Well its finally time to put summer camp aside and focus on our Week One opponent, the Northwestern Wildcats. Read along for everything you’ll need to know about this game! A huge thank you to reyes39 for providing the majority of this preview.
Where: Evanston, Illinois at Northwestern’s Ryan Field
Television: ESPN2 HD
The Spread: Opened at Syracuse +12. Currently floating around Syracuse +11 and +11.5
Rivalry info: The two teams have faced each other seven times. The last being in 1984. Syracuse owns a 4-3 record in the all-time series winning the last four meetings.
Fun Fact: The upcoming movie showcasing Ernie Davis and the Syracuse Orangemen, “The Express” – was shot mostly in Evantson, Illinois. Producers felt Ryan field closely resembled Archbold Stadium – home of the Orangemen until 1980.
Last time they played: Syracuse pulled out a nail-biter over Northwestern on September 15th, 1984 – beating the Wildcats 13-12.
Syracuse passing game vs. the Northwestern secondary: Heading into 2008 the Orange expected to have one of the top passing units in all of the Big East. Then – top Wide Receiver Mike Williams was kicked off the team for academic reasons, Taj Smith bolted early for the NFL (Green Bay Packers), and Dan Sheeran broke his leg in summer camp. Now the Orange are left with a group of unproven and inexperienced talent at the position. Lavar Lobdell is the most talented and top receiver from 2007 returning but has shown little in his few opportunities in orange and blue. Freshman Marcus Sales is expected to contribute immediatly and Donte Davis returns after missing all of 2007 with a hand injury. Rounding out the group is Bruce Williams who transitioned back over from safety and will take time to get comfortable in the offense again – and theres a small chance freshman Van Chew will be worked into the mix after joining the Orange in early January.
Northwestern lost two starting DB’s in FS Reggie McPherson and CB Deante Battle but do return SS Brendan Smith who missed most of ’07 due to injury. Last years staff did yield 243.3 ypg but is expected to be improved with 3 of 4 starting backs returning with strong game time experience. The only real question mark heading into 2008 is with CB Justan Vaugh who is expected to share time with Jordan Mabin opposite Sherrick McManis.
Who has the edge? Although unproven, Lobdell and Robinson should be able to find some holes in the Northwestern secondary. Initially I would think it would be a push…but due to our overall uncertainty at the WR position – Northwestern gets the nod.
Syracuse rushing attack vs. the Northwestern front seven: After ranking dead last in almost all major rushing categories in 2007 – the Orange look to be in much better shape heading into the 2008 season. Delone Carter and Curtis Brinkley are both back and healthy – and Doug Hogue rounds out what should be one of the most well rounded RB units the Orange have had in years. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter who’s in the backfield if the Offensive Line is anything like it was last year. New Offensive Coordinator Mitch Browning has a great track record or piecing together great Offensive Lines – but will he have enough time in Syracuse to really make a change?
Northwestern returns a rather experienced and strong front seven that was able to mingle in the mid 60′s-70′s nationally against the run in 2007. Fortunately, big run stuffing DT John Gill, Northwestern’s best defensive player, has been suspended from the season opener against the Orange. Losing Gill is something the Orange will try to take advantage of – but giant DE Wootton (6’7”) will provide enough problems in the trenches alone. Northwestern also lost leading tackler Kadela to graduation who racked up 125 tackles last year.
Who has the edge? Due to the Orange’s problems with the Offensive Line in 2007 – we’ll have to give Northwestern the edge for now until we see Brownings product on the field this Saturday. The Orange are in much better shape at Running Back than last season though. A true starter is yet to be named – but its probable Coach Robinson will use a committee anyways.
Syracuse Offense vs. Northwestern Defense synopsis: Everything falls on the offensive line. If they are indeed improved from 2007 the Orange have the play makers to put up some points. Expect things to look sloppy at times as the Orange transition into Brownings offense regardless of the offensive lines performance.
Northwestern passing game vs. the Syracuse secondary: Northwestern probably brings one of the most well rounded and underrated WR crops in the Big Ten to the table this Saturday. Peterman, the best overall receiver in the bunch, returns after a 66 catch 744 yard performance in 2007. He’ll be joined by Rasheed Ward (brings speed/elusiveness) and Ross Lane (Big target/red zone threat.) Converted quarterback Andrew Brewer figures to be worked back into the mix in the Wildcats four wide sets as well. The success of the Wildcats falls into the hands of their best players – QB C.J. Bacher. Bacher led the Big Ten in passing yards per game averaging just over 300 yards last year but did have problems controlling the ball – throwing 11 interceptions in the Wildcats final four games last season.
