My 2022 SU Football Preview - Part 10: The September Schedule | Syracusefan.com

My 2022 SU Football Preview - Part 10: The September Schedule

SWC75

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THE SCHEDULE

For comparison, these are SU’s stats in the main categories last year, (from Athlon) first the stat and then the national ranking:

Offense Defense
Scoring 24.9 (91st) 26.3 (66th)
Rushing 213.5 (16th) 126.1 (26th)
Passing 158.2 (121st) 204.2 (26th)
Total 371.7 (86th) 330.3 (19th)
Field Position 26.2 (121ST) 32.5 (119TH)
Turnover Margin -7 (108th)
Comment: Our defense last year was the best we’ve had in years but bad punting, turnovers and the lack of a passing game reduced its impact because of the bad field position.

Quotes are from Athlon or Lindy’s College Football Previews.

Saturday, September 3rd 8PM vs. LOUISVILLE at the Dome TV: ACC Network
Louisville was 6-7 last year, 4-4 in the conference and they beat us 3-41 at Louisville. The Cardinals didn’t make either the writer’s or coach’s Top 25 last year and are ranked #42 by Athlon and #61 by Lindy’s this year. (We’re #57 and #89.)

Since we joined the ACC in 2013, we have the worst record in conference games, 22-52. Clemson has the best at 66-8. Louisville, who joined in 2014, has been exactly in middle of the pack at 33-33. We’ve beaten each of them once. The Tigers have outscored us overall by 174 points in nine games, (138-312). The Cardinals have outscored us by 185 points in eight games (152-337). Every game against Louisville has been decided by at least 22 points, including the one we won, when the best team we’ve had in this century beat them when they’d given up on their coach, (the disgraced Bobby Petrino), 54-23. We’ve beaten Clemson 27-24, lost 6-16, 27-37, 23-27 and 14-17. Why do we compete better against Clemson than we do with Louisville? That’s going to be my question for the first Dino Babers Show on Thursday, September 1st.

Louisville’s coach is once again on the hot seat after a couple of mediocre years. Scott Satterfield, like Dino Babers, had been a success at a lower level, (Appalachian State), to quote Athlon, “it seems like they’ve drifted from what made Satterfield successful at App State”. AD Vince Tyra announced that Satterfield would be back in 2022 – and then resigned. But it’s still not as bad as the Petrino situation.

Especially, since he’s got Malik Cunningham back for a fourth year as his quarterback. He’s basically what Dino would like Garrett Shrader to be: Malik ran for 1,031 yards and 20TDs last year while passing for 2,941 with 19TDs and 6 interceptions. But Satterfield wants more. Louisville has been focusing on a short passing game. Their leading receiver was their former walk-on TIGHT END, (I’ll capitalize that to make sure Babers and Anae can see it), Marshon Ford with 49 receptions for 550 yards and 2 scoresBut now Satterfield “told Cunningham in spring ball to stay in the pocket and let more passing plays develop”. Satterfield wants him to “improve his patience in the pocket…the next progression for him is to have calmer feet.” He will be throwing into the strength of our defense. But will we be able to generate enough of a pass rush to make Malik hurry his throws? Their top two wideouts transferred out and their coach left for North Carolina after spring practice. Satterfield had brought in two transfers to replace the players: Tyler Hudson caught 27 touchdown passes in three years at Central Arkansas. Dee Wiggins caught 62 passes in four years at U of Miami.

Cunningham was their leading rusher but Jalen Mitchell had 722 yards in 155 carries, (4.7) and Trevion Cooley had 431 yards in 86 carries (5.0). Fortunately Hassan Hall, who averaged 7.2, has moved on. But here comes Tiyon Evans, a Tennessee transfer, who averaged 6.5. My biggest memory of all the blow-out losses to the Cardinals is of Louisville runners motoring downfield with our defenders in vain pursuit. They could still do that. They have their third offensive line coach in three years but he’s got four starters back- both guards and both tackles. The two guys on the right side- Adonis Boone and Renato Brown are a strong pair. ‘Adonis’ is a great name for a football player.

