It's not football season yet, I know. But it's 127 days away, for those keeping track. And that means we can start jumping into some initial prep for an all-important 2015 season at Syracuse. We start with our opponents, which are not as tough as they've been in recent seasons, as Sean wrote about this morning. Each week, we'll preview each team on the 2015 slate. Today, that starts with the:
Rhode Island Rams
School: University of Rhode Island
#BRAND Slogan: "Think Big. We Do."
Alternate #BRAND Slogan Suggestions: "Simply RAM-markable." " URI-ght. We're Not Providence."
Recommended Blog: Rhody Rampage
Conference: Colonial Athletic
Coach: Jim Fleming, second year. Jim was the defensive coordinator at Akron when they beat the Orange at the Dome in a game you and your liver would like to forget, yet I keep bringing it up anyway.
2014 Record: (1-11) (1-7)
Recapping Last Season:
The Rams were bad last season. VERY bad. After getting run over by Marshall to start the season, Rhode Island would not come within two touchdowns of an opponent until an early October loss to Brown, and the team did not record its first (and only) victory until November 22 -- a tight one over Towson. Syracuse and URI shared just one 2014 opponent in common: Villanova. And if you thought the Orange's squeaker over the Wildcats last fall was ugly, Rhody lost by 23.
Rhode Island's 2014 offense scored just 150 points in all of 2014, making the Orange's futility look pleasant in comparison. And part of that was even with UConn transfer Lyle McCombs, whom you may remember. The Rams' opponents also bulldozed them all season long, scoring 409 points and pretty much laying waste to URI's defense. We can empathize with the horrors those fans witnessed. We also wouldn't mind if they extended for one more game.
History with Syracuse: Orange, 2-0. This includes a 63-17 walloping at the Carrier Dome back in 2002. And 2011's terrifying 21-14 victory that ended up being a harbinger of some things to come (though not until MUCH later, really).
2015 Season Outlook:
On paper, not much better. No recruits of note are walking through the door, and a quarterback battle could end up stretching well into the fall. A pair of redshirt sophomores, James Caparell and (Boston College transfer) Mack Lowrie, look to fight it out for the job, though spring game notes give the former a slight edge based on performance alone despite Lowrie having the upper hand last fall. Lineacker-turned-RB T.J. Anderson and redshirt senior Robby Delgado looks to carry the load on the ground, where the team will need to get a whole lot more production. By all indications, senior wideout Ross Kim will be the main target for a sputtering passing game, though the team seems high on frosh Marven Beauvais.
Defensively, there's some change, which could end up being a good thing for the Rams, perhaps (given last year's results)? Florida Atlantic transfer Khilyni Kennedy came on strong in the spring, and could be the team's primary pass-rusher. Second-leading tackler Adam Parker (LB) does return as well, however, to help ease that transition. Rhody sports some additional experience back in the secondary, as a senior-laden group tries to get past 2014's struggles in that department. Last year's INT leader (with two), Myles Holmes, is now a senior and should captain that portion of the field.
Overall, URI gets a lot of help from the transfer market, something that can assist them with some quick growth under the right system. Thus far, it's unclear if Fleming's is the right one for them, but at the very least, they should be improved from last year. Oh, and their QBs still run, just in case you hadn't gotten enough flashbacks to that 2011 game...
Syracuse Game Date: September 4 (a Friday night. You love Friday nights.)
Location: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.
Odds of Orange Victory: 98 percent
Very Early Outlook:
We mentioned that URI should improve, but it's unlikely they'll do so enough to contend with the Orange (famous last words, of course). SU has some things to fix in the trenches, but the linebacker position should still prove to be a strength and keep Ram QBs in check. Additionally, the Orange run game should benefit from Tim Lester's new system and be used much more effectively than they were against 'Nova last fall. Expect SU to try some new things once the game's in hand. But otherwise, we're likely to see a renewed dedication to the run and some more traditional, new folds in the passing game -- both of which should help Syracuse win this one the way its supposed to (by a lot).