One week after clinching a spot in the ACC Championship for the second straight year with a 59-3 thrashing of Wake Forest, second-ranked Florida State will return home for its ACC finale with Syracuse on Saturday. Florida State arrives for the contest a perfect 9-0 and can clinch its first perfect season in conference play since 2000 with a win over the Orange. A victory would also ensure Florida State’s third 10-win season in four years under head coach Jimbo Fisher.
Syracuse will arrive at Doak Campbell Stadium on a two-game winning streak after giving up just a combined three points over the last two weeks. Syracuse defeated Maryland 20-3 in College Park a week ago and will be looking to become bowl-eligible with a win in just one of its last three games. The Orange are 5-4 overall and 3-2 in conference in their first season as a member of the ACC and Saturday’s trip to Tallahassee will be the final road trip of 2013 for Syracuse.
Saturday’s contest will be the first meeting between Florida State and Syracuse since 2005 when FSU defeated the Orange 38-14 in Tallahassee behind three touchdown passes from then freshman quarterback Drew Weatherford. The Seminoles have won five straight in the series dating back to 1978, Bobby Bowden’s third year as head coach of Florida State. The last Syracuse victory over the Seminoles came in 1966. To make it six straight over the Orange and a perfect 10-0 on the season, here are Saturday’s keys to Seminole success:
Handle with care
Florida State will once again be huge favorites on Saturday as it plays host to Syracuse and the Orange are proving to have an opportunistic defense and for the Seminoles to avoid having this one get interesting, ball security will be crucial. After not committing more than one turnover in any of its first six games, FSU has had multiple turnovers in each of its last three contests and Syracuse is coming off of a victory in which it forced four Maryland turnovers. Four of Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston’s seven interceptions have come in the last three weeks as well. For Syracuse to have any chance to top Florida State on Saturday, it will need to force turnovers making ball security vital for the Seminoles and decision-making key for Winston.
No room for “Rome”
Syracuse isn’t a team that attacks its opponents vertically in the passing game, but the Orange do have a solid in-between-the-tackles runner in junior Jerome Smith. Smith leads Syracuse with 705 yards rushing this season and is tied for second in the ACC with 10 touchdowns on the ground. At 220 pounds, Smith is similar in stature to Boston College running back Andre Williams, who had a solid game against Florida State earlier this season. Syracuse will try to run the ball right at Florida State and to stop that from being successful, the Seminoles will need a solid day from interior defensive linemen such as Timmy Jernigan, Nile Lawrence-Stample and Jacobbi McDaniel. Stuffing the run on early downs and forcing sophomore quarterback Terrel Hunt to make throws on third down and long should prove to be a formula for success on Saturday.
Have fun with the run
While Syracuse has been solid defensively for the most part this season, the Orange have struggled at times to stop the run. In its last three losses, Syracuse has given up an average of 252 yards-per-game on the ground including 394 to Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense. Florida State is coming off of its worst rushing effort of the season going for just 89 yards in last week’s 59-3 win at Wake Forest. Starting running back Devonta Freeman had just 11 yards on six carries while juniors James Wilder Jr. and Karlos Williams each finished with 49 yards rushing and a score. Look for Florida State to feature Freeman and the running attack early on Saturday which should help set up Winston and the vertical passing game.