Syracuse looks to get above .500 for the first time all season along with ensuring themselves a spot in a bowl game as they head to Columbia, Missouri to take on the Missouri Tigers. Kickoff is set for 7:00 on ESPNU.
The Tigers have had a middle of the road season that have consisted of no real signature wins. The Tigers have five wins, but only one of those wins have come against a team with a winning record (Central Florida). Despite all of that, Missouri can become bowl eligible as well with a win today, so this is a big game for both teams.
One of the main story lines for this game is the suspension of start defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson for a violation of team rules. Richardson is tied for the team lead in tackles with 70, and losing him will really hurt this Mizzou pass rush against Ryan Nassib throughout the night. A source told ESPN.com the violation was due to missing a class multiple times, and failing to adhere to the punishment that was given to him for doing do.
The Tigers still have a pretty solid defense to fall back on, despite the loss of Richardson. Junior defensive lineman Michael Sam leads the team in sacks this season with 4.5. Senior linebacker Will Ebner is also a playmaker for the Tigers, who does a great job of making plays with 70 tackles on the season and 10.5 of them being for a loss. Missouri will definitely need these two to play big in order to help put a lot of pressure on Nassib to help keep the ball out of the hands of Marcus Sales and Alec Lemon.
Offensively, the Tigers are led by running back Kendial Lawrence. Lawrence has rushed for ten touchdowns this season, including two last week in the Tigers’ win over Tennessee. With some shaky quarterback play this season, Missouri will definitely rely on the running game a lot to try and make things easier for them through the air. Quarterback James Franklin has thrown for eight touchdowns and seven interceptions, and that includes a four touchdown performance a week ago. He has a good completion percentage, but is absolutely prone to mistakes.
If Syracuse is to win this game, they are going to have to stop the run. The Orange did a phenomenal job last week against Louisville, holding the Cardinals to just 48 yards on the ground for the afternoon. If the Orange can shut down the run, they can put themselves in a great position to win. My next point is a very easy solution to help shut down the run.
The most important thing for Syracuse to win this game is to get out to an early lead. The Orange have struggled on the road all season long, but if they can jump out to an early lead, they can force Missouri to abandon the run which would be huge. The Syracuse defense is more than capable of shutting down this Missouri offense, but is also capable of giving up massive plays that can get them beat. Syracuse is going to need a good defensive showing and great discipline if they are going to give themselves a chance at winning the game.
I think that this is going to be a very tough game for Syracuse, but this team has shown they can hang with anybody they play on their schedule. I think the momentum from last week coupled with another good game from Ryan Nassib lead the Orange to a huge victory on the road.