Game Preview


Carrier Dome
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.

Northwestern (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.

Syracuse, 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.

Special Teams: 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 phases.

Notes: 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 yards).

Prediction: Northwestern 35 - Syracuse 24.
Expect 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.

Go 'Cats!!!

e-mail: j-hodges@alumni.northwestern.edu

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