Syracuse will be starting this season like every season; optimistic. Syracuse has a veteran QB in Ryan Nassib behind center, as well as the return of a deep threat in Marcus Sales. But will Syracuse play to potential, or again come up massively short?
Syracuse will be successful in the offensive game. Ryan Nassib completes passes. However, most of those passes were completed between 10 and 11 yards. No deep threat and no shots taken last year for the most part. A far contrast from the Pinstripe Bowl game in which we saw a flea flicker to Marcus Sales for a huge touchdown and hope that Syracuse had finally turned the corner from the horrid last coaching era that we dare not name. Not the case in 2011 as Syracuse took a pretty considerable step back, West Virginia game aside. Barely beating Wake Forrest, Akron, and Rhode Island did not spark confidence, and after the West Virginia drubbing the team regressed well past the mean. The ending at Pittsburgh was particularly maddening. But this is a new year. Sales is back on the team, even though Nick Provo and Van Chew are not. One massive target is enough for any offense to do somewhat well. Add Alec Lemon who will probably play (hopefully without a massive case of the dropsies) and that will be enough to keep some secondary players occupied. That means Jerome Smith needs to get some yards per carry. Center Macky MacPherson will be taking snaps for the Orange so hopefully the first play doesn't start with the ball going over Nassib's head to start. Either way, the offense will not be the factor in this game. The defense will be the key for the Orange if they are to achieve victory. Northwestern's top two receivers and top tight end are being replaced this season and the Northwestern pass rush is vulnerable. Chandler Jones is now on the Pats however. Syracuse needs to find success pressuring the quarterback as we all know the secondary will not bail out Syracuse. I think Syracuse will keep this game close, but Syracuse will fall to the Wildcats. The purple menace over the Orange 31 to 20.
The season starts on ESPN 2 at Noon on Saturday. I've decided to venture to the Carrier Dome from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts at the last minute so I'll be in the Dome with JBren and we'll be hilarious on the mobile internet Twitter machines, so enjoy all that. Also available on ESPN 3. Enjoy your weekend and Go Orange!
New stuff in the Dome? New season is here!
It's a new football season in the Carrier Dome starting this Saturday afternoon. Which means it is time for John and I to get off our lazy butts and start writing for Orange::44 again. Fair enough. John has already written a major season preview to wet your appetite for the season and this weekend which I will post below. We'll have my usual game preview tomorrow, our usual postgame coverage next week (day TBD due to the Labor Day holiday), as well as the return of my BlogPoll ballot, which should be more regularly posted this season. Additionally we will do our final Big East Prospectus next week before we leave Big East football behind for the ACC next season. Get your jersey out of the closet, make sure that grill is in good, working order, and we'll see you at the Dome.
From John Brennan:
Before the season officially kicks off, many people enjoy making their predictions on how the Orange will fair this year. Since I have a soapbox in the form of this blog, I figured I'd chime in with some off the cuff, gut feelings on these games before any are even played. Not based on statistics or research, just my beer gut. It will be interesting to compare this to the actual results once December rolls around.
Northwestern @ Syracuse: I like Syracuse in this one because it's in the Dome; I don't like Syracuse in this one because it's at noon. Those competing forces make this a toss-up. Rustiness and jitters aside, I think Syracuse comes out pumped and prepared for this one, and hopefully with an orange-clad crowd loud in the Dome, it won't matter whether it's 12pm or 8pm. Syracuse wants to make a statement that its daunting toughest non-conference schedule in the country is not something to lay down and let it run them over. I see a tight one, possibly overtime, but Syracuse wins.
USC @ Syracuse: Though this is a home game for the Orange, that home is in East Rutherford, NJ, and I won't be there. In fact, Brian and I will be watching on our WatchESPN apps while at my brother's wedding. If my Best Man speech starts tanking (unlikely), I'll give the wedding-goers some play-by-play updates on the game. It'll go something like this: "Syracuse is getting demolished by the #1 team in the country. Who would have thought?" Syracuse loses.
