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Maryland football vs No. 21 Syracuse preview: The first ranked opponent of 2019

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This game will be a defining one for the Terps, win or lose. Here’s everything you need to know.

Maryland football Syracuse Terp Sarah Sopher / Testudo Times

After starting the Mike Locksley era out on a high note with a 79-0 win over Howard last weekend, Maryland will host No. 21 Syracuse in Week 2. After putting the college football world on notice with their shutout last weekend, the Terps could make another statement this weekend with a win over one of the top teams in the nation.

The Orange enter Saturday’s matchup with the same record as the Terps after beating Liberty 24-0 in Lynchburg, Virginia, in Week 1.

Saturday’s game is slated for a noon ET kickoff, and the action can be watched on ESPN and listened on 105.7 FM (Balt) and 980 AM (DC).

Syracuse Orange

2018 record: 10-3 (6-2 ACC)

Camping Bowl Champions (Vs. West Virginia, 34-18)

Head coach Dino Babers is going on his fourth year, posting a record of 18-19 in his previous three seasons with the team. Prior to his tenure with the Orange, Babers was head coach at Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green for two years each. Babers led the Panthers to Ohio Valley Championships in 2012 and 2013, and more recently led the Falcons to a MAC Championship in 2015. During his time at Bowling Green, Babers had three wins over Big Ten opponents, including Indiana in 2014, as well as Purdue and Maryland in 2015.

Players to know

Tommy DeVito, redshirt sophomore quarterback, 6’2”, 212 lbs, No. 13. With the departure of four-year starting quarterback Eric Dungey, DeVito was the next man up after serving as the Syracuse second-string quarterback last season. DeVito made his debut against Western Michigan last season and was crucial in the Orange’s victories over Florida State and North Carolina. During his redshirt freshman season, DeVito completed 44-of-87 passes for 525 yards and threw four touchdowns and three interceptions last season.

In his first start of the 2019 season last week against Liberty, DeVito, who is viewed as more of a pocket-passing quarterback compared to Dungey, completed 17-of-35 passes for 176 yards and two interceptions.

Alton Robinson, senior defensive lineman, 6’4”, 260 lbs, No. 94. One of the most explosive athletes on Syracuse’s defensive line, Robinson is making his third year as a starter at the defensive end position. Last season, Robinson led all Syracuse defensive linemen with 39 tackles and tied fellow Orange defensive lineman Kendall Coleman with an ACC-leading 10 sacks. (Coleman will also play Saturday, and he finished the 2018 season with 32 tackles, including 12 for loss.) In his 2019 debut, Robinson had five total tackles and ½ sack.

Chris Fredrick, redshirt senior defensive back, 5’11’, 198 lbs, No. 3. After starting the last 31 games for the Orange, Fredrick returns as one of Syracuse’s starting cornerbacks. Fredrick was fifth on the team in tackles with 56 and second on the Orange with three interceptions. Last week, the redshirt senior recorded seven total tackles, which was the second-most on the team. Along with senior safety Evan Foster, Fredrick is one of the more experienced players on Syracuse’s secondary.

Strength

Defense. Loaded with playmakers in the trenches and on the back end, Syracuse’s defense should overflow into the 2019 season. Last year, the Orange allowed an average of 27 points per game, which was the 6th best in the ACC and 64th in the nation.

Up front, Syracuse has Alton Robinson and Kendall Coleman who are looking to build off their double-digit sack season in 2018. But the Orange’s linemen aren’t the only ones with experience, as their secondary features Chris Fredrick, Evan Foster and second-year free safety Andre Cisco. As a freshman, Cisco made an instant impact for Syracuse, tying for the NCAA lead in interceptions (7) to earn All-American honors.

Weakness

Turnovers. Although Syracuse had a +13 turnover margin last season, which was the best in the ACC and the 5th best in the nation, the Orange struggled with ball protection against Liberty. Most teams that have two interceptions and one fumble do not win a game in a meaningful fashion like Syracuse did.

Making his debut as the go-to guy, quarterback Tommy DeVito gave the ball away twice to the Flames. Babers said that part of the issue was due to a lack of chemistry between his starting quarterback and wide receivers, but that’s obviously not a habit that the Orange want to continue this season.

Luckily for Syracuse, its defense bailed them out in Week 1 by recording two interceptions, recovering two fumbles en route to their shutout. The Orange also didn’t allow a Liberty rushing yard, and the Flames finished with negative four rushing yards.

Three things to watch

  1. Does Josh Jackson continue his success against a former ACC-foe? Coming off his Terp debut that included 245 passing yards and four touchdowns, Maryland quarterback Josh Jackson gets to introduce himself to Syracuse for the first time in his career. But after facing an FCS opponent, Syracuse will be the first ranked team that Jackson faces in his Maryland career. It should be interesting to see how Jackson responds in what appears to be a crucial game for the Maryland football program.
  2. How will the offensive line fair against Syracuse’s pass rush? Prior to the season, Bleacher Report ranked Syracuse’s defensive line as the 6th best defensive line in the country, which includes playmakers like Alton Robinson and Kendall Coleman. While Maryland’s offensive line didn’t allow any sacks against Howard, quarterback Josh Jackson still took a few hits. While Maryland offensive linemen Sean Christie and Terrance Davis have 25 and 28 starts, respectively, Johnny Jordan and Marcus Minor have a total of 11 games started between them. Tackle Jaelyn Duncan will be making his first-career start on Saturday as the position battle between him and Ellis McKennie continues.
  3. What kind of crowd turns up on Saturday? Syracuse head coach Dino Babers and Maryland head coach Mike Locksley have been vocal in getting fans to come to the game on Saturday. While Locksley wants people to come out to “The Shell,” Babers has asked any Syracuse alumni located in Maryland and D.C. to come support the team. Last season, not many people, mostly students, attended football games. If the Terps are able to beat the Orange, will this be the game that draws more support and interest from Maryland fans?

Predictions

Vegas: Maryland -1.5, O/U 57.5 (as of 1 a.m. ET Friday)

ESPN FPI: Maryland 66.8 percent to win

Me: 21-17, Syracuse

Related coverage

Opponent film breakdown: What to expect from Syracuse

Maryland football’s offense will be put to the test against Syracuse

Maryland quarterback Josh Jackson lives the ‘Hakuna Matata’ way

Maryland football set the tone for its 2019 season in a dominant debut

5 takeaways from Maryland football’s 79-0 win over Howard