Starting the season off 2-0 is a rarity for the Orange. The last time they were in a position to begin undefeated through the first three weeks was 2018 where they won 10 games. There’s a chance of a repeat of that magical season from a few years ago, but their biggest test, so far, rolls into town on Saturday.
The Purdue Boilermakers, while 1-1 on the season, are not to be overlooked by head coach Dino Babers and the Orange.
Purdue lost their week one contest to Penn State, 35-31, in dramatic fashion, and blew out Indiana State in their week two matchup, 56-0. Both games told different stories for the Boilermakers, but that shouldn’t take away from how good they are when everybody on the field is clicking.
An average of 327 passing yards per game and just over four yards per carry paints a clear picture of how dominant their offense can be. The play-caller is Aidan O’Connell, a sixth year who walked on in 2017 in hopes of becoming the starting quarterback. His wish was granted in 2021 when he was named the starter and led the Boilermakers to a 9-4 record.
His favorite target, dating back to pee-wee football in Illinois, is Charlie Jones—one of the most prolific pass-catchers in college football. In just two games this season, his 286 receiving yards and 335 all-purpose yards rank fifth in the nation, making him the biggest threat to Syracuse’s perfect 2022 season.
These two connecting is about as common as the sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening. Therefore, the key for the Orange is to stop the passing game—or just limit the number of catches for Jones.
Syracuse’s secondary has been stellar so far this year, allowing just one passing touchdown. So, it is safe to say the matchup between Jones’ offensive presence and Garrett Williams—the best the Orange have to offer at cornerback—will be exciting.
It is possible Purdue struggles in the air, but a slight issue they may run into is the run game. With their lead-rusher, King Doerue, sidelined by a calf injury, their offense could become a bit stale without a sufficient run threat. That makes it even more important their passing game is tightened up and firing on all cylinders.
The easiest way Purdue could lose this game is if their star receiver is locked up. But on the other side of things, the way Syracuse could lose this game is by giving Sean Tucker too many touches.
The Purdue defense has plenty of holes, including the defensive line, but their secondary doesn’t exactly scream ‘force to be reckoned with.’
Against Penn State, the Boilermakers allowed four passing touchdowns on 308 yards. Even though O’Connell posted 365 yards in the air, the Nittany Lions quarterback-running back tandem was able to outscore Purdue and win the game.
Offense is important, but defense is imperative. The Boilermakers had trouble defending against Penn State and it will not get any easier this weekend.
With Garrett Shrader looking like a potential Heisman candidate, Purdue will have a lot of trouble containing the arm and speed of the junior quarterback. Not to mention the All-American running back in Sean Tucker whose name is commonly thrown around Central New York like he’s the president.
The Orange present so many dangerous options on the offensive end with Tucker, Courtney Jackson, Devon Cooper, Oronde Gadsden and more. Couple that with show-stopping defense and a packed dome, the Boilermakers will have a hefty challenge on their hands.
There is a chance this contest could become a late-game shootout between two of the nation’s top quarterbacks. And if that reigns true, anyone watching should be in for a wild ride.
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