Their defense was nothing special last year, allowing more than 5,100 yards, (except when we played them and lost 3-41). They’ve got one starter back from the D-line but he’s a good one: end Yaya Diaby, (I kid you not), who “overcomes his lack of bulk with excellent first-step quickness and a relentless motor to deliver on one edge.” Yasir Abdullah is their top linebacker, a three-year starter and all-ACC second team “because of his speed and ability to get to the quarterback…Veterans abound in the secondary but Satterfield added six players form the portal to strengthen this group.” (Athlon) Kei’trel Clark and Kendrick Duncan both have 76 career tackles.

“Kicker James Turner’s accuracy slipped from 87 percent to 64 percent”, which is exactly what Andre Szmyt’s slipped to. They do have a punter, Mark Vassett having averaged 42 yards. Our old pal Jawhar Jordan ran a kickoff back 100 yards against Air Force in the bowl game.

This is a tough opener but a win could get us off a to great start after this team has inflicted so much pain on us in recent years. They could be vulnerable and this is the first time since 2018 we’ve played them here, due to some Covid rescheduling. Also, we’ve tended to play them late in the season, when we’re pretty beaten up and tired out due to our lack of depth. This year, we’ve got ‘em right off the bat.

Offense Defense
Scoring 31.6 (41st) 27.3 (77th)
Rushing 209.8 (22nd) 157.7 (76th)
Passing 236.4 (65th) 245.6 (95th)
Total 446.2 (21st) 403.3 (84th)
Field Position 28.5 (78th) 28.7 (60th)
Turnover Margin +2 (53rd)

Saturday, September 10th 7PM at CONNECTICUT TV: CBS Sports Network

Connecticut was 1-11 last year. We didn’t play them. Unsurprisingly, they didn’t make either Top 25 and aren’t there now. Athlon has then ranked #129, Lindy’s #128.

In the 2000’s, when our program was in decline, that fact was amplified in the minds of Syracuse fans when Rutgers and Connecticut became (fairly) good and started to beat us, using a lot of players who might have come to Syracuse in the past. In 1999, we lost, 21-24 to a Rutgers team that lost all their other games. In 2003, we lost to a 5-7 Rutgers team 7-24 and the school had to call a press conference to say they weren’t firing Coach Pasqualoni. Later we did fire our coach and brought in someone who was far worse. Greg Robinson went 1-10 in his first year with consecutive losses to a 5-6 Connecticut team, 7-26 and a 7-5 Rutgers team, 9-31. Then next year he beat a 4-8 Connecticut team 20-14 but lost to an 11-2 Rutgers team, 7-38, the sort of score we used to beat them by. In 2007 an 8-5 Rutgers team whipped us 14-38 and a 9-4 Connecticut team did the same, 7-30. In 2008, both teams were 8-5 and they both won big, 17-35 and 14-38 and G-Rob was gone. Doug Marrone got us up off the canvas and we whipped a 9-4 Rutgers team in the Dome, 31-13. But the game at 8-5 UCONN got away from us, 31-56. (Their coach, Randy Edsall, had wanted the Syracuse job when Coach mac left and had a grudge against the school and passed at the end of the game to roll up the score). Rutgers fell to 4-8 in 2010 and we beat them again, 13-10 but lost to the 8-5 Huskies 6-23 in the Dome. The next year we got swept, 16-19 by 9-4 Rutgers and 21-28 by 5-7 Connecticut. In Doug’s last year he lost 15-23 to another 9-4 Rutgers team but clobbered a 5-7 Connecticut team 40-10. I had proposed that there ought to be a trophy, which I called the Tri-State Cup, for the games between the schools. If you sweep, you get the cup and retain it until somebody else sweeps the games. The idea was shouted down because Syracuse fans couldn’t bear to think of Rutgers and Connecticut as rivals, even though they had passed us on the scoreboard and in the standings. It was a good thing as we would never have won the Tri-State Cup.

A huge turning point came when conference expansion landed Rutgers in the Big Ten and us in the ACC and left UCONN helping to cobble together the ‘American Conference’, which they later left because they wanted their basketball program back in a revamped Big East. That left their football program high and dry as an independent, which, if you are not Notre Dame, is a sort of limbo. Since 2013, the Huskies are a dismal 21-76, (they didn’t play in the Covid year of 2020 and it was by far their best season in this stretch). We played them as a non-conference opponent in Dino’s first year, (2016), but had trouble beating a 3-9 team, (31-24). Our 2018 team crushed them in the Dome 51-21 but so did everybody else that year, (they gave up 605 points – 50 a game, going 1-11). This will be the first time we’ve played them since then. Last year was the first time we’ve played Rutgers since the diaspora and our 7-17 loss in that game brought back the bad memories. The Scarlet Knights had had problems of their own (35-73) since the bad old days but it didn’t seem to matter when we played them.

