The season opener is finally upon us. After all the talk, Syracuse finally gets to lace up against Western Michigan in its first road opener since 2010. SU also opens up against a non-FCS team, which poses a completely different type of challenge. Here’s how the staff thinks week one in Kalamazoo will go down:
Tyler Aki: Syracuse 41, Western Michigan 27
The Western Michigan defensive line doesn’t pose a lot of problems, especially against the Orange’s veteran offensive line. Eric Dungey will have all day in the pocket to make decisions and allow his young receivers to get open. The only thing that stands between the Orange and a comfortable week one victory is ball security. WMU recovered 16 fumbles last season, the second most in the country. Ball security has never been a major problem for the SU offense, and I don’t expect that to start now with a veteran bunch. Tim Lester won’t become the latest former Orange coach to take down his former school.
JD Raucci: Syracuse 34, Western Michigan 20
One notion that SU fans need to dispel before kickoff on Friday is that this Western Michigan game will serve as a tune up for Syracuse. The Broncos are by far the most talented team the Orange have played in a season opener since Penn State in 2013. Remember, WMU is just two years removed from a 13-1 record and an appearance in a New Years Six bowl. With that being said, the matchups favor SU in this game. Western Michigan is a very run-heavy team and Syracuse’s defensive line, with guys like Chris Slayton, Alton Robinson and Kendall Coleman, is the strength of the defensive side of the ball for SU, so it should have more success in stopping the Broncos’ attack than if WMU was a spread-em-out kind of offense that tests the secondary. Offensively, don’t expect this to be a huge explosion by any stretch of the imagination for Dino Babers and company. It’s the first game of the year, on the road, with a very inexperienced bunch of wide receivers. They probably won’t be running at full throttle and won’t want to show too much of their hand unless they absolutely need to, but they’ll more than get the job done with Eric Dungey under center. In the end this game will be a bit tighter than anticipated, but a strong showing from the defense will make it feel a bit more comfortable than a two-touchdown margin.
Tim Leonard: Syracuse 28, Western Michigan 14
Western Michigan is no slouch of a program. The Broncos have had eight players selected in the NFL Draft in the past three years, compared to just two from Syracuse. That being said, their offense is very one-dimensional. The Orange might struggle in the early goings and this will likely be a sloppy game like most openers but Syracuse will win by two touchdowns in the end.
Jonathon Hoppe: Syracuse 27, Western Michigan 21
Wait. No nickel defense in the opener against WMU? I was looking forward to checking out the 4-2-5, but I guess I’ll have to wait a little bit longer. What playing the traditional 4-3 against the Broncos does do is give us a great look at SU’s top three linebackers (Ryan Guthrie, Kielan Whitner and Andrew Armstrong). Given the amount Western Michigan runs the football, those three will be thrown right in the fire this weekend. It shouldn’t be too big of a problem, though, and the Orange should be able to hold off the Broncos. This is one of those weird scenarios where it feels like SU is the stronger team/program. In reality, WMU has had much more success in recent years. That’s something the Syracuse players better understand when they step off the plane in Kalamazoo.