Team: Syracuse Orange
Conference:Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)
Game Date: September 24 (Week 4)
Location: Carrier Dome – Syracuse, New York
Game History: The series between Liberty and Syracuse is currently knotted at 1-1. Liberty was blown out 24-0 in 2019, also known as the infamous hospital bed game. The outcome was very different in 2020 when the Flames ran all over the Orange for a 38-21 victory.
Coach – Dino Babers
This will be Babers’ sixth season as the head coach for Syracuse. In that time, he has compiled a 24-36 record. Before his arrival in New York, he briefly led Bowling Green, earning a pair of division titles and a conference championship. He is a proven leader who has earned a number of coach of the year honors across conferences. Apart from 2018 though, Coach Babers’ has not seen much success on the field for the Orange. 2021 could be a make or break season as far as his future in Syracuse goes.
2020 Record: 1-10
2021 Outlook: Last season was a rough go of it for the Orange as if their aforementioned record didn’t say that already. They averaged a modest 265 yards and 18 points a game, making them one of the worst teams in the country offensively. The problems for Syracuse started up front as they allowed, on average, over 3 sacks and 7 tackles for loss a game. Thankfully, their line is a little older now. They also return a number of their skill players like leading rusher Sean Tucker, third-year starting QB Tommy Devito, and their two leading receivers Taj Harris and Anthony Queeley. All the pieces are there for the Orange, but if the o-line can’t do its job, they could be in for another long season.
Just when you think things couldn’t get worse for the Orange, enter their defense. They allowed an abysmal 464 yards and 33 points a game to opposing offenses. We will sing the same tune here for the defense that we did for the offense. They are returning some important pieces that should make 2021 more successful. LB Mikel Jones, their leading tackler, is back along with MLB Geoff Cantin-Arku. Their line also has a number of six-year seniors that should strengthen a run defense that gave up over 200 yards a game. My sentiment here is similar to that of Old Dominion from a few days ago: Things couldn’t have gotten much worse for the Orange last season. They are bound to improve.
Offensive Player To Watch – Junior WR Taj Harris
Harris is a seasoned veteran in Syracuse’s offense. He has started 29 of the 34 games he played in and set numerous records for the Orange in the process. Last year, he had six catches for 138 yards and a touchdown against the Flames. In the coming year, Harris is poised to have another record-breaking season as a primary target for QB Tommy DeVito. He has also been named to the 2021 Biletnikoff Award Watch List, an honor reserved for the season’s most outstanding FBS receiver.
Defensive Player To Watch – Redshirt Senior DL Josh Black
Just like Harris, defensive lineman Josh Black is a staple for this Syracuse team. He has seen action in 48 games, served as a started for two straight years, and is credited with 120 stops. His career high in tackles (8) actually came against the Flames last season. The Orange lost a number of linemen to the NFL this offseason, so he is set to have even more of an impact than he already has. We should also mention Black is one strong player. He even received a shoutout from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson on Twitter last summer for his ability to squat over 700 pounds.