Connecticut is a team we should crush and we’ll need to at least beat them because they and Wagner might be the only two opponents over which we will be favored, (although I think we’re capable of beating most of them). If we lost to Louisville, we’ll really need this win and if we beat Louisville, we’ll also really need this win to keep the momentum going. But the game will be at their place and they have a new coach, Jim Mora, former coach of the Falcons, the Seahawks and UCLA. He’s brought in a new staff and a busload of transfers to try to muscle up the program. And then there are those bad memories…

Penn State transfer Ta’Quan Roberson will be the quarterback, passing to Old Dominion transfer Nigel Fitzgerald, “a tall, physical downfield threat”. Junior college transfer Will Knight will join Nate Carter at running back. Carter ran for 578 yards last season. “Up front, Dartmouth transfer Jake Guidone will solidify things at center while Christian Haynes is a force at right guard.”

Linebacker Jackson Mitchell is back after a stellar 2021 when he finished 15th in the country in tackles.” But where did he make them- they gave up 38.5 points per game. Mora brought in Marquez Bembry from Kentucky and Brandon Bouyer-Randle from Texas Tech, (before that he was at Michigan State). Sokoya McDuffie, another Old Dominion transfer, (but a 6-5 318 one), “at least looks the part”. Their safeties are “solid” but their corners are “a question mark due to their inexperience”. “They have an experienced, talented defensive line which can hold up against the run. The linebackers have experience and are sure tacklers”.

Brian Brewton is a dangerous kick returner who returned kickoffs for touchdowns against Army and Clemson no less. Joe McFadden made 12 of 17 field goals and all of his extra points, (a limited sample: there were only 19 of them), while punting for a 39.8 average. That’s better than our guys did. And they were both freshmen.

All their rankings last year were in the 100’s – there are 130 D1A teams:

Offense Defense
Scoring 15.6 (129th) 38.5 (123rd)
Rushing 100.8 (122nd) 195.2 (110th)
Passing 164.2 (116th) 258.0 (105th)
Total 265.0 (128th) 453.2 (116th)
Field Position N/A
Turnover Margin -8 (118th)

The question is: how relevant are these umbers when the roster and coaching staff has had such a major overhall? “UCONN hit the reset button. Bringing in Mora to lead the program was a big step, and it showed an important commitment.”

(8/29 update. The new-look Huskie opened their season on the road against Mountain West champ Utah State and gave them a good game, jumping out to a 14-0 lead, having a disastrous 0-24 second quarter before closing to 20-24 in the fourth quarter and giving up a late clinching TD to lose 20-31. They didn’t look like a 1-11 team.)


Saturday, September 17th Noon vs. PURDUE at the Dome TV: ESPN 2

Purdue was 9-4 last year. We didn’t play them. They didn’t make either the writer’s or coach’s Top 25 and aren’t there now, (others receiving votes…). Athlon and Lindy’s have them ranked #31 and 32, respectively.

Syracuse’s history vs. Purdue is a short but forgettable one: We’ve played them once, in the opening game of Paul Pasqualoni’s last season, (2004). We went out to West Lafayette, Indiana. Purdue was coming off a 9-4 year, just as they are now and had hopes of improving on that to make a run at the Big ten title or even more, as they do now. They had a great passing game led by All-America candidate Kyle Orton at quarterback. This year’s team has a great passing game led by All-America candidate Aidan O’Connell. Purdue won that one 0-51, one of a series of humiliating national TV defeats that doomed Coach P, (and doomed us to G-Rob). The Boilermakers had 587 yards total offense and 5 long TD passes, four form Orton. They went on to win their first 5 games and were ranked #5 in the country. Then, excruciatingly, they lost four games in a row by a total of 10 points to Wisconsin, Michigan, Northwestern and Iowa, teams that had a combined record that year of 34-14. They wound up losing to 9-3 Arizona State in the Sun Bowl 23-27. Purdue that year might have been the best 7-5 team ever. 19 more points and they could have been 12-0. (Bill Parcells frowns.)

