Syracuse heads to Cincinnati for a noon game on ESPN this Saturday. If Syracuse can pull out a victory, the win would be absolutely crucial in their quest for a bowl game. The win would also bring the Orange above .500 for the first time all season.
The Bearcats are led offensively by quarterback Munchie Legeaux, who has thrown for almost 1600 yards and 13 touchdowns on the season. More importantly for Legaux however, is his ability to use his feet to make plays, much like BJ Daniels of USF last week. Legaux has ran for 6 yards per carry on the season, and will likely look to run a lot against a Syracuse defense that gave up over 250 yards on the ground last week.
Another big piece on offense for the Bearcats is senior running back George Winn. Winn has found success on the ground this season, with 732 yards rushing for the Bearcats. Winn averages more yards per game on the ground than any other runner in conference play, along with being the Big East’s second leading rusher per game overall for the season.
Defensively, Cincinnati is led by senior linebacker Greg Blair. Blair leads the team in tackles by far, and is also a team leader in interceptions. Maalik Bomar is also a returning play maker from last season for the Bearcats, and the Orange are going to have their hands full trying to get a running game going with these two stopping the run.
If Syracuse is going to win this game, it is again going to take a big game from Ryan Nassib through the air. Cincinnati has the worst pass defense in the Big East this season, and Nassib will have to continue that trend if the Orange are going to put points on the scoreboard. Nassib has thrown for almost 2500 yards, and will need to have a huge day this Saturday to add to those totals.
Another key to this game is to slow down the Cincinnati running game. Both Munchie Legaux and George Winn average 6 yards per carry, and the Orange are going to have to limit them if they are going to be successful. The Syracuse defense had a tough day on the ground last week, but have been solid on the season at stopping the run. I believe Syracuse should be able to contain George Winn, and the game can be made or broken with the play of Munchie Legaux.
If the defense can force Munchie out of the pocket, it had been proven that he can make some freshman decisions when throwing the ball under duress. Should Syracuse force some bad throws, it could lead to some great field position and/or points on the scoreboard. If the Orange can protect the ball on offense while forcing a few turnovers on defense, they will have a shot at the win.
One final key for the Orange this weekend is that they can’t fall behind early like last week. While the comeback was great against South Florida a week ago, Cincinnati is a much better team that knows how to win and close out games. If Syracuse gives up an early lead, the Bearcats are much more capable of stepping on the throat and putting it away if they have a window to. I’m not saying the Orange need to jump out to an early lead (although that would be nice), but if they find themselves down 20 at halftime again it is highly unlikely they will make a comeback like they did last week.
The spread is currently Syracuse +4 for this game. I believe that with the reeling nature of Cincinnati right now, coupled with the fact that Syracuse has been playing for their postseason lives, the Orange will head to Ohio and get out of there with a win Saturday.