My 2023 SU Football Preview - Part 13 |

My 2023 SU Football Preview - Part 13


Bored Historian
Aug 26, 2011
TBA Saturday October 14th Florida State at Doak-Campbell Stadium TV: TBA

The Seminoles won national championships in 1993, 1999 and 2013 while arch-rival Miami won them in 1983, 1987, 1989, 1991 and 2001. Together they should have been two aircraft carriers leading the ACC into battle with the SEC for title of top conference. But both programs slipped into mediocrity and it was actually Clemson who carried the flag on the conference on the national scene. Last year FSU started to look more like the old ‘Noles, as they did when they demolished the Orange in the Dome, 3-38. We had some chances to beat them in recent years and actually did it in 2018, (30-7 in the Dome), but the window appears to be closing. I recall when we lost to their #1 ranked 1991 team in Tallahassee one local reporter noted that the 82 man SU roster included 21 players from New York State and the 103 man FSU roster included 89 players from Florida. It’s hard to compete with a school where the guys they – and everyone else - want live just down the street.

One galling thing is that their star defensive player is defensive end Jared Verse, who was playing for Albany when we played them two years ago in the Dome. He was all over the field and even caught Sean Tucker from behind. Dino Babers went over to “congratulate” him after the game. It was obvious he belonged in D1 and Syracuse seemed the logical destination. But film of that performance reached the internet and FSU Coach Mike Norvell saw it and recruited him to State, where he was first team all-ACC last year and will likely be first team All-American this year. He was on the losing side in the Albany game, (62-24) but on the winning side of the 3-38 game. He was likely to be a high pick in the NFL draft but elected to stay another year at FSU so he could beat us again. ☹

Norvell has rebuilt the Noles with transfers. They got DT Braden Fiske from another SU opponent, Western Michigan, (59t, 12TFL, 6 sacks), Darrell Jackson from Miami, (27/4.5/3) and Gilber Edmund, (39/9/2) from South Carolina looking for another gold nugget. Verse’s opposite number, Patrick Payton was the ACC’s defensive rookie of the year with 31/6/5. These guys get after you. They have four starters back in the secondary, including all-ACC Fentrell Cypress II, (love the names).

The star on offense is QB Jordan Travis (226/353/3214/24/5). When he decided not to jump to the pros, top receiver Johnny Wilson (43/897/5) and top running back Trey Benson (154/990/9) also decided to stay. Travis is best remembered by Syracuse fans for being the beneficiary of a hold that was never called against us two years ago, a non-call so egregious it was shown- and mocked - all over the country. He also got a call on Marlowe Wax that he was hit out of bounds when the replay showed he wasn’t, causing Wax to back off of him to avoid a similar call on a subsequent play, allowing Travis to gain another ten yards. We lost 30-33. You don’t forget those things. But we’re unlikely to get revenge this year.

Scoring 36.1 #15 vs. 20.6 #20
Rushing 214.1 #13 vs. 156.4 #74
Passing 270.2 #28 vs. 165.4 #4
Total 484.2 #10 vs. 321.8 #14
Turnover margin: +2 #53

7:30PM Thursday October 26th Virginia Tech at Lane Stadium TV: ESPN

Garrett Shrader and Damien Alford return to the scene of their dramatic victory of two years ago:

(Go to 2:15)

Can they duplicate that – or will they need to? The once-powerful Hokies went 3-8 last year. They’ve yet to find a replacement for the legendary Frank Beamer. Brent Pry replaced Justin Fuentes last year but pulled no rabbits out of his hat. An opposing coach said: “Brent understands that place really well, (He was a grad assistant there in the Beamer Era), and he’s a Bud Foster dude through and through but the problem is…there’s no talent on the roster because they had a coach who didn’t understand how fragile Frank Beamer’s system was. Now to get back the talent back from their home state, they’ve got to show proof of concept but they can’t because the talent is so bad on the roster. They’re trapped right now.” Last year they scored 19.3 points per game, the fewest for Tech since 1989.

