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Behind Enemy Lines: Q/A with Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician ahead of Maryland-Syracuse

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Get to know the No. 21 Orange before Saturday’s tilt.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Western Michigan Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland football is staying at home in Week 2, hosting No. 21 Syracuse Orange for its first ranked matchup of the season. Syracuse is coming off a 24-0 victory over Liberty and will look to take down the Terps with its high powered defense.

We talked with Syracuse site Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician to get some inside info on the team ahead of the Saturday’s contest. We also answered a few of their questions too, and you can find that here.

With Dino Babers going into his fourth season at the helm, what are the expectations for the 2019 season?

After finishing in the top 25 last year and given 2019’s easier schedule, most Orange fans are expecting to be ranked once again this year. There’s a chance Syracuse falls short of that replacing some offensive linemen, the linebackers and especially Eric Dungey at quarterback. But there’s a real chance this group could wind up in the Orange Bowl if they go 9-3 and just happen to finished ranked higher in the final College Football Playoff rankings than any other ACC team. Think fans think somewhere in the 7-5 to 9-3 range is most realistic.

What are your biggest takeaways from the first game of the season?

This defense is potentially better than last year’s, given the front four’s ability to get after the quarterback (as a team SU had eight sacks against Liberty) and the four forced turnovers. The offense, however, is definitely not as sharp as it was at its peak last year. O-line turnover definitely took its toll and needs a little more time to gel. Tommy DeVito had some trouble settling down as a passer, and communication seemed a bit off with receivers, so that’s definitely something that needs to be addressed ASAP. All of that said, Babers ran the most basic offense he could last week, so it’s not too surprising execution lacked.

What has the team stressed so far in practice this week?

Dino doesn’t share a ton around practices, but if one were to guess: Figuring out the correct offensive line configuration, trying to shut down Josh Jackson as a runner and most importantly, getting DeVito and these wideouts on the same page. Syracuse’s went a bit slower than normal last week, so hopefully getting back up to the goal of 100 or so plays per game means everyone’s in a better rhythm. DeVito’s rapport with Michigan State transfer receiver Trishton Jackson, in particular, is something that we’ll be watching for improvement compared to week one.

Do you think Tommy DeVito is ready to go on the road and beat a quality team?

I think he’s ready and capable of doing it. But admittedly, we haven’t seen much from him on the road just yet. His two biggest outings last year were wins over North Carolina and Florida State at home. And last week looked a little shaky at Liberty. Hoping that’s just first game nerves and making adjustments. As much as he definitely had a few overthrows and some questionable decisions, drops and tipped balls factored in as well, and he looked a lot crisper in the second half.

Syracuse has a highly regarded defense, but what can people expect from its offense this season?

The offense will go as DeVito goes, though you should also expect to see a lot more from the running backs than we have to this point. While Babers may have seemed like a pass-happy guy at Syracuse and previous stops, it’s the run game that’s actually most critical to this offense -- and the aspect of the game Dino prefers to emphasize (especially because it pulls in the defense to open up the downfield passing attack). In his first three years, the quarterback position has been a large part of the run game with Dungey taking up a lot of carries. DeVito’s unlikely to be that guy, so that means more handoffs than we’ve seen since 2016. The offense may take a step back in terms of production, but also wind up more efficient than it was last season.

Who is the most dangerous player for Syracuse that Maryland fans should keep an eye on?

Senior defensive end Alton Robinson is critical to the Orange pass rush and the increased attention on him last week set up several sacks for players like Kendall Coleman and Josh Black in week one. Robinson’s an NFL-caliber talent who had 10 sacks last year and collected a half-sack against Liberty last week. He’s quick, strong and has a variety of moves in his repertoire to get around opposing lines. That makes him a handful more often than not.

What do you make of the early line movement on the game, with Maryland now favored?

I think a lot of bettors saw the 79 points Maryland scored last week, compared it to the 24 Syracuse scored and put money down accordingly on the Terps who were a slight underdog at the time. That action caused things to flip, but with a margin of less than a field goal, it’s going to be a tight matchup regardless. Most advanced projections have this one as a bit of a coin flip, so the line hanging where it is shouldn’t surprise, with a slight advantage to the home team.

Do you expect a sizable contingent of Syracuse fans to make the trek?

I’d say so. It’s a reasonably easy drive from Syracuse and NYC/New Jersey, plus the DMV region is also one of the bigger hubs for SU alums. Would expect a strong turnout, especially given the hype around the Orange this year. I was at the last game down in College Park back in 2013 and a lot of Syracuse fans showed up that day too for a much worse team.

The Orange play Clemson a week after this game. Is there a chance they overlook the Terps?

Dino Babers has been emphasizing how important it is not to overlook Liberty and Maryland since the schedule came out, so I don’t think this group is going to look past the Terps at all. If they lose, the bigger culprit will be the offensive issues from last week not necessarily being ironed out yet, plus the mistakes that likely causes. SU’s entire team understands what’s at stake with a win: Most notably, College Gameday almost definitely heading to Syracuse for the Clemson game.

Prediction time: Who wins this one and how? (plus a final score)

Syracuse’s defense winds up generating some great pressure, and the secondary forces another couple turnovers to help seal the deal in a very close 31-28 win. DeVito isn’t perfect, but operating at full speed with a more extensive playbook than last week, he gets into a much better rhythm and is able to guide an improved passing game. Jackson still has an effective outing for Maryland, but the takeaways wind up being the deciding factor. Even with the win, though, pretty never-wracking afternoon for Orange fans.

Thanks again to for taking the time here. Be sure to check out Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician for everything Syracuse, and follow the site on Twitter, too.