CENTRAL MICHIGAN VS SYRACUSE
Time – 12:30pm, Carrier Dome
TV/Radio – MSG/ESPN3, 99.5FM WTKW
Series – Syracuse leads 2-0
Last meeting – Sept, 13 2014, Syracuse won 40-3
Coaches: Syracuse – Scott Shafer (3rd season, 12-15); Central Michigan – John Bonamego (1st season, 1-1)
24 Years in the Making – Syracuse is looking to start the season 3-0 for the first time since 1991, a span of 24 years. Not only would it get the Orange off to a strong start as they look to get back to the postseason, but it would help to set up a matchup with LSU that would certainly create some local buzz.
Stopping the Rush – Quarterback Cooper Rush will be slinging the ball over the field for Central Michigan. If the Orange hope to shut down the Chippewa offense like they did last season, it starts with limiting Rush's impact. The best way to do that is pressure him early and often. If he is allowed to sit back in the pocket and survey the defense, he has the potential to pick Syracuse apart.
Forcing Turnovers – Chuck Bullough's defensive unit is leading the nation in forced turnovers with seven. Whether or not that trend continues could be a key factor in who wins on Saturday.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Cooper Rush vs Chuck Bullough
Syracuse completely baffled Cooper Rush last season, holding him to just 183-yards on 18-34 passing. They pressured him throughout and frustrated the talented signal caller. This season, Rush is more mature, more polished. He comes in more prepared to face the Orange. The Orange defensive gave up a lot of yards last week against Wake Forest, and are facing arguably a better quarterback this week. On the positive side of things, the Syracuse defense intercepted three passes and pressured Wake all afternoon. Defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough will have a variety of blitz schemes to put similar pressure on Rush and not allow him to pick apart his secondary. The chess match between the intelligent Rush and the creative Bullough will be fun to watch.
Orange wins if …
They Pressure Rush – The Syracuse defense pressured Cooper Rush last season and it clearly rattled him. With a subpar running game, the Chippewas will throw the ball a vast majority of the time. That means a strong performance from the secondary and Syracuse's ability to blitz effectively are critically important.
Chippewas Win if …
The CMU Defense Confuses Dungey – Yes Eric Dungey has been impressive in his first two outings, but the more tape that is out on him, the better teams can prepare for his skill set. Dungey is still a true freshman, and mistakes will happen. If the Chippewas can disguise their coverages and confuse Dungey, it could lead to turnovers and three-and-outs. That is what Central Michigan needs to upset Syracuse in the Carrier Dome.
S Tony Annese – Annese is a ballhawking safety who has size, speed and power. He plays the run well and has great playmaking instincts. Syracuse has to know where he is at all times.
Something to Prove
Syracuse Secondary – Syracuse gave up a lot of passing yards last week and will be tested again on Saturday. Another subpar performance will only add to the narrative that this is the weakness of the Syracuse defense. If they can step up and play well against a good quarterback like Cooper Rush, then the issues against Wake Forest may be the exception rather than the rule.
Looking to Build
QB Eric Dungey – Last week's first half was one Dungey and the Syracuse offense would like to forget. The second half, however, was much better. Dungey and the offense as a whole seemed to take a big step forward. Now he has to build on that second half and perform at that level for an entire game.
Freshman to Watch
RB Jordan Fredericks – Central Michigan is giving up 110 yards per game on the ground, and 3.3 yards per carry. Solid defensive numbers, though not elite. Syracuse will want to establish the run on Saturday, and Fredericks is in line to get some of them. He is the most explosive of the three Orange backs, and is one to watch in this one.