CONNECTICUT HUSKIES (3-4)
at SYRACUSE ORANGE (2-4)
Kickoff: Friday, 8:00 p.m. EDT
Line: Syracuse -4, Total: 43.5
A pair of struggling Big East offenses meet up in the Carrier Dome on Friday night when Syracuse hosts Connecticut.
UConn's Paul Pasqualoni will coach his first game at Syracuse on the visiting sideline. He won 104 games at Syracuse from 1991 to 2004. Pasqualoni's Huskies won last year's meeting 28-21 at home, marking their fifth straight win (SU and ATS) in this series. Both teams are suffering through four-game ATS losing skids. UConn has lost three of those games outright, failing to reach 100 rushing yards in any of those three defeats. Syracuse has not eclipsed 15 points in its past three games, due in part to nine turnovers.
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The Huskies should get their top offensive player back this week in RB Lyle McCombs, who missed the last game with a wrist injury. He'll have a small cast on his hand, but that has been adjusted so McCombs can properly carry the football. McCombs ran all over the Orange in last year's 28-21 win with 152 rushing yards and a touchdown on 24 carries (6.3 YPC). Connecticut QB Chandler Whitmer has not been effective this season with 6 TD and 10 INT, but he is coming off his best game of the year, completing 22-of-39 passes for 293 yards, 2 TD and 0 INT in last week's 17-14 loss to Temple. Seven UConn receivers have each caught at least a dozen passes this year, but only TE Ryan Griffin (3 TD) has scored more than once. The offense as a whole needs to protect the football better, piling up 16 giveaways in seven games this year. However, Syracuse is not a ball-hawking defense, totaling just five takeaways in seven contests, tallying only one over the past three games combined. UConn's defense has been outstanding all season, ranking sixth in the nation in total yards allowed (261 YPG) and 16th in FBS in scoring defense (16.3 PPG). However, the run-stop unit has surrendered 155 rushing YPG in the past three weeks, a huge jump from the 58 rushing YPG allowed in the first four games of the season.
Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib is the Big East leader in total offense, and also ranks ninth in the nation with his 330 total YPG. However, he has struggled in his past three contests with just 2 TD and 5 INT in leading his team to a woeful 13.0 PPG during this stretch. He hasn't been great in his past two starts in this series either, completing just 59% of his passes for 446 yards (5.9 YPA), 2 TD and 3 INT. For him to return to prominence, he and WR Marcus Sales need to get on the same page. Sales started the season with 350 receiving yards and 4 TD in the first three games, but has just 195 yards and 1 TD in the past three contests. The Orange have seen their rushing yards drop in each of the past three games too, going from a season-high 214 versus Stony Brook to 122, 120 and then just 62 in last week's 23-15 loss at Rutgers. The team has also been held to 154 rushing yards on 63 carries (2.4 YPC) in the past two meetings with UConn. Defensively, Syracuse has done an outstanding job of stuffing the run in Big East play, limiting Pittsburgh and Rutgers to a combined 112 rushing yards on 73 carries (1.5 YPC). Senior DE Brandon Sharpe (5.5 sacks, 9 TFL) anchors a strong front seven that leads the Big East with 7.8 Tackles For Loss per game.