As the Syracuse Orange comes off its bye week, through luck, bad calls and five defibrillators later, a 4-2 record has the Orange squarely in bowl contention.
This is largely due in part to the offense.
In all four of Syracuse’s wins, the offense was a huge reason Doug Marrone’s team has come away victorious. The one time the defense shut down an opponent, the offense literally threw the game away to Rutgers.
This is what has to be kept in mind when evaluating the Orange at both the metaphorical and actual midterm: consistency is a word the Orange may know, but not one it acts upon. Therefore, the Orange offense is given a satisfactory mark with an overall grade of a B-.
Offensively, Syracuse is middle of the pack based purely on numbers. The 26.7 points/game is 73rd in the nation with the passing per game in the same range (220.3 for 71st), while the rushing is in need of improvement (113.2 for 99th).
Looking at the film, the Syracuse offense is much more redeeming. Quarterback Ryan Nassib is the star of the team, managing the game flawlessly early in the season racking up 1,294 yards and 11 touchdowns. Nassib has struggled in recent weeks, but whether this is a result of nicks, constant pressure or a combination of both, it does not really matter at this point.
What does matter is that he needs to keep playing well if the Orange offense wants to be anywhere near effective against Big East competition. Unfortunately, he is not getting much help from many, including his receivers.
Nick Provo has been Nassib’s most consistent target and has been recognized for his efforts with Mackey Award contention. Provo is averaging 12 yards a catch and has two touchdowns so far, with more sure to come as Nassib’s receiving corps has yet to entirely show up since Week 1.
Alec Lemon has been as consistent as they come, snagging 30 catches for 322 yards and three touchdowns, all team leads. However behind him, Van Chew has become as cold as a Syracuse winter. After grabbing 15 catches for 240 yards and three touchdowns the first three weeks, he has failed to find the end zone on five catches for a mere 59 yards since.
Dorian Graham came on strong against Tulane and can offer a nice alternative to Chew, but one performance against the Green Wave won’t turn too many heads…yet.
Of course Syracuse wants to run the ball and the loss of Prince Tyson-Gulley only means Antwon Bailey gets more work this season. The senior has already rushed for 533 yards and five scores, averaging 4.5 yards a carry. These numbers are just more proof that the “A-Train” is ready to roll for both the flashy and tough yards in an effort to balance Nassib’s air attack.
However, neither of these athletes will get to shine if the offensive line continues to struggle. Week in and week out, the Orange line has failed to consistently win the battle in the trenches and the entire offense has suffered because of it. Nassib’s displeasure is beginning to show as the line has essentially limited the game plan to short throws and misdirection runs.
To be frank, if the Orange offense is going to improve, it must start up front and eventually trickle back to the rest of the unit. Hopefully, the bye week offered time to iron out issues as this unit will need their A-game to take down West Virginia.