The Orange are expected to only have two starters in the secondary with starting experience in SS A.J. Brown (pressured strongly by Kevyn Scott) and sophomore CB Mike Holmes. Da’Mon Merkerson has made the transition from WR back into his natural CB position and officially won the starting spot over Nico Scott just days ago. Scott is expected to see the field quite a bit especially against Northwestern’s spread 3-4 receiver sets along with senior Ryan Howard. Mike Holmes will be starting opposite Merkerson and was rather impressive in action last year notching starts at both CB and Safety.
Who has the edge? Once again – the Orange are beat out by a much more experienced WR core. Bacher is slated to have a monster season with all of his major targets from 07 returning. Syracuse’s secondary will be much improved from last season and has a bright future but might not show for a few weeks.
Northwestern rushing attack vs. the Syracuse front seven: Like the Orange – Northwestern also has offensive line problems of their own. The Wildcats do return one of the Big Ten’s top RB’s in Tyrell Sutton. Sutton has close to 3,000 total yards in his career although he was banged up and unavailable much of the 2007 season. Omar Conteh is a serviceable compliment to Sutton and last year was able to rack up nearly 5 yards per carry. The offensive line is the Wildcats biggest question mark especially after losing three starters from last year – although thats not necessarily a bad thing. Last years line had trouble protecting much of anything and gave up 32 sacks on the year.
With DT Arthurt Jones – the Orange should be able to flourish against a weak and diminished offensive line. Kimmel has to take advantage of the extra attention Jones will receive – and Santiago (lost 40lbs in offseason) and Girruzi (transitioned from LB) only have one more year to showcase their talents. The only glaring issue heading into 2008 is with the Linebacking core. The Orange seem to be all set at MLB with Flaherty – but outside of him the unit is young and rather raw. Conley has voiced his satisfaction with his entire core but Orange fans don’t really know what to expect from Mele and Smith until we see them in action on Saturday. Overall the group is in better shape due to youngsters getting PT last year – but until Saturday its another coin flip.
Who has the edge? When it comes down to the trenches – I think Syracuse has the definite edge. But our questions at Linebacker still loom large and the two headed Wildcat running attack give them the slight edge overall. If Kimmel and Giruzzi can keep Sutton contained we have a shot at really slowing down Northwestern ground game.
Northwestern Offense vs. Syracuse Defense synopsis: If the Orange can contain Sutton and Bacher – the Orange should completely dismantle the Wildcat offense. The thing is – thats not easy – especially with the question marks we have on defense.
Why Syracuse will win: Arthur Jones and the Defensive Line expose Northwestern’s weak Offensive Line and shake up Bacher and Sutton. The Orange Offensive Line makes a 180 degree turn and Carter and Co. run wild on the Gill-a-monster-less Northwestern D-Line making it easy for Robinson to hook up with Lobdell for a few red-zone scores.
Why Northwestern will win: Bacher and Sutton are just way too much for the Orange to handle and shred a young Orange defense. The Orange O-Line isnt much improved from 2007 and Carter and Co. aren’t able to get things rolling. Robinson has the usual 3 seconds of time to pass and cant establish a passing game without Taj or Mike.
Syracuse player to watch: Defensive Tackle Arthur Jones. Jones is the staple of the Orange Defense and was able to rack up 17.5 TFL in 2007.
Northwestern player to watch: Quarterback C.J. Bacher. Bacher lead the Big Ten with 305 passing yards per game and totaled for 23 scores in 2007.
Five things I don’t want to see on game day:
5) A punt/quick kick on third down.
4) The corner backs playing 15 yards off the ball.
3) 3 or more sacks allowed.
2) CJ Bacher having all day to throw.
1) The Orange walk out of the tunnel. I want to see fire and emotion not that parade march we endured last season.
Reyes39 Prediction: Northwestern 35 – Syracuse 27
Lvilleorange Prediction: Northwestern 38 – Syracuse 23
Collegefootballnews Prediction: Northwestern 37 – Syracuse 20
Phil Steeles Prediction: Northwestern 31 – Syracuse 21
-Northwestern helmet thanks to Nationalchamps.net
-Stats thanks to ncaa.org and cfbdatawarehouse.com
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