The University of Maine returns to the Carrier Dome after getting beat last season at the hands of Syracuse and Coach Marrone in his first season. This blog has a long history of question and answer sessions with people in the know, and no one qualifies more than my friend Chris Sedenka, radio host of the PM Jab in Portland, ME and a contributer to The CMSB. Despite his questionable history as a West Virginia graduate, he knows his sports including the Big East and UMaine football. He was nice enough to stop by and answer some questions on the Maine squad making the trip to the Dome.
1. Orange::44: Maine was embarrassed in Week 1 and seemed to do really well in Week 2. Which one is the true Maine football team?
Chris: Offensively, game two is what I expect more. The offense was actually able to score! It was a balanced attack. For Maine to succeed this year the offensive line needs to step up. This team led the CAA in rushing in 2008. In 2009, they led in passing…while not running the ball at all. Game one was a complete wash of either, so it was nice to see the Black Bears rush and pass consistently.
I would say the defense is somewhere in between games one and two. They completely dominated a terrible Albany offense in the first game…then struggled a bit in game two against Monmouth. There is a lot of experience in the unit, but have struggled getting to the quarterback.
They have an outside shot of a playoff spot this season, but in truth, Maine is possibly a year away from being a very good football team.
2. Orange::44: Which offensive player does Syracuse have to worry about the most?
Chris: Jarred Turcotte will be the best player on the field for Maine. He is also someone that Syracuse didn’t see last year due to injury. If Turcotte was from a different state there is a good chance he would be playing at the FBS level. It’s hard to get noticed in Maine. He’s 6’2”, 230, and has already rushed for over 230 yards this season. Last week, he tore up Monmouth for 144 yards and three touchdowns. He’s a bruising back, with deceptive speed.
3. Orange::44: Special teams is what Syracuse had the most trouble with from Maine last year. Will this year be more of the same?
Chris: Don’t be surprised if Maine roles out some tricks. However, I’m assuming Syracuse will be ready for it. Maine is certainly outmanned in this match up, so it would be no surprise to see some trickeration. My guess is they try some of that on offense more than special teams.
4. Orange::44: What will be the most interesting match up of the day?
Chris: For Maine to have a chance Jarred Turcotte is going to have to run the ball successfully. So the matchup to watch is Maine’s inconsistent offensive line vs. Syracuse’s inconsistent defensive line. The Bears need to get a constant push. If this doesn’t happen, forget about it.
On a side note…As a Big East fan, I am looking forward to watching Ryan Nassib go against a pretty athletic linebacking unit and secondary. Nassib has a chance to really grow against some respectable talent. I expect Maine to blitz early to try to force mistakes. If Nassib is patient, he should be fine.
5. Orange::44: This should be a big Syracuse win, but how do you see the game playing out?
Chris: I agree. Syracuse is a much better team than last year. They also should be much more prepared on special teams. Maine has also improved, but won’t be able to hang with the Orange. The Black Bears’ defense is respectable, but will struggle with the balanced Orange attack. I wouldn’t be surprised if Turcotte has a good day, but can’t see a lot of scoring.
Prediction: 38-10 Syracuse
Big thanks to Chris and all the folks in Portland. My answers to his questions are posted here, so give that a read as well. Check out The CMSB for info on UMaine, the Big East, and all those New England sports if you enjoy that sort of thing. Also be sure to check out Chris' interview with #99 Chandler Jones right here. It's great stuff.