Alright, enough talk. Well, maybe a little bit more talk. Specifically, about who's going to win, the Northwestern Wildcats or the Syracuse Orange...
Northwestern 31 Syracuse 17
Injury questions aside, Northwestern is built for a breakout 2013. From coaching on down, I really like the Wildcats this season. That doesn't mean Northwestern will be playing in the BCS (good God, no), but I wouldn't be surprised if Pat Fitzgerald's boys are hanging around the Big Ten race well into November. So basically, when it comes to Saturday evening, I'm hoping for a competitive game that gives Syracuse fans reason to believe. I want to see improvement from Drew Allen, the offensive line, the wideouts, and I want to see George McDonald open up the game plan a little. Plus, I'm anxious see if the defense, specifically the front seven, is as good as it showed in game one. And the thing is, I do think we'll see all of those things. But in the end the Cats have more experience and more talent, and they're at home under the lights -- a bad, but not totally disastrous, recipe for the Orange.
Northwestern 35 Syracuse 28
I've wrestled with this one all week. At first, I thought this game was going to be a blowout in favor of Northwestern because of their offense and Syracuse's well...lack of offense. Then I thought about the injury to Kain Colter and Venric Mark on offense and Daniel Jones on defense and suddenly things are so much closer especially knowing that Drew Allen and Jerome Smith should improve. But at the end of the day, Northwestern is the better team playing at home. Northwestern wins by 7, 35-28.
Northwestern 27 Syracuse 20
I just can't see the Orange fixing all of its fluidity problems in one week of practice, especially since they need to go on the road. What I could see though is another stellar defensive performance, which keeps the Wildcats under 20 or so points and, again, gives our team a chance to win.
However, I just see a breakdown happening some place -- on special teams, botched snap or ill-advised fumble or INT. This team just has too much on offense to fix to think it's going to be all great against a Top 25 team. Sorry, all. I just don't see a W in the cards right now.
Northwestern 27 Syracuse 23
Although "hard-nosed" Scott Shafer may not seem like the type to use the phrase "moral victory," Saturday’s game seems destined for that direction. Syracuse is coming off a disappointing loss in which the Orange looked confused and completely out-of-rhythm. And now SU gets to recoup with…a true road game against a ranked Big Ten team. QB Kain Colter will likely play after suffering a concussion in the Wildcats’ opener. NU running back Venric Mark may not be at full strength, but the Wildcats have a pretty good alternative just in case, at least according to Shafer. However, Drew Allen and the Orange will still hang with the Cats for most of the game. This is because a) Allen can’t play much worse than he did against Penn State and b) because NU has a terrible passing defense! The Wildcats gave up the most pass yards/game in the Big Ten last season. Last week, Cal quarterback Jared Goff threw for 445 yards (!) albeit on 63 attempts against the Wildcats. Don’t expect the Orange to pull off the upset, but SU will make progress. Well, at least enough to beat Wagner next week. So we’ve got that going for us…which is nice.
Northwestern 40 Syracuse 37 (3OT)
There's only one scenario where the result could be worse than last year, and I see it happening...
Fresh off an encouraging win at Cal, Northwestern starts fast and takes an early lead against a 'Cuse team still trying to find itself on the offensive side of the ball. Down at the half, Drew Allen finds his rhythm and helps lead a comeback that brings The Orange into a 27-27 tie at the end of regulation. With momentum swinging our way, we trade a touchdown and field goal before controversy ensues. With 2nd and goal at the 9, Allen is flushed out of the pocket, but finds Beckett Wales at the two. Wales catches the ball and touches his left foot six angry inches inbounds before stepping out and getting CLEANED OUT by a NU defensive back. The referee not only rules that Beckett was out of bounds, he fails to flag the defender for a clear late hit and automatic first down. On the ensuing 3rd down play, Allen throws a pick. NU takes over, runs three plays up the middle and settles for a 30 yard field goal for the win.
Northwestern 31 Syracuse 20
Oh man, if only we could have played Wagner or Tulane this week instead of Northwestern. I would have loved to have had an opportunity to sort out the offense, give Drew Allen some confidence and see what we could do in Evanston. I just feel like we're here a week too early for it to be a legitimate shot. The Wildcats are really, really good and I don't think we're where we need to be. That said, I do expect to see some improvement in areas we need them. At least, I hope so.
So, what do you think?