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Syracuse vs. Rhode Island Football Preview: Q&A With Rhody Rampage

Welcome to 2015! It better be an improvement over 2014...

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Hey, it's a new season! And with that means a new opportunity for the Syracuse Orange football program to make us incredibly happy. Or sad... But enough about 2014. The 2015 campaign is promising and encouraging for SU fans, and we should treat it that way. Things start with what should (hopefully) be a manageable game against Rhode Island this Friday night.

Below, Dave Ascoli from Rhode Island blog Rhody Rampage (which you should follow on Twitter) stops by to tell us everything we need to know about Rams football. We answered some questions about Syracuse over there as well.

What's the outlook for Rhode Island fans this season? "Nowhere to go but up?" or "Damn, we're screwed?"

Uhhh, can it be both? I think when looking at the fact that this is only Jim Fleming's second season gives fans some optimism (or, at the very least, patience) that he can turn things around. But when looking at URI football as a whole over the past 10 or so years, the product hasn't been much to brag about. Maybe the outlook is "Here we go again" instead of "Damn, we're screwed." A fair amount of fans are numb to football right now, and the only antidote is winning. Let's see if this is the year.

The Rams just named their starting QB for the opener, JUCO transfer Paul Mroz. What does he bring to the table, and what earned him the job over James Caparell?

Following the transfer of last year's starter Mack Lowrie (who came to Rhody via Boston College), the Rams were left looking for their third Opening Day QB in three years. Caparell saw time under center last year when Lowrie went down with an injury, but he struggled mightily (1 TD, 8 INTs as a starter) so it led to an open competition in training camp. Based on the reports coming out of training camp, Mroz was very impressive in the pocket, showcasing some serious accuracy -- which was the book on him when he was recruited. He has some scrambling ability, but I wouldn't exactly call him a "dual threat" QB. If he's gonna beat you, it's gonna be with his arm.

If there's one URI player Syracuse should probably pay a lot of attention to on offense, who might that be?

At this point, I think it has to be running back Harold Cooper. Rhode Island's rushing duties last year fell on the shoulders of UConn grad transfer Lyle McCombs, but Cooper is poised to come in and take over full time. At (a generous) 5'9", the sophomore is quite elusive with the ball in his hands. He's a pinball with his quickness, and he showed the ability to burst out of the backfield more than a few times last year. If he makes the cliched "big jump" from his freshman to sophomore seasons, he could be breaking school rushing records in no time.

Coach Jim Fleming coached the Akron defense back in 2008 when the Zips upset the Orange at the Carrier Dome. Do you expect him to use that as motivation for the Rams this week?

I would assume so. Fleming's first task when he accepted the job in Kingston was to change the culture, and he's done an excellent job so far. Just check out some of the quotes from both Fleming and the veteran players here. Guys are ready to run through walls for the second-year head coach, so whether he's talking about Akron or showing off his UCF championship ring or playing "Rocky" on repeat... it's working.

If that's not motivation enough, is anyone talking about the tight seven-point game between these two teams from back in 2011?

Yes, that's the game that fans have been buzzing about since the Orange landed on the 2015 schedule. That game was an absolute war, and unfortunately it seemed like URI expended a season's worth of energy in the one game. It also didn't help that then-QB Steve Probst got banged up and was never the same for the rest of the year. Still, just looking at the box score from that one proves that the Rams will have a puncher's chance Friday night.

Rhode Island will get run off the Dome turf if (X) happens...

Syracuse takes care of business. Just think about this... Rhody opened the season at Marshall last year in their annual FBS showdown and they played pretty well. The Rams were in the game through most of the first half, they had a positive turnover margin, and they won the time of possession battle. Oh, and they lost 48-7. So basically, 'Cuse doesn't even need to bring their A game. Their B game -- hell, maybe even their C game -- will still land them a W.

The Orange (and my liver) will lose if (X) occurs...

If Hunt becomes the hunted? (sorry) Rhode Island is coming off a 1-11 season and there's an ACC team on the docket. I expect the Rams to improve in 2015 as the season rolls on, but to go from a one-win season to knocking off an FBS school on the road with just training camp in between? Inform your liver that it's safe for now.

Your prediction? What happens on Friday night, and how does it go down?

I'm thinking things will be similar to the Marshall game from last year. The Rams will have some moments that will give fans a positive outlook for things to come. They'll put together a couple of nice drives and even make a big play or two. But that'll be about it. Syracuse should control pretty much everything else in all three phases. In the interest of consistency, I'll say 38-10 Orange.


Thanks again for taking the time out for these,  Dave! Again: be sure to follow him on Twitter, and head over to Rhody Rampage for everything you might want to know about Rams football.