FTRS: Syracuse sits at 3-3, but has played some really tough matchups so far this year. What is the fanbase's outlook on the team and its performances, and how does that compare to the fanbase's perception of the record?
TNIAAM: Overall, I get a feeling the fan base is happy with where Syracuse is right now. Sitting at 3-3 instead of 2-4, which is where Syracuse was last season at this time before and looked like it might be after heading to N.C. State, there's more confidence this team can win enough games to get a bowl invite, which was the expectation heading into the first year of the ACC.
A lot of preseason predictions had SU finishing around 4-8 and 5-7, so the Orange are on pace to exceed those predictions and do this with a new head coach, coaching staff and a the quarterback of the future (Terrel Hunt) is encouraging.
(FWIW, most of our TNIAAM contributors had Syracuse finishing the season 6-6 or 7-5. So, we're about on pace of what us "experts" thought.)
FTRS: This weekend, the Syracuse defense will be facing a very unusual challenge in Georgia Tech's spread option offense. Do you know whether or not they have any prior experience in seeing that style of offense (i.e. games against Navy, Army, etc), and if not do you have any idea how they've been practicing for it? What do you expect from the Orange defense on Saturday, and who will be the impact players we should watch for?
TNIAAM: According to head coach Scott Shafer the Orange have been preparing for GT's offense since Spring ball. Obviously, actually playing against this type of offense is completely different than practicing against it.
Honestly, it is tough for me to remember SU playing an offensive style like GT's -- I know Stony Brook ran a lot against Syracuse last year -- and no I am not comparing the teams at all.
With that said, I will say out of all the offenses a team could run against Syracuse the spread option offense is probably one the Orange can defend the best. I say that because our secondary has struggled badly this season -- and when I mean badly, I mean BADLY -- and its strength is its solid linebacking corps and defensive line. These guys play pretty good against the run and tackle well.
If Georgia Tech can pass the ball well on Saturday, then it is a different story and SU maybe in trouble. But, if GT becomes dependent on the run than I like SU's chances of containing the spread option.
FTRS: Syracuse lost one of its better QBs in school history, Ryan Nassib, to graduation. He's replaced by Sophomore Terrel Hunt. How's everything going with the new guy, and has he helped or hindered the offense? Who will be the biggest offensive weapons we should know about?
TNIAAM: The Hunt Era, so far, is going well. Syracuse is 3-1 with him starting -- granted two of those wins were against Wagner and Tulane but those were still impressive wins because they were blowouts (we're not used to that) -- and the offense is more productive than it was under senior transfer Drew Allen, who started the first two games of the season but lost the job to Hunt.
As Hunt plays better teams, like Clemson, N.C. State and now GT, it is obvious he has some flaws -- he tends to tuck-and-run when getting rushed, when he doesn't have time he's inaccurate and his deep ball needs work -- but he knows the offense really well, makes good decisions and can make enough plays for Syracuse to win. Despite being young, he is playing well and he has all the support from coaches, teammates and the fan base.
As for the Orange's biggest offensive threat, it is senior running back Jerome Smith and backfield mate Prince-Tyson Gulley. They are a powerful 1-2 punch that can make a lot of big plays with their legs. When Syracuse's offense is clicking these guys are getting big chunks of yards. If these guys get going, GT fans should start to get worried.
If you're looking for a possible sleeper, well, wide receiver Ashton Broyld is the guy to look out for. He is a converted QB that has size and running ability. He slowly progressing into Hunt's top target and if he get in the open field watch out.
FTRS: How has the football transition to the ACC gone relative to what was expected?
TNIAAM: I think it is too early to tell. I could give a better answer to that once we play a few more ACC games. I will say that I am enjoying the new look and better football. It is fun each week to watch teams like Clemson, FSU and Miami and actually, some what, have a rooting interest. Trust me, football in the former Big East was getting so bad. I was ready to leave, though, I know that was not the feeling a majority of the fan base had.
FTRS: As a Louisville fan (they're my second team, of course), I'm still only minimally familiar with Syracuse, but I know they have a reputation for playing very well in the Carrier Dome -- considerably better than they do on the road, in fact. What can you tell me about the truths and lies in that statement, and how has it played out this year so far?
