Midseason report: Syracuse

There will be much nit-picking about what-could-have-been in the early going, as Drew Allen won the preseason quarterback competition with Terrel Hunt, then underwhelmed in losses to Penn State and Northwestern before Hunt took over. But Hunt has struggled in ACC play, completing just 18 of 44 passes for 126 yards with no touchdowns and five interceptions in two games, this after looking dominant in wins over Wagner and Tulane. Could the Orange have pulled out a close win over the Nittany Lions with Hunt at the helm? Maybe. Maybe not. Against the Wildcats ... probably not.

Regardless, the ground game has been a strong point again for this offense, particularly in the upset win this past weekend at NC State, the program's first-ever ACC victory. Syracuse had two 100-yard rushers, and Hunt added 92 himself to get the Orange to 3-3 (1-1 in ACC play). They are 22nd nationally in rushing.

The defense has gotten pressure up front, with Jay Bromley leading an attack that has tallied 19 sacks so far this season and has been stout against the run, though the pass defense has struggled immensely. The unit has forced 12 turnovers, too, but the offense has given it away 13 times, something it needs to shore up as it heads into the meat of conference play this weekend at Georgia Tech.

A win over the struggling Yellow Jackets could do wonders for this group's confidence in Year 1 of both the ACC and the Scott Shafer eras, as it then has a bye followed by a five-game-in-five-week ACC stretch that begins with Wake Forest but leaves little room for error the rest of the way.

Offensive MVP: Jerome Smith, RB. The redshirt junior leads the ACC with eight rushing touchdowns, and he is fourth in the league in rushing with 482 yards. He is averaging 5.5 yards per carry and has added four catches in 47 yards and a receiving touchdown. Smith has seemingly picked up right where left off a year ago, when he rushed for 1,171 yards.

Defensive MVP: Jay Bromley, DT. The senior leads the ACC with three forced fumbles, is fourth in tackles for loss (nine) and tied for fifth in sacks (five). He is tied for fourth among Orange defenders with 22 total tackles, and he has added a quarterback hurry as well.