Syracuse is looking to start the season 3-0 for the first time since 1991. The Central Michigan Chippewas stand in the way, a team the Orange defeated 40-3 last season.
Scouting the Offense
The Central Michigan offense is extremely versatile. They use two primary methods of attacking a defense, however. One is the traditional, power I, power football. A straight ahead running, play action passing, pro-style attack. They can also mix in some spread principles with the quarterback in the shotgun and three wide receivers. This allows for quick passing, zone-read and even the ability to stretch the field.
QB Cooper Rush: Central Michigan struggles to run the ball, leaving a lot of the offensive burden on Rush. He is completing nearly 70% of his passes on the season and has over 550 passing yards. Rush has a strong, accurate arm and underrated mobility. He won't kill you with his feet but he can extend plays. As he goes, so goes the Chippewa offense.
TE Ben McCord: McCord is a big threat for Central Michigan, especially down the field. He can stretch a defense and make plays up the seam. He will test the Syracuse linebackers and safeties with his combination of size and soft hands.
WR Mark Chapman: Chapman is an emerging weapon who has become a solid possession type receiver. He can play outside or in the slot and catches everything thrown his way. He leads the team in catches and is Rush's favorite target on third down.
The rushing attack is the clear weakness of the Central Michigan offense. They are only averaging 2.5 yards per carry as a team and less than 80-yards per game. That is a big mismatch against a Syracuse defense that is second in the nation in rush defense, allowing just 25-yards per game.
Expect Central Michigan to throw the ball early and often, testing a Syracuse secondary that struggled last week. Given Rush's playmaking ability and their lack of a ground game, the Chippewas will likely air it out in the Carrier Dome.
Scouting the Defense
Central Michigan runs a traditional 4-3 defense. They bring pressure at times, generally with their linebackers. They rely on the front four to occupy blockers and allow the linebackers and safeties to make plays. This is a strong, physical defense at all three levels. The secondary mixes up their coverages between man and zone, but play man more frequently.
S Kavon Frazier: Frazier is Central Michigan's leading tackler and flies all over the field. He can play in the box and in coverage. Expect to see him in on a lot of plays on Saturday.
S Tony Annese: Annese is Central Michigan's top defensive playmaker. He has a knack for jumping routes and is a natural ball hawk with a propensity for creating turnovers.
DT Louis Palmer: Palmer leads the Chippewas in tackles for loss. He is quick, strong and athletic. Neutralizing him is the key to Syracuse having success on the ground.
The Central Michigan secondary is the clear strength and the defensive line is solid. While the linebackers are not scrubs, they are the weakest unit on the defensive side of the ball. Syracuse can take advantage of this using swing passes out of the backfield, screens and slants.
As good as the Wake Forest defense was at times on Saturday, the Central Michigan group could cause some problems for the Orange as well. Like most good MAC teams, they are stout and strong up front. What separates them is playmakers in the secondary. This is a very solid defense.
Scouting the Special Teams
K Brian Eavey: Eavey has yet to miss a kick this season. He has a very accurate leg that is strong enough.
KR Emmitt Thomas: Thomas is the primary returner for Central Michigan. He is not a dynamic returner, but is solid.
P Ron Coluzzi: Coluzzi does not have a big leg, and his ability to help the Chippewas flip field position could be important. He is averaging only 37-yards per punt.