Their quarterback will be Grant Wells, (198/332 .590 2171y 9td 9int) or Baylor transfer Kyron Drones, (does he throw drones?) Three transfers, Ali Jennings, Jaylin Lane and DaQuan Felton will be his main targets. They transferred from Old Dominion, Middle Tennessee and Norfolk State. Malachi Thomas (37/146/1) and NC A&T transfer Bhayeshul Tuten will tote the ball. (”What a beautiful baby: what did you decide to call him? Bhayeshul. It has a nice ring to it.”) The offensive line “remains an issue”…”it will lean heavily on unproven starters” who are switching positions. Things sure have changed since the Michael Vick Era. (Ouch!)

The defense is still pretty good but they failed to produce turnovers, (Tech was -6 on the year) and only four starters are back. A VMI transfer, Stone Snyder, will bolster the linebacking unit, at least with his name. The backfield is in good shape with Mansoor Delane, “coming off a breakout freshman campaign”, Dorian Strong “has all-ACC potential at corner” and Georgia Southern transfer Derrick Canteen, who tied for the national lead in interceptions with 6.

The schools they got the transfers from: Old Dominion, Middle Tennessee, Norfolk State, VMI and Georgia Southern, do not suggest a program changing- influx of talent. But then Florida State got Jared Verse from Albany. (Ouch!!!)

Scoring 19.3 #117 vs. 24.7 #53
Rushing 110.2 #112 vs. 135.2 #42
Passing 203.3 #102 vs. 235.2 #82
Total 313.5 #119 vs. 370.4 #55
Turnover margin: -6 #113

7:30PM Friday November 3rd Boston College at the Dome TV: ESPN2

The Eagles got out of their rut last year. In eight of their previous nine seasons, they’d gone between 6-7 and 7-6, (including one 6-5 and one 6-6). Jeff Hafley broke them of that rut with a 3-9 season last year. An opposing coach: “This is going to be a big year for this staff…There’s concern here. They’re down overall…(Hafley) hit on a couple of transfers when he first got there, but we haven’t seen them do well with high school recruiting…This is a hard place to get talent to commit to…So this season is less about wins and losses than it is figuring out what they’re doing long term. Right now it doesn’t look like they know.”

Their star quarterback, Phil Jurkovic, who had transferred here from Notre Dame, has transferred home to Pittsburgh, (I think they call that the hop, step and jump). His main target, the electrifying Zay Flowers jumped to the pros. That’s bad news because the Eagles finished last in Division 1 in the NCAA in running the ball with just 63 yards a game. The good news is that Hafley has Jurkovic’s back-up, Emmett Morehead, who put up virtually identical numbers: (pick which is which: 59.5% 6.9 Y/A 11TD 8 int rating: 125.9 -43 y rushing vs. 59.9% 6.5Y/A 10TD 6 int rating: 125.7 -22 yards rushing.) Of course they were both throwing to Zay Flowers but Hafley brought in Ryan O’Keefe from Central Florida, who caught 157 passes, 12 for TDs, in the last two years. But he averaged only 9.8 yards per catch, (at 5-10 175, he’s not a tight end). Flowers, who is virtually the same size, averaged 15.3 in his career here. The offensive line is…well…’rebuilding’.

The Eagles gave up 30.8 points per game on defense. They did have one outstanding player: edge rusher 6-2 237 Donovan Ezeiruaku, who had 64 tackles, 15 for losses, 9 of them sacks. He better get to the quarterback because they lost four starting D-backs. They are looking for a kicker and a punter.

Scoring 17.8 #121 vs. 30.3 #99
Rushing 63.3 #130 vs. 166.7 #87
Passing 247.1 #51 vs. 211.2 #43
Total 310.2 #120 vs. 377.8 #66
Turnover margin: -11 #124 (Northwestern was #130 with -19. It’s hard to overcome that.)

3:30PM Saturday November 11 Pittsburgh at Yankee Stadium TV: TBA

We all know about the history of this series, (and if you don’t you will hear more about it when the two teams gather in Yankee Stadium for the 100th anniversary of college football in Yankee Stadium). It’s like pro wrestling: one school had clobbered the other and the tide turns. We played them ten times from 1916-30, winning twice, tying twice and losing 6 times. The annual series commenced in 1955 and was competitive from 1955-63, each team winning four times. Then SU went off on a 7-2 run. Pitt brought in Johnny Majors and they beat us 11 times in a row. Coach Mac turned it around in the 80’s and we went on a 16-1-1 run through 2001. We walloped them in their place 42-10 that year. Who could have imagined what would happen next? The next year in the Dome, the Panthers built up a surreal 3-48 lead before we made it respectable at 24-48. From that point, we’ve won three times in 20 years. And Pitt seems as strong as ever, so don’t expect a turn-around any time soon.