Last year was only Purdue’s fifth winning season since. “A season that began with modest expectations wound up a breakthrough year for Purdue football in 2021.” (Hey! That’s what we need!) They beat Iowa 24-7 on the road when they were #2 and Michigan State 40-29 at home when they were #5. They closed the season by topping Rocky Top, (Tennessee) in a wild, (48-45) Music City Bowl.

O’Connell had the kind of year we kept waiting for Tommy DeVito to have: 315/439 (71.2!) 3,712 yards 28 TDs and 11 interceptions. (they play Illinois 11/12), Purdue was 5th in the country, averaging 355.4 yards per game. That was second in the Big Ten to Ohio State’s 380.9, (Woody Hayes is spinning in grave). They lost their leading receiver, David Bell, (93r 1,286y 6TDs – remember when our leading receiver had numbers like that?), but have back Milton Wright who caught fewer balls, (57) but for more scores (7). Payne Durham their TIGHT END had 45/6 and TJ Deerfield 36/5. And the magazines are touting a transfer from Iowa Tyrone Tracy, (I’ll bet he’s a terrific actor), despite the fact that, in four years there, he caught only 66 passes for 5 TDs and just 15 last year in 10 games with 1 score. 6-1 205 with breakaway speed and they are talking about putting him in the slot. The battle between their receiving corps and our defensive backfield should be interesting.

Just as we lacked a passing game, they lacked a running game. We were #18 running the ball and #121 passing it. They were #5 passing the ball and #127 running it. In the Woody Hayes era, if two teams both gained 400 years and one rushed for 300 yards and the passed for that amount, the team that rushed for 300 yards usually won, (often decisively) because they had better control of the game and fewer turnovers. These days, the passing teams are hard to keep up with but they still need a running threat to keep the defense honest and exploit the openings the passing game creates. King Doerue was their leading rusher with just 533 yards at 3.9 a crack and two scores. But here comes Sampson (another great name for a football player) James, a former 4-star recruit with stops as a reserve at Ohio State and Indiana who will try again at his third Big Ten school. Their line has four starters back – but these are guys used to pass blocking.

They also had a good defense last year, 34th in the country against scoring and 48th in total yards. The Freeney-esque George Karlaftis, (“losing a guy like George is just insane. Even one guy. Everybody was accounting for him, sliding lines over and matching everything they could to stop him”), is gone. The other three line starters and both linebackers in their 4-2-5 concept are back. “Depth abounds but are there any difference-makers?” The other end, 6-1 270 Kydran Jenkins had 5 sacks as a freshman. Two safeties return in the backfield plus 6-3 210 cornerman Cory Trice, coming back from a knee injury.

Mitchell Fineran hit 24 of 29 field goals, (he was 15 of 18 the year before), and scored 112 points last year. Jack Ansell only averaged 38.3 on punts but had 13 of them downed inside the 20. “The return game continues to look for juice”.

Offense Defense
Scoring 29.1 (59th) 22.4 (34th)
Rushing 84.2 (127th) 157.9 (77th)
Passing 355.3 (5th) 208.7 (33rd)
Total 439.5 (33rd) 366.6 (48th)
Field Position 28.0 (91st) 30.2 (94th)
Turnover Margin -2 (79th)

Comment: 29.1 points per game is a very average figure in this day and age and small for a team averaging 335 yards passing per game. It shows that the running game is still an important part of football.

Friday, September 23rd 7PM vs. VIRGINIA at the Dome TV: ESPN

Virginia was 6-6 last year, 4-4 in the conference. We didn’t play them. They didn’t make either Top 25 and aren’t there now. Athlon (#68) and Lindy’s (#33) see two different teams.

