Florida State (3-4, 2-3 ACC) takes on Syracuse (3-4, 0-3) in the Seminoles’ 2019 homecoming game on Saturday afternoon in Doak Campbell Stadium. The Seminoles are in need of a win to snap a two-game ACC losing streak and to get its postseason aspirations moving back in the right direction.
There are certainly a number of indicators that will be key to whether FSU gets its fourth win of the season Saturday. Here are four things the Osceola has identified as keys to a successful and victorious homecoming game against Syracuse:
Seminoles Need Sacks
FSU has not had a sack since its last win when outside linebacker Amari Gainer recorded two in a 31-13 win over NC State. Defensive tackles Marvin Wilson and Cory Durden along with defensive end Janarius Robinson haven’t registered a sack since the Seminoles beat Louisville in mid-September. The Syracuse offensive line is giving up five sacks per game, the most in college football, and the quarterbacks have taken a beating this season.
Syracuse starter Tommy DeVito had to come out of the Pitt game last week after re-aggravating what looks to be an injury to his ribs. His backup, Clayton Welch, who replaced DeVito against Pitt, injured his non-throwing shoulder during the game but was able to finish the game for the Orange in their 27-20 lost to Panthers. He was able to stay in the game but both quarterbacks are banged up coming into the game.
If FSU can get to the Syracuse quarterbacks on the ground consistently it may cause the Orange QBs to have a case of “happy feet” and force them into making some bad decisions and passes. This will also take some pressure off the FSU secondary, which has struggled against the pass. Syracuse has not won a game all season in which it has allowed four or more sacks. The Orange have given up 29 sacks (7.25 per game) in their four losses to Power 5 teams, including nine last week against Pitt. If FSU can get to the quarterback five or more times on Saturday it will have a huge impact on slowing down the Orange passing attack, which is the most dangerous part of its offense.
Limit Chunk Plays
The FSU defense has given up too many chunk plays in the passing game that have flipped the field in favor or led to scores for its offense. Against Clemson and Wake Forest FSU gave up nine passing plays of over 20 yards and 11 pass plays of over 15 yards or more. Syracuse is averaging over three plays of 20 yards or more in its wins and less than three plays of 20 yards or more in its losses. FSU needs to hold Syracuse to three plays or less of over 20 yards in the passing game.
No Turnovers on Offense
After not turning the ball over in wins against Louisville and NC State the Seminoles have accounted for six turnovers in during it current two-game losing streak. FSU threw three interceptions and fumbled once against Clemson. Against Wake Forest last week, the Seminoles turned the ball over twice, one interception and one fumble, with both turnovers taking place inside the Wake Forest 20-yard line. Those two turnovers more than likely took points off the board for FSU given the Seminoles’ success rate inside the red zone this season. While the interception against Wake doesn’t count against its red zone percentage (the ball was snapped outside the 20-yard line) the ball was turned over to Wake at the 15-yard line and FSU would likely have had a field goal attempt of 40 yards or less if hadn’t turned the ball over on that drive. It’s a key every week, for every team, but critically important for FSU coming off last week’s game.
Time of Possession/Sustain Drives
The Seminoles must sustain drives and hold onto the ball longer. FSU possessed the football for 26 or more minutes in each of its three wins this season against ULM (29:19), Louisville (26:18) and NC State (30:49). In three of its four losses FSU possessed the ball for 21 minutes or less against Boise State (19:57), UVA (20:16) and Clemson (20:23). In FSU’s three wins it ran at least 72 offensive plays and ran more offensive plays in two of those three games than did its opponent and has a combined offensive play margin of plus-3 over ULM (90 offensive plays for FSU vs. 79 for ULM), Louisville (75 and 75) and NC State (72 vs. 80).
The Seminoles have run fewer plays on offense than their opponents in three of the four losses against Boise State (62 offensive plays for FSU vs. 108 for Boise), UVA (66 vs. 73) and Clemson (58 vs. 91). FSU did possess the ball longer (32:51 time of possession for FSU) and run more plays (89 vs. 78) than Wake Forest in the Demon Deacons 22-20 win and those two factors were crucial in FSU keeping itself in the ball game and the Wake Forest offense off the field. FSU has averaged 79 offensive plays and possessed the ball for an average of over 29 minutes in its wins. Certainly time of possession is influenced by the FSU defense but I like FSU’s chances of being successful as an offense and team if it can meet or exceed those numbers against Syracuse.