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Syracuse football 2020 opponent preview: Colgate Raiders

Hoodoo rides again!

NCAA Football: Colgate at Air Force Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Sure, there’s a chance that the 2020 college football season doesn’t start on time — or at all. But until we hear otherwise, it’s worth continuing with business as usual.

Last week, we got reacquainted with our long lost Big East brethren, Rutgers, as the Syracuse Orange head down to Piscataway in week two. For week three, the Orange are finally back at home and opening up a considerably refurbished Carrier Dome. Appropriately, they’ll be doing so against long-time regional foe (and former RIVAL) Colgate. This game has not been competitive for some time, but that’s not why we’re putting the Raiders on the schedule. It’s to win the game, and start off the “new,” dome-less Dome on a positive note.

If you think it’s a little early to be talking about upcoming opponents, you’re probably right, especially given the circumstances. But whether we’re coming off a five-win season or a 10-win season, I’m personally excited to see what 2020 turns into for the Orange. And since I run this place, we’re already diving into the coming year’s opponents. Next up:

Colgate Raiders

School: Colgate

Mascot: Raiders

#BRAND Slogan(s): #GATA OR #GoGate

Alternate #BRAND Slogan Suggestions: #GetPasted OR #HOODOO

Recommended Blog: Colgate Football Collection

Conference: Patriot League

Coach: Dan Hunt, seventh season.

Hunt is a Northeast guy (TM), originally from Canajoharie, N.Y. before playing tight end at Springfield College from 1988-91. He stayed at Springfiled as a coach through 1994, then headed to Colgate as a tight ends coach. He’s been in Hamilton ever since, working his way up to offensive coordinator by 2006 and head coach by 2013.

Since taking the top job, Hunt’s turned the Raiders into a perennial Patriot League contender. They’ve gone 40-31 under his watch, with three conference championships and two FCS Playoffs berths. Colgate lost in the quarterfinals both times — but he’s doubled the program’s number of trips to the quarterfinals (they had two under long-time coach Dick Biddle, in 1982 and 2003, respectively).

2019 Record: (4-8) (3-3)

Recapping Last Season:

After being picked to win the Patriot League in preseason, Colgate struggled immediately, losing seven in a row to start the year, before scoring wins in four of the last five games. Scoring just 14.8 points per game, they were 121st in the FCS and 114th in offensive yards per game (298.3). The Raiders’ passing game never got going, throwing for less than 170 yards per season, while the rushing attack failed to establish the sort of bludgeoning cadence needed to support a defense-first team.

Colgate continued to be a stronger defense, finishing top-50 in yards per game allowed and 53rd in scoring defense (27 points per game). Nicholas Ioanilli (87 tackles) and Milton Braasch (76 tackles) led the team in stops, and as a group, the Raiders managed 21 sacks — a moderate output especially compared to the 49 sacks Colgate allowed last year. ‘Gate also forced just 13 turnovers, proving problematic for a team that struggled to move the ball on offense.

NCAA Football: Colgate at Air Force Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

2020 Season Outlook:

Hunt tried to address the offensive issues to some extent, by elevating Brent Basham to co-offensive coordinator alongside Terry Dow. On defense, Paul Shaffner continues as defensive coordinator with an eye on repeating previous successes (and improving on some of the things that went right in 2019). Colgate has another tough slate ahead this fall, with three straight road games at Western Michigan, William & Mary and Syracuse, then a game against New Hampshire before getting into the meat of the Patriot League schedule.

Senior QB Grant Breneman returns under center after throwing for nearly 1,600 yards last season. With Alex Mathews departed, Malik Twyman will take over the rushing attack along with Breneman (who picked up 212 net yards on the ground last year after accounting for the countless sacks he took). There’s a reasonably experienced group in front of them with a lot of juniors and seniors — but those players didn’t necessarily have great results this past year. Just two of last year’s top four receivers are back, though one of them is top producer Garrett Oakey (58 catches for 736 yards and a TD).

Defensively, Colgate loses three of their top six tacklers from last year, including the aforementioned Ioanilli. Sack leader Nick Wheeler (9.5) also departs, which creates a hole as he was the lone Raiders player with more than four sacks or double-digit tackles for loss (he had 18 last year). Colgate brings back other contributors in the front seven to try and back fill that production. Interceptions leader Collin Heard (three last year) is also back, though will now be the DB opposing teams seem most likely to try and avoid following Abu Daramy-Swaray’s departure.

Syracuse Game Date: Saturday, September 19

Location: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.

Odds of Orange Victory: 98 percent

Very Early Outlook vs. Syracuse:

Colgate’s far too rough around the edges on offense to keep up with Syracuse, even if SU’s attack struggles to the same extent we saw in the early half of last year. Without the same shutdown defense the Raiders have had in recent seasons either, it seems unlikely they’ll be able to hang around vs. the Orange. Hopefully SU’s well acclimated to new schemes on offense and defense by week three. But if not, this is the game where a lot could star to click for players — or maybe not, if they just wind up running a more scaled-back playbook vs. overmatched Colgate.