Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#135 Syracuse 57 vs.
#136 Florida State -11.5
Saturday, October 26, 2019 at 3:30pm EDT
Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee
Written by Nick Raffoul

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#135 Syracuse University
#136 Florida State University
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The Syracuse Orange will head on the road to Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday afternoon for an Atlantic Coast Conference battle versus the Florida State Seminoles.

Things are starting to get bad at Florida State, historically bad. ESPN’s College GameDay crew didn’t hold back when discussing the Seminoles’ performance under head coach Willie Taggart last week. Florida State is just 8-11 under Taggart, whose contract reportedly runs until Jan. 31, 2024. The Seminoles enter with a disappointing 3-4 overall record and 2-3 mark in ACC play after suffering another ugly loss to Wake Forest last weekend. In comes Syracuse, which has lost back-to-back games by seven points or less. Can Florida State bounce back with a much-needed win versus Syracuse on Saturday afternoon?

Orange need ACC road win to qualify for bowl season

Syracuse enters the week with an unsightly 3-4 record and the Orange are winless against Power 5 competition, including 0-3 against ACC opponents. They will try to bounce back on Saturday after suffering their second straight defeat at the hands of Pittsburgh last week. Quarterback Tommy DeVito was forced to leave the 27-20 loss to Pittsburgh after taking a hard hit and was replaced by junior college transfer Clayton Welch. Welch filled in admirably, finishing with 176 passings yards and two scores, while also leading the Orange in rushing with 36 yards on 10 carries. Taj Harris caught three balls for 111 yards and a touchdown, but inefficiency on third down (5-for-18) and penalties (nine for 78 yards) ultimately cost the Orange. After the game, Syracuse head coach Dino Babers let it be known that nobody’s job is safe. “We need to regroup. Right now, everybody's job is in jeopardy,” said Babers. “It's not fair to keep playing the same guys if the results don't change."

Struggles along the offensive line have not helped matters for DeVito and the Orange offense. The Orange have allowed 35 sacks and five sacks per game so far this season, both of which rank dead-last in the country. Without a conventional running game or time to throw the football, Syracuse has been too susceptible to negative plays, which has killed drives before they even get started. The o-line gave up nine total sacks last week, including six on DeVito before he left the game.

Babers has yet to name a starter under center for this week’s game against Florida State. DeVito, who came into last week’s game already banged up, failed to finish the contest and the Orange have yet to score more than 20 points against a Power Five opponent this season. That could lead to some changes at quarterback this week, especially given Welch’s ability to escape the rush with his legs. While Babers said he knows who’s better, there is still a chance that both quarterbacks play again this week against the Seminoles -- if DeVito is healthy enough to go.

Despite the team’s puzzling 3-4 start, Syracuse still has a chance to earn a trip to a bowl game, but first, the Orange will have to win an ACC road game. The defense has played well enough to keep the Orange in games, especially over the past two weeks. They come in allowing 26.1 points and 418.9 yards of total offense per contest, but they’ve done a good job of forcing their opponents into mistakes. Syracuse has now forced turnovers in 21 consecutive games and their 14 takeaways are tied for 14th in the nation.

Florida State likely to target Urban Meyer

Florida State was unable to bounce back from their blowout loss to No. 2-Clemson last week, as they came up short once again in a tough 22-20 loss versus Wake Forest, who played without starting quarterback Jamie Newman. Cam Akers ran for 157 yards and a touchdown, while James Blackman got the start again at quarterback, throwing for 280 yards, two touchdowns and one interception on the day. Florida State played well on defense, limiting the ACC’s highest-scoring offense (39.7 points per game) to a season-low 22 points, which included five field goals deep in FSU territory.

Despite the ugly loss, the Seminoles open the week as double-digit favorites over the Orange. However, rumors are starting to swirl around Taggart and the future of the program. Zach Barnett of Football Scoop recently reported that Florida State would likely target Urban Meyer if Taggart is fired. While hiring Meyer would undoubtedly bring excitement to a declining program, Taggart’s contract features an expensive $17-million buyout, which would render him a nice payday if Florida State decided to let him go.

The team also has a quarterback controversy brewing in its hands. After playing two quarterbacks two weeks ago against No. 2 Clemson, incumbent starter James Blackman took all the snaps under center last week. Blackman has put up strong numbers in his sophomore season (1,316 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions), but is now just 9-9 as a starter with the Seminoles. Meanwhile, backup graduate transfer Alex Hornibrook threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns to lead Florida State to a victory in his only start of the season against NC State. Hornibrook also led FSU to a 30-24 win over Louisville after Blackman got hurt, throwing for 255 yards and two scores. He’s thrown for 655 yards with six touchdowns and only one interception in three games (one start) while completing 72.2 percent of his passes. While Taggart declined to name a starter during his news conference, he said that he was pleased with Blackman’s play versus Wake Forest. He also told ESPN Tallahassee’s Jeff Cameron on Monday that he was “moving forward with James” as his starting quarterback.

The Seminoles come in scoring 28.6 points per game and allowing 30.7 points per game on defense. Florida State ranks 113th in the country in total defense after giving up 458.7 yards of total offense per game through their first seven contests.

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Both teams come into this game with some question marks at quarterback, but I think Syracuse is the more desperate team here. The Orange have played well enough to win on defense over the past couple of weeks and they need at least one road win to qualify for a bowl game. Florida State comes into the weekend tied for 27th in the country with 2.83 sacks per game, so protecting the quarterback is going to be a major key to this game for the Orange. Still, I like Syracuse’s chances of covering the spread in this one, especially given all the controversy that the Seminoles are dealing with right now. Take Syracuse to cover the spread in this ACC battle in Tallahassee on Saturday afternoon.

Prediction: Syracuse +10.5

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Florida State’s bend-but-don’t-break approach worked for the most part last weekend, as they limited Wake Forest to five field goals of 30 yards or less. The Seminoles gave up just one touchdown to the Demon Deacons and they’ve now surrendered just 22.5 points per game to ACC opponents not named Clemson so far this season. On the other hand, Syracuse’s defense has also played well during conference play. Excluding Clemson, they’ve limited ACC opponents to just 18 points per game. Take this game to stay under the projected total on Saturday afternoon. 

Prediction: Under 57.5
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Written By Nick Raffoul

Shortly after graduating with an Honors in Business Administration, Nick turned his attention from traditional stocks and bonds to investing in the performance of sports teams. And has now joined our team here at Winners & Whiners. Nick uses a combination of advanced stats and historical data to create sports investment models to identify value and generate consistent profits. Let Nick win for you.