Northwestern Game Preview

Syracuse Orange (0-0, 0-0 Big East) @ Northwestern Wildcats (0-0, 0-0 Big Ten), Aug. 30, Noon, ESPN2

Syracuse knows the importance of starting a season well, but they may never need a win quite like this one. The media has scrutinized SU this offseason and Greg Robinson's job is about as safe as babies under the care of Paris Hilton. And in Northwestern, the Orange draws an opponent that they should match up fairly well against. Northwestern finished last season with a 6-6 record, one of those losses being at home to perennial cellar dweller Duke.

Like Syracuse, Northwestern has some very interesting pieces at the skill positions on offense. Quarterback C.J. Bacher threw for over 3,600 yards last season. Seniors Tyrell Sutton and Omar Conteh combined for one thousand rushing yards last season and Sutton, who ran for 1,474 yards and 16 touchdowns in his freshman season, will start this season healthy for the Wildcats. Northwestern also boasts two senior wideouts, Eric Peterman and Ross Lane. Facing such offensive firepower, Syracuse's defense will most likely find itself reeling. Sutton and Conteh are big, physical backs who have deceptive quickness.

Northwestern has a very young team, however, with just 21 seniors. This inexperience will show through at times, be it via sloppy penalties, turnovers or missed plays.
Northwestern's defensive ineptitude should also rival that of the ‘Cuse. The Wildcats allowed a whopping 31 ppg against a schedule that featured only two ranked teams.

Northwestern and Syracuse are similar in many ways and we can expect to see many points on the scoreboard, a la last year's game against Louisville. The heavy artillery will be out for sure on offense and this game may come down to the last team to have the ball.

Keys to the Game:

-The Orange need to score first and try to take Northwestern and its fans out of the game early.

-Arthur Jones and the defensive line must win the battle at the line of scrimmage and slow down Tyrell Sutton. If he gets to the secondary, you can forget about it.

-No turnovers or stupid penalties on the offensive side of the ball. SU must establish the run early and try to control the clock. If the Orange can win the battle of the clock, it stands a fighter's chance in the last five minutes of the game.

-Open up the playbook and try some trick plays or downfield passes on offense. Whether it's some play action, a reverse or a wide receiver screen, do something to shake up the Northwestern defense in the early going.

-The red zone defense needs to be stellar. The Wildcats will get their yards on SU between the twenties. If SU can hold strong in the red zone, this will provide the rest of the team with a much-needed lift.

-Syracuse needs a big play on defense/special teams. A Max Suter kick return or an interception by the secondary would fit the bill here.

Syracuse must win time of possession, the turnover battle and establish the running game to stick around. Expect SU's offense to come out firing and keep the game very close heading to the half. The crowd should play a role here, but not nearly as much as SU's conditioning and depth (or lack thereof). The defense will tire and sputter in the second half and Northwestern will put it away with about five minutes to go.

Prediction: Northwestern 34, Syracuse 24

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