The Syracuse Orange football team hasn't received many breaks this season, but Thursday it got a big one as the Columbia Tribune's Dave Matter reported Missouri Tigers star defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson has been suspended for Saturday's non-conference showdown at Memorial Stadium (7 p.m. ET on ESPNU).
According to KOMU-TV, the suspension is academic-related.
A source close to the program says Richardson violated teams rules for skipping class multiple times and then failed to complete work assigned to him by the team as a punishment.
The school declined to comment on the matter.
The loss of Richardson (6'4, 295) is huge for the Tigers, who need one victory to become bowl eligible for a school record eighth straight season and have the No. 9-ranked Texas A&M Aggies as their final regular-season opponent.
Richardson, who leads Missouri and all SEC interior lineman in tackles (70), was expected to be the biggest defensive threat to the Syracuse offense, as he was going to lineup against an undersized center, Macky MacPherson (6'2, 282), and a struggling guard, Rob Trudo (6'3, 282).
"He's an outstanding player," Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone said about Richardson Thursday at his weekly press conference. "He's a potential first-round draft pick in the NFL.
"He can cause a lot of problems, and he has for many teams, he's a helluva player. He's one that we will be watching on Sunday, and whatever favorite team you have, you want them to draft this kid."
According to the SB Nation blog Rock M Nation, Richardson can be replaced by a talented defensive line corps, however, it will be tough.
A defense is more than one person, and Mizzou still has a good defensive line without Richardson, but there's no question that his suspension lowers the ceiling of the Missouri defense. Losing your best player tends to do that. This does a favor to an already solid Syracuse offensive line and puts pressure on other members of the front seven to make up the difference.
Syracuse enters the game with an offense which ranks 20th in the nation in passing (301.9 yards per game) and 56th in rushing (167.9 ypg). The Orange (5-5) also need one more victory to become bowl eligible for just the second time in eight seasons.