- Matt Fortuna, College Football
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Record: 2-4, 1-1 Big East
In many ways, the Orange can be accused of playing to their competition. And that lack of consistency is a big reason why they are in danger of missing a bowl game for the second straight season.
Much of the preseason talk surrounding Syracuse this summer revolved around its difficult nonconference schedule, with early-season games against Northwestern and USC. The Orange played admirably late against the Wildcats and gave the Trojans a scare at the Meadowlands, but both games ultimately ended with Syracuse defeated, leading Andrea and I to call the Orange the best 0-2 team in the country. Now, they are simply what their record states they are.
Sure, Syracuse could easily be 5-1. If it plays as well against Stony Brook and Minnesota as it did in its first two games, maybe things are different. Instead, the Orange survived a home scare against the FCS SeaWolves and lost to a Golden Gophers team that was playing without its starting quarterback. That led coach Doug Marrone to publicly state he was shouldering the load of the blame entering the team's bye week, and it responded by taking down Pitt at home on a Friday night.
Of course, that celebration was short-lived, as the Orange coughed it up four times against Rutgers and ruined their chances for a huge road upset after outgaining the Scarlet Knights by nearly 200 yards.
So the Orange enter the second half of the season having lost nine of their last 11 games overall, with another Friday night home tilt on-deck, against old friend Paul Pasqualoni and UConn. A winnable game, sure, as most others will be in the second half.
But Syracuse needs to get it together fast, and, in a reversal from earlier this season, its offense needs to match the recent play of its defense.
Offensive MVP: QB Ryan Nassib. The fifth-year senior has cooled off a bit after an early-season tear. Nassib completed just less than 66 percent of his passes through three games for 1,139 yards, with nine touchdowns and three picks. He currently has a 59.5 percent completion rate, for 1,908 yards with 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Defensive MVP: DE Brandon Sharpe. Sharpe is second in the Big East with 5.5 sacks on the season, trailing only UConn's Trevardo Williams. His nine tackles for loss are also tied for second in the conference as well, behind UConn's Yawin Smallwood. Sharpe's four-sack performance in a win over Pitt may be the Big East's best single-game defensive performance this season.