I was this close to picking an Orange win. Why? NU needs to show life in its secondary, at the defensive tackle position while sorting out the health issues on offense. It's the definition of a "trap game," with new Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer trying to establish a consistently good program. But it screams Boston College 2012: Without enough quarterback play from SU, the NU ground game will eat up yards and the clock—holding onto a tight one while anchored by Groza candidate Jeff Budzien.
Northwestern 23, Syracuse 20
Breathe easy; this one shouldn't be as close. Both Kain Colter and Venric Mark will likely see a healthy amount of reps, but Northwestern can beat up on Syracuse's porous secondary without them. The Orange still lack a definite answer under center, and standout running backs Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley were surprisingly underused against Penn State. A slower game pace than Cal will do the Wildcats favors as well. Look for Rashad Lawrence and Cameron Dickerson to get more involved this week, and as long as the O-line gels again, Northwestern should field a 100-yard rusher between Mark or Green.
Northwestern 41, Syracuse 24
It's hard to fairly judge a team based on its first game of the season, but if last week's poor showing against Penn State is indicative of anything at all, Northwestern shouldn't have much trouble taking care of Syracuse. The Orange secondary gave up 278 passing yards while their offense failed to find its rhythm in a 23-17 loss. Syracuse was able to suffocate the Penn State run game, but even if Venric Mark only sees limited action, I don't anticipate Mike Trumpy and Treyvon Green having much trouble exceeding that. Add a healthy Kain Colter, and the Wildcats should easily retain the Prose Bowl championship.
Northwestern 31, Syracuse 16
There's something about the Syracuse offense and Chi Chi Ariguzo that just clicks. As a redshirt sophomore last season, the linebacker had himself a career game against the Orange. One year later, Ariguzo will continue to haunt a ‘Cuse offense that was not particularly impressive in a 23-17 loss to Penn State last week. Dwight White should look a little more comfortable in his new starter role, but he will be targeted early and often by Orange quarterback Drew Allen and that could spell trouble. The offense should be efficient, dangerous and dynamic as Kain Colter returns. Like last week's game at Cal, I expect this one to feel a lot closer than the final score would indicate. But a couple fourth quarter scores will put the game away and move the Wildcats out to 2-0.
Northwestern 34, Syracuse 17
Northwestern has a better journalism school and better football team. The Wildcats take down another major-conference opponent. Forget all the hoopla surrounding whether Kain and Venric will be good to go on Saturday. NU's one-two punch will be out in full force against the Orange. The Cats' defense will put together a strong showing and stifle the Syracuse attack. It won't be another historic performance like what Collin Ellis did last week; just a steady effort from Mike Hankwitz's unit.
Northwestern 38, Syracuse 14
Northwestern and Syracuse will battle to a tie at the end of regulation—caused by a late Orange touchdown—sending the press box full of alumni of both schools into a frenetic panic mixed with anger due to blown ledes and deadline issues. After 5 overtimes can't decide a winner, Mike Greenberg will challenge Scott Hammer and me to a race officiated by Mr. Bevilaqua of Seinfeld fame to settle the score. Before the starting gun, Greenberg takes off too early after seeing Willie the Wildcat punt Otto the Orange in our general direction, and wins on a technicality.
Northwestern 31, Syracuse 21