TNIAAM: I would say the legend of the Dome has grown over the past few seasons because national-ranked teams like Louisville and West Virginia have come in there and been destroyed by Syracuse teams that somehow found a way to play perfect games at the right time.
Here's the truth about the Carrier Dome, it is fun place to play when there's a packed house because it gets really, really loud in there. However, those games have become very rare for football (not at all the case for basketball games) and if the SU football isn't playing well and there's not a big-name team visiting then the fan base isn't interested in attending games. When that happens it is really dull and fans start screaming for a new place to play because the Carrier Dome has lost its luster, which is true.
All-in-all, for opponents it is a different atmosphere to play in and can be hostile when it is packed. For the city of Syracuse, it is just the Carrier Dome and really isn't a draw unless there's a attendance record to be had during a basketball game against Georgetown or Duke.
FTRS: Head Coach Scott Shafer is in his 1st year at Syracuse. How's the fanbase feeling about him so far, and do you see him sticking around for the foreseeable future?
TNIAAM: As long as he continues to win and doesn't take another job because of that winning, I think Syracuse will want him around for a long time.
Syracuse football fans are still scarred from the Greg Robinson era, which KILLED the overall interest in the program. When Doug Marrone took over he did a good job of rebuilding interest and a winning attitude, and now it is Shafer's job to not lose whatever momentum Marrone gained back.
So far, I think Shafer is doing a good job. The hope is he gets better and better.
(Oh, and as you might learn this week Shafer is pretty intense. So, expect some profanity in the post-game presser if Syracuse loses or him screaming something on the sidelines. Don't get pissed off like Clemson fans. That's just how he is.)
FTRS: Syracuse, NY is a long way from Atlanta, GA in a lot of ways, both geographically and culturally (I'd assume). What does a tailgate look like up there? How does it change as the weather gets colder? Is there a considerable amount of tailgating for basketball games?
TNIAAM: To answer this question I am turning it over to TNIAAM contributor Dan Lyons, a former student and frequent tailgater at games:
"For football, the tailgating scene is a bit spread out and hard to navigate if you aren't familiar with the campus. SU is on a hill, and the Carrier Dome is literally right on campus, just steps from the quad, so there's very little tailgating right near the Dome. There are lots down towards "West Campus" near a few dorms apartments that sees some good tailgating, while others set up near our main off-campus bar and restaurant area on Marshall Street. For those who don't want to secure parking passes near campus, there are plenty of lots down near the athletics complex about a mile from campus, as well as the big open fields on Skytop, which is in an area with a lot of campus apartment-style housing. Shuttles run up to the quad from here. Obviously, the tailgating is at its best in September/October while the weather is still decent, but as with everything else at Syracuse, life goes on even after the snow hits. As many TNIAAMers will agree, hot rum and apple cider goes down well before a November game in 30-degree weather.
Instead of tailgating, many flock to the Marshall Street bars (Chuck's and Faegan's are the two most popular), and get their pregame eats at Syracuse's "Varsity", which has been around for over 80 years and has a similar impact within the SU community as Atlanta's does for Georgia Tech. The Marshall Street scene is also probably the most popular pregame spot before basketball, as its a bit hard to tailgate in the Syracuse winter."
FTRS: Any predictions for how this game will end up? Any predictions at the midway point for how this season will end up?
TNIAAM: After watching Syracuse earn its first ACC road win and seeing what type of offense GT runs when I watched the BYU game, I like how this sets up for the Orange. If you asked me a week ago, I would not have the same opinion, but I think Syracuse's strengths on defense fit well with what GT wants to do. Of course, this is probably the game you guys decided to air it out a bit more and take advantage of our secondary.
As for the SU offense, it just needs to continue to do what it has done well -- running the ball -- and it should score some points in a grind-it-out contest.
In the end, I see Syracuse winning 20-17.
Thanks again to Jared Smith and the guys over at Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician! You can see my responses to their questions here! Follow Jared on Twitter for some Syracuse perspective on Saturday's game!