by Mike Held
Get excited. In less than 24 hours, Syracuse football will begin its 2012 campaign. Tomorrow, we shall do our best to cook the Wildcats in an orange flavored marinade. This is one of the Oranges biggest games of the year, definitely top 12 on that list. Sun Tzu said "Know Your Enemy". It's time to learn about your enemy, the Northwestern Wildcats.
Protecting QB Ryan Nassib will not be too big of an issue. The Northwestern defensive line is very, very weak. They accumulated a whopping 17 sacks last season. Most of the
starters from said line do return, but, as the past has shown, they have had difficulty getting to the Quarterback. The Justin Pugh-less offensive line shouldn't really have much of an issue protecting Nassib this week.
The Northwestern secondary is better than the D-Line, but not by much. They return only one starter and feature redshirt freshman Nick VanHoose, who has a ton of potential and could wreak some havoc on the field this week. Because the Orange RB's are unproven and inexperienced, SU will rely on Nassib to move the ball through the air. He has a decent set of weapons around him, including Marcus Sales, Alec Lemon (Questionable), David Stevens (Questionable), and Jeremiah Kobena. Big games from these four targets could mean success for the Orange.
For the 'Cats, the play of linebackers David Nwabuisi and Damien Proby are back for another year. They both played vital roles a season ago, and will have to maintain that impact if NU is to qualify for another bowl game.
Defending Northwestern may be somewhat of an issue for the Orange. The Wildcats feature Kain Colter on offense, a scrambling QB who is very versatile. As we saw last year, the Orange defense really struggled with the running quarterbacks (see B.J. Daniels of South Florida). NU has a set of quick, young, agile wide receivers in Demetrius Fields, Christian Jones and Tony Jones. All are over 6 feet and fit perfectly into the Northwestern system. The Syracuse secondary is a little undersized, so they may be a little outmatched on Saturday afternoon. The speed of the Wildcat WR's allows the middle of the field to be opened up for Colter to work his magic. Northwestern is fun to watch when their system is working, but a good defense and a few broken up passes can shut them down.
Any and all progress on the stopping Colter front will be made by the Syracuse Linebackers. In the middle, Siriki Diabate is getting his first start, and Dan Vaughan, Marquis Spruill, and Dyshawn Davis are likely going to split time at OLB. This unit will have to be on top of its game for the Orange to start the season on a good note.
A big, big weakness for the Wildcats is their lack of running backs. If the ball is moving on the ground, chances are that going to be in the hands of Colter. He led the team in rushing yards last year with 589. In terms of actual RB's, NU's feature back is Trevon Greene, a 5'10" sophomore from Mesquite, TX. His ran for 362 yards and 4 TD's last year. Again, the Orange front seven will have to contain these two from the opening kickoff.
For the Orange, it's simple. They need to move the ball and score points. Look for Nassib to attack the secondary, it could be a big mismatch. If Nassib and company can execute their game plan, this one could be in the win column. The game kicks off at noon, and will be televised on ESPN2.
Hopefully this preview gives you a little insight on what to watch for when you're rooting for the Orange tomorrow. Doug Marrone is entering his fourth year as coach of the Orange, and it's time to erase the painful memories ingrained in our brains from last year's collapse. With the New York College Classic looming, it's important for the Orange to get a win, both for their own record, and to build excitement for next week's clash at MetLife stadium. PREDICTION:
Syracuse wins 30-20.