pros. Don’t fact-check that.

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Huge thanks again to John for his help. Give him a follow on twitter here and be sure and check out the ‘Nunes Magician’ Louisville coverage leading up to the game tomorrow night. Also, don’t miss the Q&A I did with them over there and read up on my thoughts on the Cards current situation...and how much they really despise Louisville.