Syracuse comes out and puts together a solid four quarters for the first time this season. Ryan Nassib abuses the Minnesota secondary for another 400+ yard, 3 TD game, and Smith, Gulley & Broyld LLP put up solid numbers on the ground to keep the Gopher front seven honest. Max Shortell makes some nice throws and is fairly impressive, but without MarQuise Gray, Minnesota struggles to get an adequate rushing attack going. Shafer sends the dogs and the defense records around five sacks on the day.
Syracuse 41, Minnesota 24
There are a few check list items Syracuse needs to accomplish if it is to leave Minnesota with a win: 1) The Orange need to get more out of its front seven on defense, 2) QB Ryan Nassib needs to play well and finish drives with touchdowns, and 3) coach Doug Marrone needs to coach the entire game like it's late in the fourth quarter (as in, let it fly Doug!).
But the most important thing for Syracuse come Saturday night is to not get sucked into the atmosphere. It's a new environment that's likely to be loud and cold. For a possibly mediocre team, that's a bad combination. SU needs to play the way it did for the majority of the first two games of 2012 while shaking off distraction. Will that happen? I say yes. The Orange wins a tight one thanks to good defense and just enough, timely, offense, 27 - 21.
Minnesota's allowed an average of 25 points per game in their two FBS contests thus far -- both of which were against lesser opponents than Syracuse. After the offensive display we've put on thus far, I'm tempted to believe we'll top that number. The biggest issue will obviously be the run defense for SU, and how it stops a rushing attack that's put up over 219 yards per game in 2012. Even without starting QB and second-leading rusher, MarQueis Gray, the ground game will be formidable. If Syracuse can just remember some tackling basics (WRAP UP!), they should grab the win.
Syracuse 38, Minnesota 29
I expect an air show with Ryan Nassib and the Orange gaining yards at a high rate, and Minnesota's offense likely to shift focus with the change in quarterbacks. However, Nassib will have to choose his targets wisely as the Gophers' defense has five interceptions through three games and a good pass defense overall.
I think special teams and red zone execution will be the key. If SU eliminates mental mistakes and converts its scoring opportunities they have a great chance to win this game.
Syracuse 31, Minnesota 27
This is a tough one to nail down. The fan in me wants to say Syracuse wins. The Orange have the talent, headed up by Nassib and Sales. At the same time, there's nothing I can see about Minnesota that's a clearly exploitable weakness. The Gophers' defense is solid and their QB is unlikely to go 4/19. The one thing I can say for sure is that the Orange can score on just about anybody (except manybe 'Bama), so I give them a puncher's chance.
Syracuse 42, Minnesota 38.
I don't know why but I see this one as a low-scoring affair. It doesn't necessarily mean that the Orange offense will sputter but I think the Minnesota D steps up and the night-time crowd limits some things. Since we're already prone to making mistakes in daylight at normal times of day, I get the sense we're gonna be even more out of sorts with penalties at night time under the lights.
Still, I think Syracuse guts out a win here. They have the better record but we're more battle-tested, and it should show in the end.
Syracuse 20 - Minnesota 17
What do you think?