Saturday, Sept. 1, Noon
Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.
Line: Northwestern -2.5
Week one of the college football season does not typically offer even match-ups. This week’s Big East schedule includes three FCS teams (Youngstown State at Pittsburgh, Villanova at Temple and UT Chattanooga at South Florida) and two somewhat lopsided FBS contests (Rutgers -24 at Tulane and UConn -21 vs. UMass). A bit more competitive but still not expected to be a tight game is Louisville, a 13-point favorite, hosting its annual rivalry game against Kentucky. The one Big East game that legitimately could provide a dose of dramais Northwestern taking on Syracuse at the Carrier Dome.
Syracuse (5-7 last year) is led by quarterback Ryan Nassib, who will rely heavily on receivers Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales to stretch the field. Their success should assist tailbacks Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley to move the ball on the ground. Keep an eye out for Ashton Broyld too. Although he is not on the depth chart, he'll likely see some time in one or more offensive skill positions.
Blindside tackle Justin Pugh had shoulder surgery and missed training camp. His status for the game is still undetermined. The Orange defense has size and talent but lacks experience in some areas. The Wildcats are sure to exploit any weaknesses.
Northwestern (6-7 in 2011) has a tremendous athlete in quarterback Kain Colter, who last year amassed 673 passing yards (six touchdowns, one interception), 758 rushing yards (nine touchdowns) and 466 receiving yards (three touchdowns). He’ll need to keep the offensive pressure on Syracuse because his defensive unit has similar deficiencies to the Orange.
Next week the Orange face No. 1 USC at MetLife Stadium (Meadowlands). If they look ahead to that game, they may quickly find themselves 0-2.
This is the type of game that Syracuse – and the Big East in general – must win. Home field should be the difference, especially if the Orange keep the lead.
Pick: Look for Syracuse to notch a victory and put a disappointing 2011 season behind them.