Syracuse Orange Football Too-Early Preview: Minnesota Gophers

Photo by Mark A. Cunningham/Getty Images

Based off the Semi-Too early prediction series, the Syracuse Orange Football team will be a shaky 2-1 after three weeks of the season. Things don't really get easier with a trip to a snowier location than Syracuse: Minnesota, home of the Gophers in another matchup with a B1G opponent. How exactly will HCDM and crew fare? Let's try to answer that for you.

Minnesota Overview:

The Gophers are coming off a disappointing 3-9 season in the first season under Jerry Kill. Going into year two, the Gophers are still projected by most to finish below Northwestern in the conference standings. The big victory last season was an upset of Iowa by one point at home. The Gophers go into the second year of MarQueis Gray calling the signals and he is just like B.J. Daniels. Gray spent most of last season using his legs to escape trouble but worked on learning the quarterback position in the offseason. The Gophers are facing similar issues as the Orange are in the defensive transition from 2011 to 2012. The Gophers just could not tackle last season and such a basic skill is being stressed in camp. Overall, this is a very young team lacking names to remember, but there is so much speed on both sides of the ball, fans are hoping for a bowl eligible season under year two of the Kill era.

How the Orange Should Attack the Gophers:

The Gophers were one of the worst defenses in the nation last season due to their lack of tackling. The entire defense is undersized but extremely fast. Linebacker Mike Rallis will be playing on the outside for the first time while safety James Manuel will be moved to linebacker. Safety will be a key position, the problem is no one has stepped up to claim that spot yet. The Gophers have a veteran cornerback in Troy Stoudermire who can handle the top threat of any team.

The Orange will need a balanced attack to keep Minnesota off balance. Their defense is going to be fast and aggressive but not overly talented. A balanced attack will ensure that the Gophers don't get too comfortable playing one system and constantly force new position players to adjust. Under Marrone's pro style offense, expect lots of motions to create mismatches for running lanes and wide receiver matchups. Minnesota doesn't play any power team before Syracuse, so the Orange offense will be the toughest test for the Gophers.

How the Orange defend the Gophers:

It's very simple actually: stop MarQueis Gray. Even though Gray needed and worked hard to learn the quarterback position better, there is no one to catch anything he would throw. Returning starter Brandon Green is the only man with a touchdown on his stat sheet to this point and sophomore Devin Crawford-Tufts will be lining up across from him. The Gophers are also lacking at running back, JUCO transfer James Gillium is pegged as the workhorse running back.

This is by far the flattest offense the Orange will go up against all season. The Gophers are extremely one dimensional and lack any support for Gray. Their offensive line is better than average but not stellar. They only worry is that the Orange have did not fare well against the option or speed quarterbacks last season. The Orange linebackers will need to effectively spy Grey and ensure he never reaches the second level successfully or the Gophers just may have enough offense to cause major problems.

X Factor: Ashton Broyld

I haven't spent much time talking about Ashton Broyld mostly because I don't think he will play too much in the early weeks of the season. However, a game like this against a speedy defense sounds like a perfect time for Broyld to show off his athleticism when the Orange need a shot in the arm. A few plays in the Wildcat Express should do the trick.

Prediction:

I don't like how every analyst says that the Gophers are a bowl team while Syracuse is not because on paper, Minnesota is a one dimensional team with a worse defense than Cuse. This will be a great measuring stick for the Orange as many see both teams being equal. I think the Orange have more weapons and Ashton Broyld makes his first real impact of his young career. It won't be a pretty game to watch though. Orange win 17-10.

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