Getting off to a good start may be the most important thing in a college football season, especially for a team that is coming off of a down year. When the season is only 12 games long, a team like SU cannot afford to give any games away, especially against a Rhode Island team that only managed one win last year.
The Orange has a lot of question marks of its own heading into next Friday, but this game against the Rams can really set the tone for the season. SU can realistically start the season 3-0 with three straight easy home wins against the Rams, Wake Forest, and Central Michigan. If the team can pull this off, it only needs to go 3-6 over the next nine weeks to qualify for a bowl.
Rhode Island won only one game against Towson last year, and most of its losses weren’t even close. And if you thought the Orange’s offense looked incompetent on the field last season, Rhode Island will make you feel a little better. Across 12 games, the Rams put up just 150 points and allowed 409 points, a ridiculously lopsided scoring differential. The URI rushing defense ranked 110th out of 121 FCS schools, allowing an average of 231 yards per game on the ground.
SU is 2-0 all-time against Rhode Island, winning a blowout in 2002 and a close one in 2011. There’s no reason to believe URI will be better this season, although a couple transfers will certainly bolster the program. But, the team is still dealing with a quarterback controversy and an overall lack of talent. Asking the Orange to run the ball, something it has done very well recently, and hopefully not have to make any key plays through the air? Well that seems a little too good to be true. The Orange shouldn’t have to do anything fancy to walk away with a win.
Pulling off a win in front of what could turn out to be a decent crowd in the Carrier Dome would be huge for the confidence levels of a Syracuse team that has little-to-no expectations, but is feeling the pressure. Using the season opener as a spark to the next two home games to start the season, well that may just be enough to get Central New Yorkers excited about football again.