Syracuse (5-5) at Missouri (5-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 17, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Memorial Stadium (38,000) -- Columbia, Missouri. Television: ESPN U. Home Record: Syracuse 4-1, Missouri 3-3. Away Record: Syracuse 1-3, Missouri 2-2. Neutral Record: Syracuse 0-1, Army 0-0. Conference Record: Syracuse 2-4, Missouri 2-5. Series Record: Syracuse leads 2-0.
GAME NOTES: Coming off its biggest win of the season, the Syracuse Orange travel south to take on the Missouri Tigers at Memorial Stadium.
While Texas A&M's win over No. 1 Alabama grabbed the headlines, Syracuse posted a big upset over an undefeated team as well last weekend. The Orange dominated the then No. 11 Louisville Cardinals en route to stunning 45-26 win at the Carrier Dome. Syracuse evened its overall record to 5-5 with the win which includes a solid 4-2 mark against conference foes.
It took just about everything Missouri had but it managed to pull out its second SEC win of the season on Saturday with a 51-48 marathon overtime affair against Tennessee. The win was the first on the road for the Tigers since a 21-16 win against UCF at the end of September. Missouri is also 5-5 this season overall and just a win away from bowl eligibility in its first season in the SEC.
This is the first matchup between these two squads since a home-and-home series during the 1986 and 1987 series. Syracuse won both of those contests.
The normally potent passing attack of Syracuse, took a backseat to the rushing game in the win over Louisville. The Orange piled up 278 yards and three touchdowns on the ground in the win, but also showed balance with 246 yards through the air.
Jerome Smith continued to quietly put together one of the better seasons in the Big East by a running back. Smith rushed for 144 yards on 18 carries and scored a touchdown as well. Smith is now the third most productive back in the conference with 875 yards.
Such a huge win for Syracuse last weekend overshadowed a huge accomplishment by Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib. After his efforts on Saturday, Nassib now hold the Big East record for career completions (738). The senior had a solid game and completed 15-of-23 pass attempts for 246 yard and three touchdowns. Nassib also passed Donovan McNabb for second on the Syracuse all-time passing list (8,460). Breaking records like that highlights what has been a spectacular season from Nassib. He has thrown for a Big East leading 3,019 yards this season while completing 63.4 percent of his passes and tying for the conference leading with 21 touchdown passes.
No quarterback can succeed without receivers he can rely on and Nassib has benefited from having plenty in that regard. Chief among those options is Alec Lemon who leads the Big Eat in receiving yards per game (82.8) and has accumulated 53 receptions for 745 yards on the year. Lemon finished with 176 yards against Louisville and also had a pair of touchdown receptions. Marcus Sales (52 receptions, 732 yards, 7 TDs) and Jarrod West (38 receptions, 528 yards) have also been productive this season with each ranking in the top 10 in the Big East in receiving.
What has held Syracuse back this season is its play on the defensive side of the ball. The Orange are tied for the second worst scoring defense in the Big East (26.1 ppg) and are ranked sixth in total defense (379.7 ypg). Even in the win over Louisville the Orange was still torched for 472 yards, 424 of which came through the air.
In terms of individual efforts, Syracuse has had a number of solid producers on defense. Shamarko Thomas leas the team with 72 tackles and has also collected a pair of interceptions and forced three fumbles. Brandon Sharpe (13.0 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks) and Dyshawn Davis (9.0 tackles for loss) have been menaces to opposing backfields.
Missouri has largely fought to a stand still this season and not just in terms of its record. Missouri has had a positive scoring differential, but by only the slightest of margins (+0.2) as the team scores 25.3 points and allows 25.1 points per game. Missouri's scoring average is one of the worst in the SEC (12th) which is in line with the Tigers' total offensive production (332.8 ypg), ranking 11th.
A nagging knee injury has slowed down dual-threat quarterback James Franklin this season but he has begun to look back to form in recent weeks. He threw for 226 yards and four touchdowns against Tennessee last week. Franklin also added 43 yards on the ground. When healthy Franklin is a real threat in Missouri's up-tempo offense. Overall this season, Franklin has completed 57.8 percent of his passes, for 1,283 yards and eight touchdowns in eight games. He has struggled with ball security though with seven interceptions.
Missouri's offense may run at a high rate but there is still a great deal of balance for the Tigers. Missouri has rushed for 1,353 yards as a team, led by Kendial Lawrence, who has put up 819 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. Lawrence was particularly effective against Tennessee, rushing for 153 yards and a pair of scores, including a 77-yard scamper on the first play of the second half.
With such turbulence at quarterback this season Missouri has not had an established pass catcher rise to prominence. Marcus Lucas (39 receptions, 406 yards, 3 TDs) is the primary option but he has only averaged 40.6 yards per game.
Missouri has held its own in the SEC, a conference known for defense. Although it does not rank near the top of the conference with squads like Alabama and LSU, the Tigers have been respectable ranking seventh in total defense thus far (353.3 ypg). Missouri's success has come due in part to its ability to create negative plays. The Tigers are tied for second in the conference currently with 77 tackles for loss.
Sheldon Richardson and Will Ebner have been the two stalwarts for the Missouri defense. Each has recorded a team-high 70 tackles this season, while Ebner has a team-leading 10,5 tackles for loss. Richardson has also done his part in terms of getting in the backfield with 9.5 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks.
The postseason is just a win away for Missouri and the Tigers will need to play with urgency in this game because it could be there best chance to capture that decisive sixth win since next week the Tigers take on No. 9 Texas A&M in College Station. Syracuse has the offense to compete, but could suffer a letdown after its big upset win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Missouri 35, Syracuse 30
11/14 10:39:55 ET