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Syracuse football: what to watch for vs Western Michigan

Looking ahead to this weekend’s match-up.

NCAA Football: Colgate at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange hope to get out to a 2-0 start this Saturday afternoon when the Western Michigan Broncos come to the JMA Dome. Here’s what we’re looking forward to in this one.

Kevin: Force the Broncos to abandon the run

Last week, WMU ran the ball 67 times for 339 yards with Jalen Buckley accounting for 194 of those yards. If Syracuse can stop the run on early downs, they can force the Broncos to the air. That gives the Orange defense an edge as they can unleash the pass rush and look to force WMU into mistakes. Creating turnovers and cashing in can put the underdog in a position where they have to adjust and have to overcome the Orange and the Dome crowd.

Dom: Build chemistry with the offensive line

Syracuse’s offense shined across the board versus Colgate, from Garrett Shrader looking great in his return to LeQuint Allen’s strong start and the production of the Orange’s entire receiving corp. The one weakness, however, remains the offensive line (tell me if you’ve heard of that one before). Syracuse will face an early-season test on the road versus Purdue, and this game presents another opportunity for the O-line to generate some cohesion before SU’s competition really starts to ramp up in the trenches.

Mike: A double scoop of vanilla

There wasn’t anything crazy in Coach Beck’s play calling last week, and the score showed how there clearly didn’t need to be. The Broncos are predicted to be one of the worst teams in the MAC and beating an FCS team isn’t nearly enough to change that assessment. Keep things nice and simple and force them to show what they can do defensively before pulling out any special formations or other trickery.

Max: Syracuse’s wide receiver depth

All six of the Orange’s receivers on their depth chart made an impact against Colgate. Backup wideout Umari Hatcher racked up over 100 yards, while Isaiah Jones hauled in two touchdowns from the slot positions. If Oronde Gadsden II is covered, it’ll be interesting to see who Garrett Shrader opts to throw to. The Broncos’ defense is no pushover, either. They finished within the top third of the country in passing yards allowed last year.

Christian: Learn from history

This is going to be almost exactly like Kevin’s point, but it’s an important factor to nail down. One of the biggest reasons for Syracuse’s losses last season was a lack of run defense. What was apparent was that running backs could easily fight through the first contact and bully their way for extra yardage. Plays that should have only gained one or two yards ended up going for six or more yards. Kevin mentioned Western Michigan’s affinity for running the ball. Colgate didn’t provide the Orange run defense a challenge. Now it’s time to prove that with another year of experience, the Syracuse defense can actually stuff the run.

Steve: Polish and tune for consistency

I know, weird to say after scoring on almost every position and shutting out an opponent at close to 100 yards total offense... but we knew Colgate was a warmup game. Western Michigan is a step up in competition. One the Orange should still handle, but one that gives a better look at how those game-speed decisions last week can hold up against better competition. Does Shrader’s new found affinity for spreading the ball around become myopic again against better coverage or better pressure? Did a week allow the right side of the line to nail down some of the issues they showed last week and gain some consistency?

That’s what we’re watching for, what will you be focused on in this one?