The Syracuse Orange visit the South Florida Bulls Saturday for a Big East Conference football game at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL (7 p.m. ET on ESPN3 and Time Warner Cable Sports). The Orange (3-4, 2-1 Big East) will be looking for their second victory in as many weeks while the Bulls (2-5, 0-5) will be trying to snap a five-game losing streak.
The series between the two schools has been dominated by USF, which has earned wins in six of the seven meetings including last season's 37-17 victory at the Carrier Dome. In fact, in the Bulls' six victories over the Orange the average margin of victory has been 23.5 points.
Syracuse's lone win in the series came in 2010 when the Orange downed the Bulls, 13-9, on the road.
According to oddsmakers, SU will enter the contest as 3.5-point underdogs. The point spread is smaller than the opening line of 7.5 points that favored USF. This will be the fourth time this season Syracuse will enter a game as an underdog.
The over/under is currently set at 52 points.
Syracuse will more than likely be without its short-yardage running back, sophomore Adonis Ameen-Moore, slashback, freshman Ashton Broyld, and No. 1 punt returner and safety, sophomore Ritchy Desir. The Orange, however, could see the return of kick return and slot wide receiver, sophomore Jeremiah Kobena.
Meanwhile, the Bulls will be without their most experienced piece on the offensive line, senior left guard Mark Popek. Popek left last Saturday's 27-25 loss to the Louisville Cardinals with an ankle injury.
Also out for USF will be running back Willie Davis, who mainly played on special teams. Questionable for the game will be senior safety Jon Lejiste; while senior running back Demetris Murray (ankle) and junior defensive end Tevin Mims (groin) are probable.
Both squads enter the game with senior signal callers: B.J. Daniels (USF) and Ryan Nassib (SU).
Daniels will be making his fourth career start against the Orange, a team he's had mixed results against. Last season, Daniels compiled 371 total yards of offense (117 on the ground) and scored a touchdown in a 37-17 victory; In '10, Daniels completed 9 of 23 passes with 124 yards and was held to minus-1 yards rushing in a 13-9 loss; the senior's first start versus SU featured 215 passing yards (12-for-20) and 32 rushing yards in a 34-20 win.
Meanwhile, Nassib will be making his third start against the Bulls. In the the previous two games, the senior has averaged 213 passing yards and 1.5 touchdowns.
Currently, Nassib leads the Big East in passing yards (309.14, ranked ninth in the nation) and total offense (322.14, 12th). Daniels averaged just 281.43 total yards per game (third in the conference).
The scouting report
The Orange are coming off a dominating 40-10 victory over the Connecticut Huskies last Saturday. SU leads the Big East in total offense (453.6 ypg), however, is ranked sixth in scoring offense (25.3).
The Orange are led by an up-tempo no-huddle offense that features senior wide receivers Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales being Nassib's top targets. Junior running back Jerome Smith has emerged as SU's No. 1 option in the backfield. Last week, Smith ran for a career-best 133 yards on 19 carriers.
Defensively, SU has a stout run defense. Last week, the Orange held UConn to minus-6 yards rushing and two weeks prior to that held \Pittsburgh star running back Ray Graham to just 57 yards on 24 carries.
SU's Achilles heel is turnovers. The Orange are 3-0 when they have had fewer, or the same number of turnovers as their opponent, and are 0-4 when they have finished with more turnovers than their opponent.
USF is coming off a heartbreaking 2-point loss to Louisville last Saturday. The Bulls trailed by 11 points, however, was able rally but unable to close out the comeback in the final two minutes of the game.
Defensively, USF is struggling. The Bulls are ranked last in the Big East in total defense allowing 389.7 ypg and are allowing 27.4 points per game. USF is the only team in college football that does not have a defensive interception. Surprisingly, the Bulls have forced just one turnover of any kind in their last four games.
Looking at everything, all of Syracuse's flaws (turnovers, pass defense) is what USF does a lot of or can't do very well. If the Bulls are going to be successful on offense it will need to use the arm and legs of Daniels, as the Orange have a history of struggling with duel-threat quarterbacks.
However, it seems Daniels will need to have a season-best game against SU to put up enough points. I think Syracuse's defense is up to the task of stopping Daniels.
Final score: Syracuse 30, USF 24