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Syracuse Football: Key to upsetting Florida State centers on one vital stat

Syracuse football (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
Syracuse football (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

Over the past three games, all losses for Syracuse football, the Orange has gotten totally crushed in the rushing department.

That, by extension, has resulted in this trio of ‘Cuse foes – Clemson, Notre Dame and, most recently, Pittsburgh – dominating the Orange in time of possession.

This isn’t a positive trend. For one, naturally, if opponents’ offenses are on the field for a considerable amount of time, that gives them more opportunities to score.

Moreover, methodical and sustained drives by Orange foes can gas the Syracuse football Mob defense (which has lost multiple critical players to season-ending injuries), and it also prevents the ‘Cuse offense from having its own chances to punch the ball into the end zone.

As the Orange gets set to host nationally ranked Florida State on Saturday night when it’s senior day on the Hill, a really important thing to monitor in this Atlantic Coast Conference clash is third-down conversions by each squad.

Syracuse football will face a lethal Florida State ground game on Saturday.

When the Orange (6-3, 3-2) fell at long-time rival Pitt last Saturday, 19-9, the Panthers were 7-of-16 on third-downs attempts, while the ‘Cuse was just 3-of-14, according to ESPN statistics.

Earlier this week, Syracuse football head coach Dino Babers said that the Orange has to do a better job of containing big rushing plays while the ‘Cuse is on defense.

Additionally, the Mob has to squash opponents’ drives by effectively taking care of business when the Syracuse football defense is dealing with foes’ third-down attempts.

The Seminoles (6-3, 4-3), a group that is ranked No. 25 in the latest Associated Press top-25 poll and No. 23 in updated College Football Playoff rankings, could make life extremely difficult for the ‘Cuse this Saturday at the JMA Wireless Dome.

First and foremost, FSU is No. 1 in the ACC in rushing yards per game, at 211.8, which is also in the top 20 nationally. That is a sizable edge over the Orange, which tallies 149.0 rushing yards per encounter.

The two teams, on defense, allow roughly the same number of yards on the ground per affair. But the Seminoles are excellent in converting third downs, and also in defending against third downs.

If those stats ring true versus Syracuse football, Florida State absolutely could dominate in time of possession, while giving itself more scoring opportunities, tiring out the Orange defense, and further limiting the number of times that the ‘Cuse has the ball on offense.

Per data on the NCAA’s Web site, FSU’s third-down conversion defense is 34.4 percent, or No. 36 overall. Even scarier is that the Seminoles, while on offense, convert 50 percent of their third-down attempts, which puts them in a tie for No. 12 around the country.

According to stats on, Syracuse football is converting 38.1 percent of its third-down tries, while its opponents are successful on 37.6 percent of their third-down attempts.

If the ‘Cuse doesn’t hold its own in the third-down conversion arena, on both offense and defense, then I can’t envision Syracuse football defeating Florida State to snap the Orange’s three-game setback streak.

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