Pitt and BC would seem to be in similar situations: college programs trying to survive in pro towns. Maybe the difference is the personality of the coach and the quality of his staff. An opposing coach said: “This is maybe the most slept-on staff for recruiting because they’re not hauling in five stars but they are always recruiting very well for their needs and culture. They are good evaluators. The secret here is that they adopt Pat’s (Narduzzi’s) mentality or they get run off and you know you’re gonna see a nasty defense regardless of personnel.”

Football is still won in the trenches and Pitt will be a big problem for any team on both sides of the ball. Their defense has the most sacks in the country in this decade, (48 of them last year). They still live in Carlos Del Rio Wilson’s dreams. That defense lost 6 starters, all of whom went to the NFL. David Green is the only returning lineman. But these guys wouldn’t be playing for Narduzzi if they couldn’t play defense. Linebacker Bangally Kamara is a ‘disrupter’. Beware disruptors!

Why doesn't the Federation use Disruptors? | Star Trek #Short

They are replacing their safeties but alternate three cornerbacks who have been playing for a total of 11 years.

Three starters and a tight end return to the offensive line. Phil Jurkovec, who played his high school ball here, finally landed behind them and should put up better numbers than Kaden Slovis did last year – and probably more than he did last year behind that BC line. Konata Mumpfield (58/551/1) is the leading returning receiver. Rodney Hammond Jr. (109/460/5) replaces Israel Abanikanda as the feature back. Kicker Ben Sauls kicked 15 field goals in last 16 attempts to finish 20/24. Pitt has kicked some memorable field goals against us in recent years. Caleb Junko averaged 48.7 yards on a dozen punts last year and Martin Devonshire led the ACC in punt return average (9.7), including an 82 yarder vs. Rhode Island.

Scoring 31.3 #41 vs. 24.3 #50
Rushing 183.0 #41 vs. 98.0 #7
Passing 222.6 #77 vs. 231.9 #76
Total 405.8 #49 vs. 329.9 #22
Turnover margin: +2 #53

TBA Saturday November 18 Georgia Tech at Bobby Dodd Stadium TV: TBA

As with Purdue and North Carolina, it’s hard not to remember the last time we played the Yellowjackets in their place. It was possibly the worst ever performance by an SU team. Facing a Georgia Tech team that had lost 3 games in a row and given up 45 points to U of Miami and 38 to Brigham Young in their last two games, we produced a goose egg on offense and had no answers for their triple option attack on defense, losing 0-56. Well, Tech no longer runs the TO and Scott Shafer is gone, we can hope for better results this time. I think. (Tech also ran us out of the 2004 Champs Sports Bowl, 14-51 in Coach P’s last game and also beat us in the Kick-off Classic 7-13 in 2001. But, hey, our 1-10 team of 2020 whipped them in the Dome 37-23 to get that ‘1’, so the Jackets aren’t invincible.)

They are another opponent who had trouble scoring points last year, just 17.2, (it takes almost 30 points to win an average D1 game in this era). Quarterback injuries hurt them. Jeff Sims, who was their QB for that 2020 game, played 7 games and is now at Nebraska. Then came the two Zachs, (Zachs are nice but you really need Bubbas). Akron transfer Zach Gibson played in 7 games was 57/104 (54.8%) for 589 yards, 1TD and 2 interceptions. Zach Pryon, a 4-star freshman, played reasonably well for three games: 49/82 (59.8%) 565 yards 3TD and 3int and a win over that other Tech in Virginia. The Zachs will be joined by another 4-star, Texas transfer Haynes King. Reports from the spring were that Pryon had “better command of the offense”.

That offense didn’t include much of a running game. Dontae Smith had a nice average per carry, (4.8 on 87/420/5). Coach Brent Key brought in transfer Trevion (Trey) Cooley from Louisville (59/278 (4.7 with 2 TDs). Third string is Kaleb Edwards, a converted DB. They do have four starters back on the line.

The defense has to replace their two leading tacklers and a second round NFL draft pick. They do have three defensive linemen back and four of the five starters in the secondary return. But their rushing defense, (#107) was worse than their rushing attack (#90) last year. Gavin Stewart hit 12/13 field goals but punter David Shanahan had four punts blocked.

