Pat Fitzgerald’s Wildcats knocked off the Orange in a nail-biter at the Dome last year.
Syracuse lost a teeth-grinder to Northwestern last season at the Dome, 42-41. Now that the venue switches to Ryan Field in Evanston, home of the Wildcats, this matchup between the Orange and purple even more interesting.
No. 17 Northwestern picked up a win last weekend over Cal 44-30, and the Wildcats know they belong in the Top 25 rankings. The Northwestern defense had trouble limiting the passing yards of Cal quarterback Jared Goff. The freshman completed 38 of 63 passes for 445 yards while tossing two touchdowns, but threw three interceptions.
For Syracuse’s 23-17 loss to Penn State, Drew Allen struggled in his starting debut. The fifth-year senior was just 16-for-37 without a touchdown and two interceptions.
Here are five things to watch for in Saturday’s game against Northwestern.
1) Analyzing Allen. The Syracuse defense put the Orange in a position to win by stopping the running game, but Allen had to provide the points and was unable to. Syracuse limited Penn State running backs to just 57 yards on the ground, but allowed 296 passing yards. The good thing for Syracuse is tha Northwester struggled to control the pass in its first game. Allen should have opportunities to throw for completions. Problem A for Allen last week was his communication with his receivers. He may catch a few breaks against a Wildcat defense that allowed a freshman quarterback to throw for 445 yards.
2) Syracuse’s running game. Jerome Smith scored the only two touchdowns the Orange had last week. He rushed for 73 yards on 16 carries. Prince-Tyson Gulley rushed for only 24 yards on 12 carries. Gulley and Smith need to become the foundation of the offense, and take the pressure off an inexperienced starting quarterback. The Wildcats defense allowed 93 rushing yards to Cal, but limited the big plays on the ground. Syracuse may need those big gains from the ground attack.
3) Wideouts need to step up. Allen evenly distributed his passes last week. In his 16 completions, four went to Ashton Broyld, three to Jarrod West, two to Adrian Flemming, and Jeremiah Kobena, Christopher Clark, and Beckett Wales each caught one. But to beat a good team like Northwestern, the Orange will need a few plays through the air to move the chains and score points. One of the targets will need to win his individual matchup and make a play. A receiver needs to break out as a security blanket in a struggling air attack.
4) Stop the run. The Orange defense limited the Nittany Lions to just 57 yards on the ground on 38 attempts, good for just 1.5 yards per carry. The defensive line looked strong in plugging any holes for Penn State running backs. Northwestern ran for 209 yards and two touchdowns against Cal. Syracuse should focus on Treyvon Green. He ran for 129 yards and had both scores. Green has quick feet and the Orange defense needs to keep a tight line.
5) These guys know each other. SU tangled with the Wildcats last season, and these two teams also played each other in ’09. That was Scott Shafer’s first season as defensive coordinator at SU, while Pat Fitzgerald was HC in Evanston. The Orange have some familiarity with Wildcat quarterback Trevor Siemian and Green after last year. Syracuse trailed in that game 35-13, but fought back to lose by just a point. The Orange won’t be caught off guard by Northwestern, although the Cats don’t know what to expect from Allen. Maybe an advantage for SU.
Prediction: Syracuse battles tough, but Northwestern is a better team right now and is playing at home. The Cats pick up a 35-28 win.
Posted: Austin Pollack