Orange look to tame Huskies
At the quarter poll of the Syracuse football season, there's only one reason for optimism: the upcoming home date with Northeastern tomorrow. SU has managed to botch most everything recently, be it holding onto Greg Robinson as coach far too long or somehow including Nike product placement on the Ernie Davis statue. Sweep all the negativity aside though and you should expect to see an entertaining football game this weekend. Sure, Syracuse should be crushing Northeastern, a FCS opponent, by thirty plus points. But times are hard up north and touchdowns are few and far between. One can expect the game not to be filled with quality play and highlight reel material, but one that should go down to the very edge and (unfortunately) keep fans of both teams on the edge of their seats.
All the pressure for this game will rest squarely on the shoulders of Greg Robinson, his coaching staff and team. This is now the one game that pundits are still penciling in as a victory for the ‘Cuse this season. Anxiety and unrest among Orange faithful is at an all-time high. Don't be fooled by the gaudy attendance mark of nearly 46,000 for last week's Penn State game; many of them were Nittany Lion fans and a majority of them wouldn't have shown had it not been for a certain movie premiering in Syracuse that weekend.
Anyhow, let's get down to the nitty gritty, some Xs and Os. Syracuse needs to control the line of scrimmage if it wants to win this game. This is one of the few contests where the offensive line should be able to open gaping holes for Curtis ‘Boonah' Brinkley. He has proven he has the talent to run against skilled defenses; now, he should have a chance to use his speed and elusiveness against an overmatched foe. However, Northeastern will most likely concentrate on stopping the run and forcing Cameron Dantley to beat them. Thus, it's imperative that SU uses some play action or a trick play early to put the Huskies on their heels. Syracuse will need to grab control of the game early in order to get the scant number of fans in attendance into the game.
Even against a FCS team, the Orange defense may still have bitten off more than it can chew. Solely on pure athleticism and speed, Syracuse should have a large advantage. Expect Arthur Jones, Nick Santiago and Vincenzo Giruzzi to make some big plays up front. The linebacking corps will continue to have a tough time, as they really need to shore up their tackling skills for SU to have a chance at doing anything beyond winning one game this year. Kevyn Scott and Randy McKinnon, two underclassmen, have adjusted relatively well to the college game this season. Syracuse's secondary isn't in shambles quite like their brethren at linebacker, but still have plenty of work to do. They will be tested by senior quarterback Anthony Orio, a heady football player who manages the game well.
Orio, at 6'2", 240, is a big, yet mobile quarterback who has decent arm strength and isn't afraid to tuck it and run, evidenced by his nine rushing attempts against Georgia Southern earlier this season. Alex Broomfield is an undersized running back who will struggle to get yards behind an overmatched offensive line. Meanwhile, on defense Northeastern will be nothing special, even for a FCS team. They are giving up 41 points per game, a number that SU will likely fall short of. The defensive line is very undersized, as is the case at most FCS schools where they recruit second-tier talent and juco transfers.
I've been overly optimistic with each of my predictions so far this year for Syracuse, so I'll tone it down a bit here. Syracuse should put points on the board easily (look for Sales to find the end zone again) but their inability to finish plays on defense and a plethora of mental mistakes mean that the ‘Cuse won't get to breathe easy in this one until the final whistle sounds.
Prediction: Syracuse 27, Northeastern 20.
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