This one will be especially interesting because SU’s offensive coordinator, Robert Anae and quarterback coach Jason beck held those positions for the last six years. They recruited the key offensive players we will be facing and they will know about those players, and those players will know how Anae’s offense works. The Cavs are in the Coastal Division of the ACC and we are in the Atlantic Division so we’ve only played them once since we joined the conference and four times previously. Future Voice of the orange Dough Logan would have been at the mike for Frank Maloney’s 37-0 road win over a 1-10 Cav teams in 1975 and a 6-3 home win over a 1-9-1 Cav team in 1977, (the Woos used to be really bad). Paul Pasqualoni lost 10-31 at a 4-8 team in his last year of 2004 and Greg Robinson lost here to a 7-5 team 24-27 in 2005, (they’d gotten good). I confess to remembering nothing about those games except the results, and I didn’t even remember the 2004-05 games until I looked them up). I very much remember our one ACC games with them: a wild road loss in Scott Shafer’s last year of 2015, 38-44. I recall Eric Dungey leaping over a guy to score a touchdown and I recall the all-time worst “Was him arm moving forward?” call that gave the home team a cheap touchdown.

Broncho Mendenhall came over from BYU the next year, (also Dino’s first: the conference had a Dino, a Broncho, a Dabo and a Jimbo at the time: we’re down to Dino and Dabo). Broncho went 2-10 his first year, 6-7 his second and 8-5 his third. You’re supposed to build on that and he did: 9-5 in 2019, But then he slipped back to 5-5 and 6-6. But last year’s team put on a Purdue-like, (actually BYU-like) aerial show. 392.6 yards per game, #2 in the country. They could run the ball a little bit better: 123.2 #105. Their 515.8 yards per game was 3rd in the country. Wouldn’t we love those stats this year? Unfortunately their defense wasn’t very good#121 total and #104 scoring. They were invited the abortive Fenway Bowl to Play SMU but the game was cancelled due to a Covid outbreak.

They still have the quarterback who accounted virtually all of those yards: Brennan Armstrong (326/500 (let’s see…that’s 65.2% - proud of myself) for 4,449 yards, 31TDs and 10 picks. (A shootout between them and Purdue would have been fun.) Unlike Purdue’s O’Connell Armstrong has his three top receivers back: 6-4 215 Keytaon Thompson 78r 990yds 1TD, (just one?), slotman Billy Kemp (74/725/6) and Dontayvion Wicks (57/1203/9). They also get back “2020 breakout star” Lavel Davis (20/515/5 in 7 games), who missed last year with knee surgery. Unfortunately the lost their fine TIGHT END Jelani Woods, who caught 44 for 598 yards and 8TDs.

New Coach Tony Elliott, a former Clemson OC “has talked extensively about bringing more balance to the offense and developing UVA’s lagging traditional run game but a spring injury to Ronnie Walker combined with the lack of experience and depth up front may have derailed that progress.” Why Walker would be vital to that effort I don’t know: in two years since transferring from Indiana, he’s carried the ball 28 times for 98 yards (3.5) and two TDs. A former four-star recruit, Cody Brown, transferred in from U of Miami after the spring. Last year’s leading rusher only gained 324 yards. Armstrong, the QB is the leading returning rusher with 251 yards and 9 scores and the third leading rusher was the big wide-out, Thompson with 247 yards, (6.3 a pop) and 6TDs. Can we just ignore them?

“The Cavaliers have struggled on defense in recent years and some top playmakers are gone”. They gave up 734 yards in a 49-66 loss to Mendenhall’s old school, BYU. They will switch back and fourth between a 3-3-5 and a 4-2-5, (but switching back and fourth in a common part of modern defenses). They’ve brought in transfers from Michigan State (Jack Camper) and Georgia Tech (Chico Bennett) to energize the pass rush and linebacker Nick Jackson had 117 tackles last year. The secondary gave up 21 plays of more than 30 yards last year.

Brendan Farrell kicked 11 of 13 field goals last year but none over 43 yards. He also did the kicking off and may do the punting this year. Kemp was the primary kick returner but never broke on, (20.5 KOR, 5.9 PR)

Offense Defense
Scoring 34.6 (21st) 31.8 (104th)
Rushing 123.2 (105th) 225.8 (123rd)
Passing 392.6 (2th) 240.2 (87th)
Total 515.8 (3rd) 466.0 (127st)
Field Position 25.4 (126th) 31.2 (104th)
Turnover Margin -3 (86th)

Comment: Their offense was more productive than Purdue’s but that was a really bad defense.
 

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