Syracuse is looking to get off to a fast start in the 2014 season while Villanova wants to pull off a major upset. Take a look at the individual battles for Friday night to see who has the edge in each.
Syracuse quarterback/receivers/tight ends vs. Villanova secondary
The Wildcats secondary is undersized and missing their best cover corner due to a season ending injury. Terrel Hunt is more poised and accurate down the field from what we’ve seen during the spring. The Syracuse receivers will have a big size advantage and should be able to take advantage of that in the mid-range and long distance passing game. ‘Nova has several safeties who they rely upon within their defensive scheme. While they are good tacklers, they are not necessarily strong in coverage especially against the quality of athletes the Orange have on the outside. Also look for Jamal Custis to make a play or two with his 6-foot-6 frame.
Syracuse running backs vs. Villanova linebackers
Villanova’s best defensive player is linebacker Don Cherry. He is a tackling machine who will make some plays Friday night. But overall, the Wildcat linebackers lack lateral speed and will struggle to shed blocks to make plays against the Syracuse running backs. Prince-Tyson Gulley could be in for a solid night and Adonis Ameen-Moore should show that his camp hype will translate to on the field success.
Syracuse offensive line vs. Villanova defensive line
Villanova has a couple of players who could test the Syracuse offensive line. However, as a unit, the Orange are much stronger. They should be able to protect Terrel Hunt and open up holes for the running backs with relative ease. Expect a dominant performance up front for Syracuse.
Villanova quarterback/receivers/tight ends vs. Syracuse secondary
John Robertson is a classic dual threat quarterback who will test the Orange’s defensive discipline. He will make a few plays in this one, but Syracuse should be able to limit his downfield passing as he only possesses average arm strength. Durell Eskridge is an athlete in the secondary that Villanova is not used to seeing. Expect him to make some big plays in this one. Also keep an eye on Darius Kelly as a potential standout.
Villanova running backs vs. Syracuse linebackers
’Nova will rotate in a few running backs who are solid players and big contributors at the FCS level. However, the Orange linebacking corps may be one of the best in the ACC. Look for Cameron Lynch and Dyshawn Davis to create havoc in the backfield while Marqez Hodge racks up double-digit tackles. True freshmen Zaire Franklin and Parris Bennett also perform well.
Villanova offensive line vs. Syracuse defensive line
Maybe the unit with the biggest question mark on the Syracuse roster, the Orange defensive line will have a strong performance against an undersized ‘Nova front. They should be able to get penetration up the middle to help stymie the Wildcats ground attack. Look for Eric Crume and Ron Thompson to have big days.
Syracuse special teams vs. Villanova special teams
The Syracuse kicking game will have an experience edge here as Villanova replaces their punter and kicker. Riley Dixon is one of the best in the business and Ryan Norton was consistent throughout the spring. The Orange pack a bit more explosiveness in their return game, but keep an eye on Wildcats kick returner Javon White who has the speed for a big play.