The stakes are high for both Cincinnati and Syracuse when they square off on Saturday at noon in the Carrier Dome. The Bearcats still have hopes of winning the Big East Conference while the Orange (5-5) will be hoping to get bowl eligible. The fact that Saturday’s game will be “Senior Day” is an added incentive for Syracuse.
Ryan Nassib (photo credit:Brian Baker/Lacking Focus Photography)
The Orange boast a balanced offensive attack featuring three stars. It all starts with junior quarterback Ryan Nassib (6’ 2”/229), who has completed 217 of 345 passes (63%) for 2,257 yards with an impressive 20 touchdowns to only 6 interceptions.
Nassib’s favorite target is fellow junior, Alec Lemon. The 6-foot-2, 202 pound wideout has 57 catches for 710 yards including six scores. Tight end Nick Provo (6’ 4”/249) is also utilized as shown by his 43 catches for 453 yards and six touchdowns.
Leading the ground attack is senior Antwon Bailey (5’ 7”/201) with 863 rushing yards on 195 carries for a 4.4 yard per carry average.
This group is protected by a smallish offensive line. Only Andrew Tiller, the starting right guard, weighs over 300 pounds, and Macky MacPherson weighs in at an uncharacteristic 269 pounds as the Orange starting center.
Another strength of this group is its ability to protect the football. Syracuse has turned the ball over only twelve times in ten games with six interceptions and six fumbles. In four of their last five games, the Orange have not committed a turnover.
Probably the biggest news on this side of the football is the fact that starting free safety Phillip Thomas was suspended for one year effective November 18. The junior was easily leading the Orange in tackles with 82 stops in nine games, and he also led his unit with six interceptions which still ranks him tied for sixth in the country. The rest of the Syracuse team has totaled only three interceptions this year. Thomas is being replaced by Orlando Fisher’s 11 tackles in five games.
With the absence of Thomas, Syracuse’s most disruptive player is weak side linebacker Dyshawn Davis (6’ 3”/213). The freshman has ten tackles for loss and four sacks.
Senior Chandler Jones (6’ 5”/265) at defensive end leads the Orange with 4.5 sacks.
Syracuse Special Teams
Ross Krautman has handled all the field goal kicking this season and has hit on 11 of 15 attempts, but he has struggled with kicks longer than 32 yards. His four misses came from 32, 34, 39 and 44 yards out. Two of those misses were blocked.
Jonathan Fisher is expected to handle the punting on Saturday. The freshman is averaging 38.6 yards a kick this season.