Scoring 17.2 #124 vs. 28.4 #83
Rushing 132.7 #90 vs. 188.8 #107
Passing 192.2 #108 vs. 212.4 #48
Total 324.8 #114 vs. 401.0 #84
Turnover margin: +11 (They went 5-7 with that: what if it was even?) 6th

TBA Saturday November 25 Wake Forest at the Dome TV: TBA

In the 20th century, Wake Forest was a bottom feeder, (winning percentage .394, the worst in the country among the major colleges). In the 21st century, they been quite pugnacious, .489, a good deal better than us: .419), thanks to Jim Grobe and Dave Clawson, Dino Baber’s predecessor at Bowling Green. An opposing coach; “Every December, it seems like some big program is gonna come along and snap up Dave and Wake is going to fall back to the basement but he stays, they keep improving facilities and these guys keep building.“ Our series with them has been the closest thing to a rivalry we have: 10-20, 39-29, 13-0, 30-7, 30-17, 9-28, 43-64, 41-24, 39-30, 14-38, 37-40, 35-45 = 6-6. This year’s game may be one we have to win to get to a bowl. So much depends on the health of the two teams in the 12th game. When healthy, they could both be good enough to win another wild game.

This being 2023 football, Wake’s star QB, Sam Hartman, will play his fifth year of college football as Notre Dame’s QB. Mitch Griffis, (29/41 .70.7 348y 5TD 1int), will make an interesting replacement. He’s kind of smallish for a modern QB at 5-11 192. Athlon: What he “lacks in size he makes up for with precise throws, mobility and competitiveness that’s a requirement under head Coach Dave Clawson”. He’s got three top receivers back, Taylor Moses, Jahmal Banks and Donavon Greene who totaled 126 catches for 1,853 yards and 26TDs last year. RB Justice Ellison had 699 yards on 170 carries (4.1) and scored 6TDs. “Almost every player on the two-deep has spent at least three seasons at Wake Forest, but roles have changed in in some significant ways.” That’s the sort of thing that would make more of a difference in the opening game than in the 12th game, by which time everyone will know their roles.

Wake has never been a defensive force under Clawson. They gave up 30+ points 7 times last year, including the last 5 regular season games. That’s what makes our games with them so interesting. They went from forcing 29 turnovers in 2021 to only 16 last year. Jasheen Davis, who had 7 sacks in part-time play, looks to change that. They have good depth at linebacker and safety but are looking for two new cornerbacks. Matthew Dennis was 12 for 14 on field goals but only two where from more than 35 yards. Only 17% of their kickoffs were touchbacks.

Scoring 36.1 #15 vs. 28.3 #81
Rushing 130.5 #92 vs. 136.8 #45
Passing 311.8 #9 vs. 269.7 #114
Total 442.4 #29 vs. 406.5 #92
Turnover margin: -2 #79

I see 7 games where we should be favored: Colgate, Western Michigan, Army, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. I see five where we should be underdogs: Purdue, Clemson, North Carolina, Florida State and Pittsburgh. Being a long-time Syracuse fan, I don’t believe that they will go 7-0 against the first group. Wake Forest would be the most likely to knock us off, although it might not be seen as an upset by then. But I also think we’ll beat one of the teams we’re supposed to lose to. North Carolina is the most likely choice because of their defensive problems. I’m hoping we can go better than 7-5 but logic dictates that that will be our most likely record.

That does it for my 2023 SU Football Preview. When the season is over, I’ll do a “Then and Now” post, revisiting this one. And I’ll be putting together My 2023 SU Basketball Preview in October.


Living Legend
Aug 30, 2011
Well done SWC. The schools with D problems will have to be taken advantage of and efficiency of the Cuse O is going to be a factor. Do they do well 20 to 20 yard line or will they punch it in or have some 30+ TD's?

One thing may be a factor and if the FG kicker is inconsistent, will Dino go for more 4th and shorts inside the 40? Depending on how well the O is moving of course.


Hall of Fame
Aug 21, 2011
Great stuff SWC, when I saw the Verse kid in warm-ups with Albany, two years ago, I immediately texted my friends, saying this guy is a monster, and we need to get him. Galling is right that he went to FSU.

The only correction is while he gave it his best shot, He did not catch on Tucker from behind.

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