The Orange have been the doormat of the Big East for the last several seasons, but that label can now be lifted following the team's shocking 19-14 upset at 20th-ranked West Virginia last weekend. That now makes Syracuse 2-1 within the league, with its other victory coming at South Florida, 13-9, earlier this month. The Orange have already topped last year's win totals, when the team finished 4-8 overall and just 1-6 in the Big East.
As for the Bearcats, they are coming off their first league loss in quite some time, dropping a 38-30 decision to South Florida last Friday. The loss ended Cincinnati's 13-game conference winning steak and marked the team's first setback in 14 games at Nippert Stadium. The two-time defending Big East champions are now in need of a victory to keep pace for another conference title.
Cincinnati leads the head-to-head series with Syracuse, 5-4, courtesy of a 28-7 victory in last season's meeting.
The Orange didn't do much on offense last weekend, but four field goals by Ross Krautman propelled the team to a 19-14 upset of WVU. The offense did punch in one TD to complement the field goals and the Orange also racked up 183 yards on the ground to help move the chains. Antwon Bailey led the way with 94 yards on 19 carries, while Delone Carter added 75 yards on nine totes. Syracuse is averaging a respectable 154.1 ypg on the ground this season and the team is led by Carter, who has gained 637 yards and six TDs. QB Ryan Nassib has been mostly asked to manage the offense and he did so last weekend, completing just 5-of-15 pass attempts for 63 yards and a TD. He avoided any turnovers, which was crucial in such a close game, and Nassib has now tossed 12 TDs against only four INTs for the season. Van Chew has been his favorite target with 498 receiving yards, and he grabbed an important 29-yard TD pass in the upset of WVU.
Defensively, Syracuse was sensational last weekend and pretty much won the game versus WVU. Not only did the Orange keep WVU off the scoreboard for the final three quarters, but the unit also recorded three INTs, which led to a field goal each time. The Orange had just four INTs going into the game, so it was a remarkable effort. Doug Hogue had a pair of INTs, to go with a team-high 10 tackles, while Chandler Jones logged eight stops and two of the team's five sacks. Jones now has a team-high four sacks to his credit, and Hogue ranks third in tackles with 49 for a defense that is limiting foes to just 301.6 total ypg for the season.
Trailing for the entire game, the Bearcats rolled up 590 total yards, including an whopping 512 through the air, but it still wasn't enough to overcome USF in a 38-30 setback last week. Cincinnati had a chance to possibly tie things up, but its final drive ended when backup QB Chazz Anderson threw an incomplete pass at USF's 15-yard line with seven seconds remaining. Anderson stepped in for the final drive after starter Zach Collaros was sidelined with a leg injury. Collaros had thrown for 463 yards and three TDs prior to the injury, so he it was obviously a big blow not to have him under center when it mattered most. One of the premier gunslingers in the Big East, Collaros has thrown for 1,918 yards and 20 TDs against just four INTs, but he is listed as questionable for this weekend. Armon Binns and DJ Woods have certainly enjoyed having Collaros throw them the ball, as they have combined for over 1,300 receiving yards and 15 TDs already. Both cracked the century mark versus USF, with Binns catching 12 passes for 158 yards and two TDs, while Woods went for 137 yards on nine receptions. Isaiah Pead never really got going against USF with Cincinnati always trailing, but he leads a solid ground attack with 595 yards behind a 7.7 yard per carry average.
Facing what was supposed to be an inept offense, the Bearcats were burnt by several big plays in the loss to USF. The Bearcats surrendered several pass plays of 30 or more yards, including two that went for 64 and 70 yards, respectively. USF completed an efficient 13-of-16 pass attempts for 286 yards, averaging 17.9 yards per attempt. It was a poor showing from the defense of Cincinnati, which is now allowing 261.4 ypg through the air. The Bearcats have surrendered 13 passing TDs with just two INTs in 239 attempts, simply poor numbers. JK Schaffer heads this unit, which has had success in limiting foes to only 106.3 rushing ypg, with 60 stops.
Syracuse is coming off an impressive victory and the defense will need to be every bit as good this weekend. The Bearcats though, have plenty of weapons at their disposal and they should shine in a big rebound victory.