1. After losing both last year's quarterback (Ryan Nassib) and head coach (Doug Marrone) to the NFL, what were your expectations for Syracuse's football team entering the season and how have they done relative to those expectations?
Entering the season, most national predictions had the Orange finishing anywhere from 4-7 to 5-8, while most TNIAAM contributors were thinking 6-6 or 7-5. At this point in the season, all of these scenarios are in play and there's no way in knowing which one is more likely to happen.
If Syracuse wins only one more game there will be a lot of disappointment and question marks heading into next year. A 5-7 season, with a victory over Boston College at the end of the season, with the way things are trending, wouldn't be too bad. 6-6 is the overall goal and would be a big success in the first year under head coach Scott Shafer and in the ACC. 7-5 would be amazing and would prove the Orange are headed in the right direction to turn this program into a ACC contender.
Honestly, Saturday's game against Wake Forest will give us a pretty good idea of what our expectations should. At this point, expectations vary week to week because this team has been so up and down.
2. Another quarterback battle has come up between Terrel Hunt and Drew Allen. Who do you think has the inside edge to win this battle, and who would you/your fan base prefer be the starter moving forward?
The inside edge goes to Hunt, who is 3-2 as a starter, is the quarterback of future and gives the Orange the best chance to win because he is able to make big plays. Allen's only chance to take over the starting spot is to see Hunt and the Syracuse offense struggle in the first half of Saturday's game, he then gets a shot to give SU a spar, does so, and helps the Orange onto victory.
However, Allen was given a shot to do that a few weeks ago against Georgia Tech's second and third strings and wasn't very good. Allen can chuck the ball better than Hunt, but too many times completions go to opposing defenders.
Us here at TNIAAM are a bit concerned with this week's reports that each quarterback were taking first-team reps because: A) they are really considering giving Allen a shot because the SU coaches have no clue what to do with the offense or B) Hunt has lost some confidence the past few weeks and needs a boost in competition, which he thrived on during the offseason and earlier this year.
All-in-all, Hunt gives Syracuse the best chance to win because with him the Orange's strongest offensive weapons, their running backs, get more support.
3. News broke yesterday that Syracuse will be without kicker, Ryan Norton. How do you think this will impact the game? Do you think it's possible that your team will go for 4th downs a lot more within field goal range and also two point conversions?
The impact is it will probably force Syracuse to go for it more on fourth down if it is deep inside Wake Forest territory and if the game comes down to a field goal there's about 50-50 chance it will not be made. Honestly, Norton had been struggling as he wasn't suppose to be this year's starting kicker, Ross Krautman, who suffered a season-ending injury and is pretty good, was.
What used to be a reliable aspect of the SU offense has now become a complete toss up.
(P.S., Norton at least gave us something funny to write and comment about this week. That had been missing around TNIAAM for a few weeks.)
4. Syracuse is 104th nationally in pass defense (only counting games against FBS opponents). How much does this concern you headed into a game against a team with a senior quarterback in Tanner Price and a receiver like Michael Campanaro?
It concerns me a bunch. The way Price and Wake's passing attack has been clicking lately is maybe the worst-case scenario for the SU defense, which probably has the worst performing secondary in the ACC. What will be interesting though is how defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough will game plan this one.
A few weeks ago against GT, Bullough thought it would be a great idea to implement a 3-4 defense, something SU hadn't run all season, to stop GT and the Yellow Jackets destroyed us. This week, I wouldn't be surprised if Bullough implements a quarter defense which features 2 pass rushers, three linebackers and a bunch of defensive backs to cover every wide receiver Wake has.
My strategy, would be to double team Campanaro much like Shafer (who was SU's defensive coordinator at the time) did to Rutger's wide receiver Mohammad Sanu a few years back. In that game, Syracuse literally lined up two defensive backs on Sanu and had both of them jam him at the line on nearly every play. That forced Rutgers to throw to somebody else. I'd blitz Price as much as I can and double team Campanaro and see what happens then.
5. Who is an under-the-radar Syracuse player Wake fans will want to familiarize themselves with before the gameon Saturday?
On offense, I would hope that if the Orange find a way to move the ball through the air it is going into the hands of former H-Back now full-time wide receiver Ashton Broyld. The sophomore is a work-in-progress at wide out as he was recruited to be quarterback, but his athletic skills were too good to waste there. Broyld has the potential to be very good, but, again, he is learning a new position and has had some costly drops this year.
On defense, defensive lineman Robert Welsh has been a nice surprise this season. DT Jay Bromley has been a monster and that has helped out guys, like Welsh, make big plays. Don't be surprised to see his name called a few times on Saturday.
6. Finally, Syracuse comes in as a 3 point favorite. How do you see this game playing out and what do you think the final score will be?
A few weeks ago, I would have been very confident Syracuse was going to win this one. The Orange were coming off a nice victory over N.C. State and, at the time, Wake Forest was still struggling a bit. Now, it seems both programs are headed in opposite directions.
Wake's passing game scares me, especially with the way Campanaro has been playing, however, if SU can somehow find a way to limit his big-play ability, while having the Orange offense RUNNING THE BALL, which it does best, then the Orange have a good chance at turning this game from a scoringfest into a slugfest, which is what SU does best.
Overall, sadly, I don't see the latter happening constantly for Syracuse to win. I see Wake Forest winning this one 27-20.