The Syracuse Orange host the Northwestern Wildcats tomorrow in the Carrier Dome and opinions seem to vary on who's going to win. I'm seeing about a 65/35 split in favor of the Wildcats, but most of those predictions come from the unwashed masses of national media types and stuffy journalists. What do they know?
That's why you have to go to the experts. The writers of TNIAAM. So...what say we?
Listen, we've been to this spot before, haven't we? Lowered expectations, but hopeful accounts of increased depth, size, and talent. I want to say SU will win because of someone like Ashton Broyld, or because its defense will surprise the weak offensive line of the Wildcats, or the Dome heat will be too much for the 'Cats, but I just don't see the Orange hodgepoding together to beat a pretty decent team this soon.
So, give me Northwestern to win an ugly, muggy, and close game; 28 - 25. Look out for Kain Colter, too. He's....oh no, Sean....put that down. I'll stop writing! There's no need for...
Predicted Outcome: Loss
Score: Northwestern: Chicken-fried steak; Syracuse: Hamburgers
Beers Consumed During Game: +/- 9
Reasoning: Syracuse will lose because you didn't pray hard enough on Friday night. Heathen.
The injuries are a concern, as always. And while Justin Pugh's absence will be a huge negative in some of our other early contests, it may not be as important in the opener. Northwestern only managed 17 sacks all of last season, and a good portion of those are gone this year. Ryan Nassib should have plenty of time to throw the ball, and it'll be fun to see him and Sales playing pitch-and-catch again. The game will be close, of course, but I believe we can pull out the victory here. Flip the banner at Varsity. 'Cuse wins, 27-24.
This game reminds me of the season opener from three years ago. A warm summer day in the Carrier Dome, Big Ten school coming to town, senior quarterback at the helm... and if you remove some memorable miscues that bookended that Minnesota game SU could have walked away with an easy win.
I'd like to think that Nassib's experience and SU's strengths on the offensive line (even without Justin Pugh) and rushing attack will be able to exploit the Wildcats' holes on defense. A few good runs by Smith and Gulley could open up some opportunities for Nassib to fling it downfield to Sales and Lemon, assuming the latter is healthy enough to play.
Regardless of the outcome, it's a mortal lock that the game recaps from the Newhouse grads will severely outclass the recaps from Medill alums.
Final Score: Syracuse 20, Northwestern 17
I think the game is going to be a lot more high scoring than even I am predicting because of how these new defense are both still looking for playmakers to rise. I like Cuse's mismatch better than anything else in this game and Ryan Nassib lights it up. Orange 28-21
Less a true prediction and more my thoughts on what Syracuse needs to do to win. If this game is played in the 20's, Syracuse is likely to lose. Aside from Ryan Nassib and Alec Lemon, most of last season's offense is gone, most notably record setting tight end Nick Provo. The Orange have had trouble gelling on offense in the preseason and will continue to struggle to score points early in the campaign. In order to win, they need to get stops. And though the biggest loses from last season were on the defensive side, there's also more there to replace what's gone. There's a great mix of upper classmen and younger players who have talent and that saw field time as freshman and sophomores. The defense will the the strength of this Orange squad early on. They're going to have to lean on that for a 14-10 victory over the Wildcats.
In my article on why the Orange would finish this season 9-3, Renegade Pumpkin said that it gave him confidence that SU would finish 7-5. And in a way I know exactly what he means. Even as I was writing it I was kinda thinking the same thing. Northwestern looks like to be a solid opponent and among the better ones we'll face all season. But I really think a lot of people, Cuse fans included, are underestimating how much improved this offense is and, now that we know about those injury issues from last season, the defense as well. I fully expect a hard-fought, down-to-the-wire game that's won or lost in the closing moments. I'm going with my Orange to basically do the same thing they did last time against Wildcats, just with slightly less score. Syracuse 27- Northwestern 24.