Fearless Picks - Syracuse

The Syracuse opener could be a low scoring affair - at least in the minds of th e writers at BlueGoldNews.com.

Matt Keller Last Week: - Season 0-0 Pick: SU 20-17
West Virginia and Syracuse have never met in a season opener, and neither team has had one with higher stakes than this in the last four years.

The game serves as a potential springboard to a solid season and third-straight Big East title for WVU. Syracuse will try to do what the Mountaineers couldn't -- win its first game under a first-year head coach following a school icon.

The Orange dropped the option, but not Perry Patterson. Unimpressive in two games against West Virginia, Patterson will need major help from teammates settling into a new scheme. The Mountaineer defense could be one of the better units in the last 25 years, and its solid secondary play and confusing stack set should create problems.

But WVU, too, is breaking in new players in an environment where it has won once in 10 years and has never beaten Syracuse in consecutive games. This one showcases WVU's talent and schematic knowledge against the Carrier Dome. At 7-17 all-time at Syracuse, 4-8 in the Dome and with new signal callers and no passing game, West Virginia must prove it can beat SU without Chris Henry.

Bill Gleason Last Week: - Season 0-0 Pick: WVU 27-17
West Virginia opens the season in one of the most difficult environments a coach could imagine: against a new staff with a new system which makes Syracuse preparation very difficult. However, one only need look back four seasons to see the difficulty a team has installing an entirely new scheme early in the season.

West Virginia will be trying to beat Syracuse for the fourth time in a row, which would be a school first, and the Mountaineers have never won two in a row at Syracuse. Despite that there is but one big key to the entire ballgame: rushing. The Mountaineers ran the ball at will on Syracuse last year at Mountaineer Field. And Syracuse couldn't run at all. West Virginia returns five players on the offensive line with starting experience and a stable of running backs to get the job done. And the Mountaineers quietly arrive with what could be Rich Rodriguez's best defense despite the early departure of Adam Jones to the NFL.

Look for the Mountaineer D and the running game to keep the Orange in check while WVU's quarterbacks get their feet wet. A late touchdown pass ices it in the fourth.

Andy Easton Last Week: - Season 0-0 Pick: WVU 20-17
Syracuse starts the 2005 season with new coaches, new uniforms, new name, new logo and a new attitude. Unfortunately for the Orange fans and players, it will result in the same old result against the Mountaineers. The Gold and Blue will take advantage of the Orange adjusting to new schemes and sneak out the of Carrier Dome with the victory.
Chris Richardson Last Week: - Season 0-0 Pick: WVU 34-17
Lost in all the talk about the quarterback battle, an inexperienced receiving corps, and everything else with the Mountaineer football team is one very important question: Who will de-throne Matt Keller atop the Blue and Gold News weekly staff predictions? Don't get me wrong, Keller's a nice guy, but his head has been bigger than Stewie Griffin's ever since he won the title last year. I'll start my quest for the crown this week with three guarantees.

1) As Cam Huffman, Greg Hunter, and I make our way to Syracuse on Saturday, we will stop at at least two Sheetz convenience stores.

2) With the Mountaineers leading comfortably in the second half, at least one thread will be started on our message board about "what's going wrong" in the game.

3) The Mountaineers will come out with Adam Bednarik behind center, and move the ball through the air with short passes, then wear down the Cuse defense in the second half with a relentless ground attack. Pat McAfee shows why he was awarded a scholarship, and why he's the best freshman kicker in the nation when he nails a long field goal in the second half. Meanwhile, the Mountaineers start off the season with a solid victory.

Greg Hunter Last Week: - Season 0-0 Pick: WVU 21-10
Schemes are fun to talk about, coaching decisions make for great watercooler conversations on Monday, home field advantage adds to the comfort level, but in the end, 99 percent of all football games are won by the teams with the best combination of talent and efficiency. WVU has defeated Syracuse the past three years not because Rich Rodriguez suddenly became a better coach than Paul Pasqualoni, but because Rodriguez's Mountaineers had more talent and played better football than SU. The Orange now have a new coach, and Greg Robinson is changing offensive and defensive systems at Syracuse. That's well and good, but the talent pool hasn't changed much; not yet at least. West Virginia has plenty of inexperience itself, but it still has more talent than SU. That trumps everything else.
Cam Huffman Last Week: - Season 0-0 Pick: WVU 24-21
Look out Vince Lombardi. Greg Robinson is in town. From the hype coming out of Central New York you would think that Syracuse's new head coach was superhuman. Even Mountaineer fans have fallen for this trick. Everywhere I go I hear about how much better Syracuse is going to be this year and how Robinson is going to put the Orange right back into the national spotlight.

The closer we get to game day, the more people are picking against West Virginia and talking about how Syracuse's nine returners on defense are going to completely shut down the Mountaineer offense while the Orange's new West Coast offense will keep the score turning faster than the clock. Nine returning starters on one side of the ball is certainly a plus, but you have to look at who those nine starters are. Just because a player has played a few years does not mean he is suddenly Ray Lewis. As for the offense, running a West Coast attack successfully takes a big time quarterback and above average receivers. Syracuse has neither.

Syracuse's defense finished 101st in the country last year, and its offense was 100th in passing — not exactly what it will be looking for from its new offense where passing is the main mode of attack. It is going to take more than a new coach to turn these numbers around.

Don't get me wrong, West Virginia has its problems too. The passing game is about as big of a threat as Mighty Mouse is to Superman, but a solid running game and a very good defense will help the Mountaineers come out in front in this one. Jason Colson will break the 100-yard mark, and Jason Gwaltney will score his first of many collegiate touchdowns. The WVU defense will record four sacks and an interception to seal the win.

Jane Donovan Last Week: - Season 0-0 Pick: WVU 21-10
Yes, we have a new quarterback and Question Mark and the Mysterians are at wide receiver, but Syracuse has a new coach, a new coaching staff, a new athletic director, new uniforms, and a new system. Jason Colson proves once again that the Orange done him wrong, and then goes on to prove that he's still the first Jason on the depth chart. Rich Rodriguez really can't choose between White and Bednarik, so he opens the game with both of them on the field, although before the first quarter is out, Pat White stakes his claim.
Chuck McGill Last Week: - Season 0-0 Pick: WVU 30-13
The Mountaineers will unveil its freshman phenom Sunday in the cozy confines of the Carrier Dome. Well, cozy for kickers. That's right, Pat McAfee - not the big man wearing No. 14 - will steal the spotlight and help propel WVU to a victory. While Rodriguez's quarterbacks get their feet wet, the defense will shutdown the Orange and give the Mountaineers great field position. As the offense works out its kinks, McAfee will shine. In the second half, with the offense beginning to click, the Mountaineers will run away from Syracuse and let Louisville and Pittsburgh know there is a third team to be reckoned with in the Big East.

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