Stony Brook @ Syracuse: Though Stony Brook is one of the best FCS teams in the country, they're still an FCS team. Syracuse has a history of playing down to its competition, but with a good Stony Brook team, maybe that degradation in play won't happen. Plus, it's in the Dome, so there will be a solid 25,000 fans there wondering why the Dome announces official attendance at 39,000. Look for Ryan Nassib to have a career game and for Syracuse to win easily.
Syracuse @ Minnesota: The first true road game for the Orange gives one of its most important tests of the season. While this is definitely a winnable game, it's also a loseable game. After this game Syracuse gets a bye week to prepare to open its final Big East slate, so a win would give great momentum to build upon in the bye week. I'll be optimistic and give this one to Syracuse.
Pittsburgh @ Syracuse: Big East schedule makers put this soon-to-be ACC match-up first on the schedule. That means nothing. What matters is how each of these teams has been playing up to this point and, more importantly, how they play on October 5. It's a Friday night in the Dome in October, and we saw some magic there last year against West Virginia. If Syracuse is my projected 3-1 heading into this game, they have a legitimate shot at winning. But I'll hedge a bit and chalk this up as a loss.
Syracuse @ Rutgers: When the Orange last played in Piscataway, in 2010, it clinched bowl eligibility en route to the Pinstripe Bowl. If the Orange pull the impossible and go into this game undefeated, they can clinch bowl eligibility yet again with a win over the Scarlet Knights. Things won't shake out that way because, come on, Syracuse is not opening the season 6-0. But it should be able to beat a Greg Schiano-less Rutgers squad. I choose Syracuse.
Connecticut @ Syracuse: Arguably the most anticipated game on the 2012 slate for the Orange, as former Head Coach Paul Pasqualoni returns to the Dome for the first time to coach the Huskies. Last year's match-up in East Hartford was a huge disappointment for Syracuse, so revenge will be fresh on our minds. Plus, you know, the whole Coach P thing, which led to the Greggers thing, which... let's not go there. The magic of a Friday night, nationally televised game in the Dome should be enough for the Orange to get a victory. But I predict Coach P screws us again, and Syracuse loses.
Syracuse @ South Florida: USF is supposed to be decent this year, right? I don't even know. But the last time Syracuse invaded Tampa, it left with a victory. I'll predict a mid-season lull for the Orange, which leads to a loss against the Bulls.
Syracuse @ Cincinnati: A second straight road game for the Orange, and I have a feeling Syracuse struggles on the road this season. People are expecting a middle-of-the-pack Bearcats team this year, so if Syracuse plays the way I'm predicting, this could be a good game. But I say Syracuse loses on the road.
Louisville @ Syracuse: Homecoming for the Orange on Veteran's Day weekend. This could allow for the Dome to be pretty full and pretty loud. In other words, the way it should be. And that's good, because the Cardinals have all the expectations in this league this year. So I'm struggling to pick this game. But I'll do what history tells me to do: lots of disappointed alumni leave the Carrier Dome early to invade Faegan's & Chuck's.
Syracuse @ Missouri: Syracuse interrupts its Big East schedule to finish out its tough non-conference schedule with Missouri. The Tigers could be decent this year, but my feeling is that its record won't reflect it, with its new membership in the SEC. I'd give Syracuse a fighting chance if this game was in the Dome, but it's not. So Syracuse loses.
Syracuse @ Temple: Oh, hey friend. I remember you. You're like that abused wife who got kicked out of the husband's house, but then when the low-life couldn't pick up the pieces, he said he was sorry and begged you to come back. (Not to make light of the cycle of violence; domestic violence is horrible). And so, here you are, the Grover Cleveland of the Big East. Our paths will only pass just this one time in your second term, because we're off to greener (i.e. $$$) pastures. The last time Syracuse played at Temple, things didn't go so well for the Orange. But I think Syracuse ends the regular season on a high note and beats the lowly Owls.
Adding it up, it looks like I'm calling for the Orange to go 5-7. If the squad doesn't struggle on the road in the second half of the season, that could very easily become a 6-6 or a 7-5. Of course, all this preseason prognostication is just a way for us to have a little fun and see where it all ends up. The fun part will (hopefully) be actually watching the games. I look forward to it. GO ORANGE!