Saturday, September 1, 2012 11:00 am CDT
ESPN 1000 Radio
Game Preview: Syracuse
by Jonathan Hodges
Now time for my first game-week prediction in a new shortened format.
(0-0) heads to Syracuse (0-0) to kick off the 2012 season as NU hopes
to avenge the tough 2009 loss in the Carrier Dome while the Orange hope
to make noise in their final season in the Big East. NU has a lot of
questions on defense but an offense that looks to be as exciting as
ever with Kain Colter at the helm, Mike Trumpy back and healthy, Venric
Mark listed as the number one RB, and a slew of talented WRs in the
fold (Kyle Prater!). Plus, look out for the Wildcats as they show off
their new Under Armour uniforms.
meanwhile, brings back a handful of key players, but they have
questions dotted across both units. Look for experienced QB Ryan Nassib
to try and take advantage of the NU defense. But, their own porous
defense may have even more trouble with NU. Expect that to be the
difference in the game.
Opening Line: Northwestern by 2.5. O/U 55.
Who Should Win:
Toss-up. Northwestern may be slightly favored but the 'Cats seem to
have trouble on road trips like this (see 2009). And both teams have a
lot of new personnel and, potentially, some new schemes so it is tough
to tell what to expect.
Upset Factor: N/A
NU Offense vs. Syracuse Defense:
Syracuse is relatively thin on the defensive line while the 'Cats have
a rather established offense thanks to Kain Colter stepping in with
some good experience under his belt along with a slew of potent weapons
at RB and WR in particular. Look for NU to move the ball with relative
ease and to get a good mix of option plays featuring Colter and Venric
Mark plus passes to those touted receivers.
NU Defense vs. Syracuse Offense:
Expect growing pains as the young NU defense is put to the test.
Hopefully we'll see some positive flashes, especially on the line where
NU desperately needs improvement. Syracuse will be able to put points
on the board, but hopefully some of that talent will shine through for
NU as they do enough to pull off a win.
Hope for no mistakes from the placekicking game along with more
consistency on punts. Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see if Mark
can help spark the 'Cats on returns. Finally, we'll get a first look at
the new kickoff rules and how each coach approaches the kick and return
Northwestern is 6-0 in season openers under Fitz, including 3 road wins
and 3 wins over BCS competition (including one vs. Syracuse in 2008).
The 'Cats have won those games by an average score of 28.7-10.8. NU's
last season-opening loss was at TCU in 2004 (a 2OT loss that featured 5
missed NU FGs in 6 attempts). Colter has an active streak of 72 pass
attempts without an interception, which came in last season's opener at
BC. NU has 8 players making a return trip to Syracuse who also played
in the 2009 game: Demetrius Fields, David Nwabuisi, Demetrius, Dugar,
Hunter Bates, Neal Dieters, Jared Carpenter, Patrick Ward, and Quentin
Williams. Colter accounts for 48.7% of NU's returning total offense
this season (47% of rush yards, 72% of pass yards, and 34% of receiving
Prediction: Northwestern 35 - Syracuse 24.
a higher scoring affair with Northwestern able to outscore the Orange
thanks to their more established offense and slew of skill position
weapons. Although the defense will take its lumps, it will show
positive flashes that will help propel the 'Cats to victory.
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