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Syracuse quarterback Tommy DeVito (#13). Photo provided by Syracuse University Athletics

Football: What to know about Ohio's first opponent, Syracuse

Ohio begins its 2021 season Saturday night when it hosts Syracuse at Peden Stadium. It will be Ohio’s first time hosting its season opener at night since 2017. Syracuse is coming off a dismal 2020 season and Ohio is preparing for its first game under the leadership of coach Tim Albin.

Here’s everything you need to know about Syracuse ahead of Ohio’s season opener:

All-time series: The Orange lead the all-time series 2-0. The two schools last met Oct. 1, 1921, where the Bobcats fell to the Orange 38-0 at Archbold Stadium in Syracuse.

Syracuse report: Syracuse is led by former Bowling Green coach Dino Babers, who in his first five seasons has compiled a 24-36 record. Syracuse struggled with a 1-10 record last season and finished last in the Atlantic Coast Conference standings.

Babers faced Ohio twice during his tenure with Bowling Green and won both games. 

Quarterback Tommy DeVito sits at the top of Syracuse’s depth chart and is more than likely its starting quarterback come Saturday. The redshirt junior played in only four games last season due to a lower left leg injury, but Babers seems to have given him the nod for the first-week start over Mississippi State transfer Garrett Shrader.

Syracuse also returns two offensive keystones at wide receiver and running back. Wide receiver Taj Harris averaged 73.3 receiving yards and 5.8 receptions per game last season. Syracuse is also supplied with young talent in running back Sean Tucker, who rushed for 626 yards and four touchdowns in his freshman season.

The Orange ranked in the bottom rung of Football Bowl Subdivision teams for total defense last season, allowing an average 463.9 yards per game and finishing 112th out of 127 teams. Their offense averaged 265.3 yards per game last season and was ranked 125th among FBS schools.

How Ohio beats Syracuse: Defensively, Ohio needs to clamp down on Harris and prevent Tucker from making too much noise on the ground. DeVito isn’t great at rushing, so if Tucker is taken out of the picture, Syracuse’s run game might croak.

Offensively, Ohio has talented running backs like De’Montre Tuggle and O’Shaan Allison that highlight a solid run game that Ohio should feel comfortable utilizing often. Syracuse allowed an average of 209.1 rushing yards per game last season, and Ohio might be able to push those numbers further.

Stat to know: 5-2. That’s Syracuse’s all-time record against Mid-American Conference opponents in a season opener. It hasn’t dropped a season opener to a MAC opponent since 1976, when Bowling Green defeated Syracuse 22-7.

Player to watch: Sean Tucker, running back, No. 34

Thrown into the starting running back spot four games into the 2020 season, Tucker was named ACC Running Back of the Week twice following Syracuse’s games against Georgia Tech and Notre Dame. He rushed for 626 yards in 2020, the third-most by a Syracuse freshman in program history.


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