Syracuse coach blunt about Bulls' dominance
TAMPA -- Syracuse coach Doug Marrone had his team much closer to USF than ever before in last year's 34-20 loss, but that didn't stop him from bluntly conceding the Bulls' dominance over the Orange during their five meetings as Big East rivals.
"We're getting ready to play a team that, since arriving in the Big East, has really dominated us," Marrone said during Monday's Big East coaches conference call. "They're coming off probably their most complete game vs. Florida Atlantic. I think they're a better team right now than they were a year ago. There's a lot more discipline and hustle. No disrespect to the other staff, but they seem to be really buying into what Coach Holtz is doing and really playing well. This team has really dominated us. In the five years that we've played them, they averaged 24 points more per game, 209 yards of total offense and 163 yards of rushing offense. We have a difficult task going down there, but we're a much more competitive team than we were a year ago, and our objective is to go out there and win a football game against an excellent football team."
Syracuse actually outgained the Bulls by 11 yards last season and were within 50 rushing yards of USF, but in the four previous meetings, the Bulls outgained the Orange by at least 245 total yards in each game. Interestingly, Marrone said he thought USF's defensive line -- a strength of the team last season with George Selvie and Jason Pierre-Paul -- might be better this season.
"The quarterback's going into his second year -- he's extremely dangerous, and they have some receivers coming back for him, and I think their defensive line is better than it was last year in my personal opinion," he said.
USF coach Skip Holtz had high praise for Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib, who as a first-year starter has the highest passer efficiency rating in the league, tying for the conference high with nine touchdowns against only two interceptions. He's done that against two I-AA teams in Maine and Colgate, along with an 0-5 Akron team. In his one game against a BCS conference opponent, Nassib went 17-of-35 for 202 yards, a touchdown and interception in a 41-20 loss at Washington.
On Saturday, he'll face a tougher challenge, as USF has the conference's No. 1 pass defense (161.5 yards per game) and also has the Big East's top pass efficiency defense.