Four Downs returns a mere 10 hours before tomorrow’s kickoff against West Virginia. Let’s get right to it.
1. How will Delone Carter’s absence affect the Syracuse offense?
Carter is currently listed as doubtful for the game with a hamstring injury, meaning more work should be placed on the shoulders of Doug Houge, who has been pushed aside for the most part behind Curtis Brinkley and Carter. Carter has been a very good compliment to Brinkley this year, but this week Syracuse will again have to count on their other backs to lead the way. West Virginia is pretty stout against the run (ranked 38th in the country) so the offense will need them both to produce in order to take pressure of Cameron Dantley.
2. What percentage of third downs will West Virginia convert?
It definitely isn’t a sexy stat, but anyone who knows anything about football will tell you that winning the battle on third downs will go a long way in leading you to victory. Currently the Orange defense is ranked second to last in the country, allowing their opponents to convert 62.2% of their third down attempts. This included allowing Pitt to convert 3 of 4 chances in the fourth quarter with the game on the line.
Conversely, West Virginia’s offense is 34th in the country on third down, converting 44.4% of their attempts. If Syracuse has any hope in this game, the defense needs to play almost perfect football. And that includes stopping the Mountaineers on third down.
It also means containing Pat White, who last year finished 12-15 for 148 yards passing, along with 89 yards rushing. That was an improvement for the Syracuse defense, which allowed White to run for 247 yards and 4 TDs in 2006.
3. How will Syracuse play on the road?
After a four game homestand, the Orange will find themselves out of Central New York for a remainder of the season. Three of the next four and five of the final seven games are road contests, with only Louisville and UConn left to visit the dome in 2008.
As with many things, the Orange have struggled on the road under Greg Robinson’s watch (then again they haven’t really set the world ablaze at home either). Here are their home and road splits since 2005:
It is pretty obvious Syracuse can’t win on the road, especially in Big East play where we have only managed one victory which was last year at Louisville. But if this team wants to salvage their season and save their coach they will need to start winning on the road, which is no easy task in Morgantown. Maybe Syracuse can catch WVU sleeping as they look forward to next week’s game against Auburn.
4. Which West Virginia will show up?
The Mountaineers are off to an atypical slow start to the year, suffering early losses to East Carolina and Colorado and struggling to beat a less than stellar Rutgers team. So will that be the team lining up across from Syracuse on Saturday? Or will it be the team that has beaten us by an average of 37-13 the last three seasons?
My guess is it will likely be the later instead of the former. Pat White and Noel Devine shouldn’t have much trouble carving up our awesome run defense (current rank: 106th in the country) and Bill Stewart should be able to avoid the negative press for another week, unlike Greg Robinson.
West Virginia 38- Syracuse 17