Teams – Northwestern Wildcats vs. Syracuse Orange
Venue – Carrier Dome (Syracuse, NY)
Time – Saturday September 1st @ Noon
TV – ESPN2
A lot has changed since the last time the Orange and Wildcats met inside the Carrier Dome back in September of 2009.
After Ryan Lichtenstein hit the 41 yard field goal as time expired to give first-year head coach Doug Marrone his initial taste of victory, expectations began to grow in Syracuse. A winning season in 2010, capped off with a Pinstripe Bowl win, has been sandwiched by two disappointing losing campaigns for the Orange and Marrone. They look to finish their time in the Big East with at least six wins this year and a return to postseason play.
On the other hand, Northwestern has extended their bowl appearance streak to four seasons under head coach Pat Fitzgerald, but they still seek their first postseason win since the 1948 Rose Bowl. The Wildcats have certainly returned to relevancy under Fitzgerald but now they hope to take the next step and compete for a Big Ten title.
This game is one of the more compelling matchups in the kickoff weekend for college football; mostly because of the fact that these are two teams with potential to make noise in their respective conferences. At the same time there are many questions that surround each squad.
For Syracuse it will be interesting to see if senior quarterback Ryan Nassib can continue his progression and become a top offensive player in the Big East. However if he is going to do so he will need his favorite target, receiver Alec Lemon, to be active for the game. Lemon remains questionable for Saturday’s game with a ‘lower body injury’.
In addition, the Orange faithful are eager to see freshman Ashton Broyld and how he will fit into the offensive gameplan for Marrone. Since Mike Williams’ unexpected midseason departure from the team back in 2009, Syracuse has lacked a true big-time playmaker and fans in Central New York have high hopes that Broyld can fill that void.
On the defensive side of the ball, Cuse is going to struggle to replace two-time All-Big East defensive end Chandler Jones. They are hoping the transition will be a little easier if the NCAA rules Iowa transfer, John Raymon, eligible and they remain hopeful that he will be granted the right to play on Saturday.
Triple threat quarterback, Kain Colter, who returns after a stellar sophomore season, leads the Wildcats’ offense. His favorite receiving target figures to be senior wideout Demetrius Fields and the two of them should give the Syracuse secondary some trouble on Saturday.
Northwestern’s defense is anchored by sophomore safety Ibraheim Campbell, who led the team in tackles last year and received Freshman All-American honors. He will need to have an impact on stopping both the run and pass game of Syracuse if Northwestern hopes to contain their offense.
Prediction – Northwestern 23 – Syracuse 27
The home crowd and sweltering heat inside the Carrier Dome will definitely benefit the Orange but I think the Syracuse offense becoming a little more dynamic with the likes of Ashton Broyld will give them the edge over the Wildcats in this one.