Syracuse, N.Y. — The new Carrier Dome scoreboard hanging over midfield is among the biggest in college sports. The sides of the videoboard are 62 1/2-feet wide and 20 feet tall, with concave corners 10 feet wide and 20 feet tall.
Could a punter hit it during a game?
“It will be a big challenge to hit it,” Syracuse special teams coordinator Justin Lustig said during Dino Babers’ radio show Thursday night. “Possible, but unlikely.”
If it happens, a rekick would likely be the ruling on the field. That’s how the NFL handles any kick that hits the massive videoboard inside Cowboys Stadium. There’s no other college venue that uses a center-hung scoreboard.
Syracuse punter Nolan Cooney tried to hit it in practice ahead of Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech (1-1, 1-0 ACC). Lustig said Cooney’s leg rivals that of Sterling Hofrichter, who used to try to hit the speakers way up in the old roof.
The punters in Saturday’s game may take top billing. Syracuse has punted nearly twice as much as its opponent through two games. And Georgia Tech’s 256-pound punter, Pressley Harvin III, is something of a folk hero in some corners of the college football ecosystem with his unusual build and ability to make a play on a fake punt.
Here are six more things to know for Saturday’s home opener:
Will stadium renovations affect play?
Syracuse held a rare practice inside the Carrier Dome on Thursday morning so the team could acclimate itself to new sightlines and lighting after the months-long renovation project. It was the first time the Syracuse players had been in the new building.
“To me, that place is sacred,” Babers said. “You don’t practice in there, even though we have the option and ability to do that. It was important to get the young people who had never been in there before so that this isn’t an away venue for them.”
Kickers examined the new turf where they will attempt point-after tries, returners gauged how the scoreboard could affect fielding punts and some receivers might do away with a piece of equipment.
“A couple of them like to wear visors,” said Lustig, who also coaches outside receivers. “We got this new, really bright lighting in there that’s a little bit different than what it was in the past. We talked about taking the visors down because of the glare that may happen because of the lights.”
Will the tight ends finally get involved in the passing game?
They’ve been active blockers to try to get the run game revved up, but Aaron Hackett and Luke Benson are also gifted pass-catchers whose skills to this point haven’t been fully utilized on offense.
The two have no catches, though there were missed opportunities to get them the ball. Babers said the opponent’s personnel factors into how SU uses its tight ends.
“If we’ve got our tight ends matched up against linebackers, we really like that,” the fifth-year coach said. “A lot of times they’re being matched up versus safeties or nickels, and we need to see if they can create space against guys who are sometimes more athletic than they are.
“If the (defenders) are smaller, their advantage is to block them. If their guys are larger, the advantage is to run routes and be faster than them and create space vertically and laterally.”
The lack of production has been a source of frustration as fans wonder why SU isn’t finding creative ways to manufacture a more favorable matchup.
Babers doesn’t think that’s a long-term answer.
“Football is all about surprise and timing,” he said. “There will be things that we can do down the road in future games, but the thing about football is you can only do these surprise things so many times. What you need is something you can do consistently good, not occassionally great.”
For Babers’ offense, that starts with the ground game. If it continues to trudge 3-4 yards a carry, it won’t win many more games than that.
What channel is the game on?
The most-asked question in Syracuse this week has an answer nobody wants to hear.
The game will not be available on local television, and there is no path to changing that after requesting to do so through ESPN, Syracuse athletic director John Wildhack said on ESPN radio’s “On the Block” with Brent Axe.
It leaves fans with less-than-ideal options: Catch the game on tape delay or stream it live using the FOX Sports Go app or on ACC Network Extra through the WatchESPN app (note: this is not the same thing as the ACC Network linear channel).
Don’t fret. We’ve got a step-by-step guide to help you find the game.
Syracuse is an underdog yet again
Georgia Tech is an eight-point favorite in Saturday’s game, with the over/under set at 52 or 52.5 total points.
Syracuse was last favored in a game on Nov. 2, 2019, when it lost, 58-27 to Boston College at the Carrier Dome.
Georgia Tech QB looks like a future star, but he’s only in his third game
There’s a lot to like about the direction Georgia Tech is heading under second-year coach Geoff Collins, who has upped the recruiting ante at a place surrounded by high school talent.
He pulled his four-star quarterback out of Jacksonville, flipping Jeff Sims from Florida State late last year to give the Yellow Jackets one of the league’s best-looking young quarterbacks.
Sims already has a win at Florida State on his resume, though the Georgia Tech defense deserves the bulk of the credit for the 16-13 victory. As Sims continues to accrue game experience, it’s the defense that needs to play well enough to keep Georgia Tech in most games.
Collins’ teardown and subsequent rebuild from the Paul Johnson-led triple option attack is probably a year or two away from contending with Miami (Fla.), North Carolina and others in the Coastal Division — presuming the ACC returns to the two-division format.
But Sims has the look of a guy who sooner more than later can accelerate the rebuild. He’s the first true dual-threat quarterback SU’s defense faces this year, and he has two quick backs that will test SU’s young, talented linebackers.
Babers’ scouting report on Tech’s offensive linemen: They’re not quite there yet.
That should give defensive coordinator Tony White the green light to attack and relentlessly pressure Sims. If it can add to his turnover total and give SU’s struggling offense chances to capitalize, it bodes well for the team looking for its first win.
Georgia Tech expected to miss several key players
Georgia Tech is expected to miss at least four key players for Saturday’s game: Defensive linemen Curtis Ryans, Antonneous Clayton, cornerback Tre Swilling and running back Jordan Mason are all absent from GT’s iteration of a depth chart, according to The Athletic.
The losses might be most felt on defense. Ryans, Swilling and Clayton are three of the team’s top defensive players. Ryans nearly single-handedly sealed the season-opening win at Florida State with forced turnovers.
Mason led the team with 899 yards rushing last season, but it has Jahmyr Gibbs, a top-80 recruit and top-10 running back in the 2020 recruiting class, ready to play a larger role in Saturday’s game.
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