Week 9 - Syracuse at South Florida

Posted Oct 25, 2012

Week 9 Fearless Prediction – Syracuse at South Florida

Syracuse (3-4) at South Florida (2-5) Oct. 27, 7:00, ESPN3

Here's The Deal: More than a game will be at stake in Tampa this Saturday night. Careers could hang in the balance.

Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone, South Florida head coach Skip Holtz and all of their assistants are in precarious positions as the 2012 season enters the home stretch. Neither program has played up to expectations, especially the Bulls, who had visions of a Big East title when the season began. Now, they're just hoping to achieve bowl eligibility after suffering a fifth straight heartbreaking loss, a 27-25 defeat at unbeaten Louisville.

All things being relative, the Orange has played well in October. The team is 2-1 in the month after thrashing Connecticut on Friday night, 40-10. While the toughest portion of the schedule still awaits Syracuse, it would secure a bushel full of confidence if it can win on the road and reach the .500 mark for the first time this season.

Why Syracuse Might Win: The offense enjoyed a breakout performance against Connecticut, but it's the defense that's helping keep the Orange in bowl contention.

The Syracuse D is playing extremely well, stuffing the run and holding its last six opponents to an average of just 16 points a game. The Huskies rushed for -6 yards on Friday night, bowing to the pressure of a team that's attacking the line of scrimmage with DE Brandon Sharpe, linebackers Dyshawn Davis and Siriki Diabate and S Shamarko Thomas. Not only can South Florida be a little one-dimensional with dual-threat B.J. Daniels, but the quarterback is expected to be without one of his top blockers, G Mark Popek.

Why South Florida Might Win: The Bulls are close to getting over the hump after hanging with three ranked teams, Rutgers, Florida State and Louisville.

South Florida is a break or two away from being in a very different position. Daniels is often the most dynamic player on the field, both as a runner and a passer. He'll present unique challenges to the Syracuse defense. The Orange may have exploded for 40 points a week ago, but it produced just 39 in prior three weeks combined. The Bulls possess good team speed, and a feisty back seven of their own led by CB Kayvon Webster and linebackers DeDe Lattimore and Sam Barrington.

What To Watch Out For: Both South Florida and Syracuse produced first-time 100-yard rushers last week. If either team does it again this Saturday, they'll leave Raymond James Stadium the victor.

Physical Orange RB Jerome Smith and shifty South Florida playmaker Lindsey Lamar are disparate players with a shared goal of taking some pressure off quarterbacks Ryan Nassib and Daniels, respectively. Smith was especially impressive, burrowing for only 133 yards on 19 carries against a normally tough Connecticut defense.

What Will Happen: Its back firmly pressed against the wall, South Florida is about to finally break through with a streak-busting win.

These are two equal Big East teams, with Syracuse actually playing a little better at this stage of the year. However, the road has not been kind to the Orange. Nor will Daniels and the Bulls defense. The quarterback will outduel Nassib in a very tight game, driving his team downfield for a decisive field goal late in the final quarter.

CFN Prediction: South Florida 27 … Syracuse 21
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) South Florida -5.5 O/U: 52.5
Must Watch Rating (5 – The Girl, 1 – Don't Trust The B In Apt. 23): 2