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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher has been happy with his defense’s progress over the past month, but a true indication of how much improvement the unit has made could come today at Syracuse.

The 17th-ranked Seminoles (7-3, 4-3 ACC) have struggled against teams that run up-tempo offenses. The Orange (4-6, 1-5) come until the game averaging 79.3 offensive plays per game under first-year coach Dino Babers, which is an average of 16 more plays per game than last year. They also average one snap every 21.4 seconds on offense.

FSU has already faced three teams — Ole Miss (16.3 seconds). South Florida (21.1 seconds) and North Carolina (21.5 seconds) — that averaged a snap in under 22 seconds. The Seminoles are 2-1 in those games but fell behind in all three. Miami also went up tempo at times as it built a double-digit lead only to see FSU rally to win in the fourth quarter. In all four games, communication problems and missed assignments were common.

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You may hate this game for a long time.

While the Florida State Seminoles have been able to move the ball reasonably well on the ground (Dalvin Cook has 104 yards on 13 carries), order they’ve turned it over twice and allowed the Syracuse Orange some quality field position. Between the turnovers (a pick and a fumble, sales both forced by Christopher Frederick) and shoddy punt return coverage, medical the Orange have had opportunities. They simply can’t move the ball, though — at least until that final, hurried drive.

Zack Mahoney, starting for the second straight game for the injured Eric Dungey, is just 9-for-20 for 138 yards, plus a TD and two interceptions. One of those was a very poorly thrown ball in the end zone that squandered Syracuse’s first scoring opportunity of the half. Despite missing on throws to leading receiver Amba Etta-Tawo all afternoon, he did manage to get him a very well-placed, 46-yard jump ball to close the half. That touchdown is the lone highlight for an offense that had pretty much stalled on every possession until that point.

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