When I looked at the schedule, initially, I did not look much at this weekends game. Syracuse was just another game on the schedule and there were plenty of others to look at before the Orange. Then last weekend happened. Syracuse upset Clemson, which left me stunned. Syracuse knocked Clemson quarterback, Kelly Bryant, out of the game and left Clemson scrambling for offense. Dino Babers and company found a way to win at home against a team that beat them 54-0 in 2016. It was a massive win for the program and it also gives Syracuse a reason to walk into Miami with a chip on their shoulder. This team knows they can come into Miami and pull off back-to-back top ten upsets. Their offense has catalyzed that confidence due to the playmaking ability of a couple of solid upperclassmen.
Eric Dungey is the leader of the Syracuse offense. Not only is he the quarterback of the team, but he leads the team in rushing. Dungey will call his own number often, especially in red zone situations — it is almost a guarantee that Dungey is going to try and run it in himself from inside the 20 yard line. Dungey has eight rushing scores so far in 2017 which is why I believe limiting Dungey’s ground game will be a focal point of Manny Diaz’s scheme going into Saturday. Dontae Strickland is their primary back, but does not get the most touches. Strickland is averaging just 3.1 yards a rush and his longest run of the year is just 15 yards. Moe Neal is a guy that Syracuse could use in the passing game from the backfield.
Apart from the ground game, Eric Dungey has been an exceptional passer in 2017. He is completing 64.2 percent of his passes for 2080 yards for the 4-3 Syracuse Orange. One trend I noticed with the Syracuse offense is that they absolutely will take deep shots in the passing game. Senior wide receiver, Steve Ishmael, is third nationally in receiving yards with 802 and leads the nation in receptions with 62. It is a sure bet that Eric Dungey is going to be looking for Ishmael, who happens to be from Miami. Ishmael graduated from North Miami Beach High School in 2014 and has turned into one of the premier players in the country. I would imagine that a big homecoming for Ishmael is something he is greatly looking forward to.
On the other hand, wide receiver Ervin Phillips is third in the nation is receptions (56) and tied for 24th in receiving yards with 569 yards. Syracuse is going to pass the ball a lot. Against a very talented NC State team, Phillips had 17 receptions for 188 yards. Ishmael is not a one man show. This offense is very talented and they are going to test the Miami defensive backfield. They will not be scared to throw up and bet one of there guys will come down with it. Both of these senior receivers have seen and done just about everything in their four years of college football. Miami is going to have their hands full with these two. Ravian Pierce and Devin Butler are also guys that Miami is going to need to account for in the passing game.
Defensively, Syracuse looked good against Clemson. They are averaging 14 less points per game as a defense from a year ago, which is a massive step forward. They are 38th in rushing defense and are allowing opponents to rush for an average of 128.9 yards. They are allowing 223 yards per game passing, good for 67th nationally. This defense is improved, but it will not be the anywhere near the top defenses that the Hurricanes have played so far. Their pass rush is very suspect. That is not good news for Syracuse because Miami’s offensive line has been playing at a high level. The Orange have just ten sacks on the year. Syracuse is going to have to create pressure if they want to beat Miami. If the offensive line can toy with the Syracuse front, it is going to be a long day for the Orange. Miami has too many athletes of offense for them to make mistakes. Another factor to consider is the weather. In Syracuse, they play in a giant air- conditioned dome. In Miami, it is going to be hot and humid in a way they cannot possibly replicate of prepare for, unless they practice in a sauna.
For Miami, they need to find a way to start games faster. Miami keeps waiting until the second half of games to start playing real football offensively. The defense is solid, you guys keep doing what you are doing. I do not know if it is the plays that Mark Richt is calling, or just a lack of execution. Regardless, it needs to get figured out soon. Malik Rosier has been as good as we could have hoped for as Canes fans. He is completing 59.1% of his passes and has done a great job of not turning the ball over. Syracuse is susceptible to big plays, so this could be a big day for Ahmonn Richards. He tears up defensive backs who cannot match his athleticism and I believe we are going to see him catch a big one tomorrow afternoon.
It is clear that Miami has the intention of running the ball. On the year, Miami has passed the ball 175 times and ran it 160. Travis Homer is stepping up in a big way after the injury to Mark Walton allowed him to step into this new role. Homer has the burst and speed we were not seeing from Walton because of his ankle injury. In his first start last week against a solid Georgia Tech defense, Homer erupted for 170 yards on 20 attempts. He is averaging 8.5 yards per carry and Syracuse has not given me any reason to think that they will slow down Homer. I believe we are going to see Miami hit their stride as an offense in the first half of this game.
This game is going to be decided by our defense. That gives me a great sense of peace because this unit has been awesome. Maybe not as great as we would hope at times, but in the second half of games they have been incredible. Eric Dungey has been sacked 20 times this year. Our defensive line is going to be able to create penetration without having to blitz a lot of people and that will force Dungey to have to make decisions. If he wants to throw it up to Ishmael, I trust Malek Young to make a play. I know our defense is capable of handling this offense. The Hurricanes are ranked ninth nationally in passing defense, which is the strength of this Syracuse team. Miami knows they need to come out and make a statement on Saturday. I think Miami does that in a big way.
Miami finds their groove early and creates a comfortable lead for our defense. I believe Miami will score at least three times in the first half, making way for the team to erupt and break the game open in the second half. Miami is best when the nation second guesses them. If it were up to ESPN, Miami would be 1-4 this year. The disrespect is being felt among the program and there is no better opportunity for the Hurricanes to make a statement than right now by beating a team who just beat Clemson. Travis Homer runs for 140 yards with two touchdowns. Malik Rosier throws for 275 and two touchdowns, one being a big play by Ahmonn Richards. I am going to hold off on the freshman scoring this week, which in turn would lead to the freshman actually scoring this week. The battle of Miami’s turnover chain vs the Syracuse golden gloves will be won by us. Miami will pick off Dungey twice in the game, even though he will play well. I really like Eric Dungey but Miami is going to be hot and humid and the athletes we have on the team tower the athletes at Syracuse. It is not as ideal of a matchup for Syracuse as people might think. But go ahead, ESPN, and everyone else. Pick Syracuse to win. Do it again next week so that you can continue to fuel the Cardiac Canes. Miami makes a statement.
Miami: 38 Syracuse: 23