IAN (7-2) (EXEMPT FROM PREDICTION):
Minnesota was probably the better team before opt-outs, portal departures and the like. After everything SU has lost, the Golden Gophers are definitely the better team. PJ Fleck is rolling with his backup quarterback, redshirt freshman Athan Kaliakmanis, instead of 6th-year senior Tanner Morgan, who suffered multiple injuries near the tail end of the season and didn’t play U of M’s last two games. But regardless of QB, the Gophers rely on the ground, where Mo Ibrahim makes hay. Ibrahim is 57 yards away from breaking Minnesota’s career rushing record; the sixth-year is also a great comeback story, returning from a torn Achilles last year to be an All-B10 first-teamer. Expect Minnesota to control the game on the ground, and slowly grind the orange defense to a pulp.
ETHAN (11-1): Minnesota 28, Syracuse 17
The Orange are missing too many bodies, will have too much inexperience both on and off the field, and Minnesota is the better team. Syracuse’s struggles at the end of the season will have been studied on film for the last month and the Golden Gophers will take advantage. 8 wins would be a huge accomplishment for Dino Babers and SU, plus there should be a lot of Orange in the crowd, but Minnesota takes this one.
CAM (8-1): Minnesota 30, Syracuse 13
This game looked a lot better when Sean Tucker, Matthew Bergeron, Ja’Had Carter, Duce Chestnut and others were supposedly involved. The same can be said about Robert Anae and Tony White. Size that up with the disadvantage Syracuse has on the ground both on offense and defense, with the need to rely on true freshman LeQuint Allen and having to stop Golden Gophers star back Mo Ibrahim, and this is not going to be pretty for the Orange.
Having some faith in Garrett Shrader isn’t wrong by any means, but unless Minnesota turns it over an ample number of times, SU’s starting QB needs to shred one of the best defenses in the nation. It doesn’t help that the Cuse have won one of its last six and the Gophers are winners of four of their last five either. It’s just the wrong time, against the wrong opponent with the wrong team for the Orange, and that’s what a grueling season often delivers.
FRANCESCO (6-1): Minnesota 31, Syracuse 20
Notre Dame all over again. The Golden Gophers are going to run all over the Orange. Mohamed Ibrahim is one of the best running backs in the Big Ten and all indications are he’s playing. He rushed for almost 1,600 yards this year against an undersized Syracuse front that gets moved easily. Minnesota is likely to be without starting quarterback Tanner Morgan, it won’t matter. Ground and pound will be the name of the game. On the other side of the ball, SU begins life without Sean Tucker. It will be interesting to see what LeQuint Allen does in his first salvo as RB1 and what Jason Beck does in his first chance to call plays. It’ll provide a glimpse into the future, but it’s hard to except the offense to hum given the circumstances. It’ll be a long and cold afternoon for Syracuse on a December afternoon in the Bronx.
CARTER (8-2): Minnesota 26, Syracuse 10
In a different setting or with a few more of its horses, the Orange could have been a trendy pick to finish off their season with a Pinstripe Bowl victory flourish. Instead, what we may see Thursday is the difference between a team greater than the sum of its parts and a team largely dependent on now-absent pieces.
Minnesota represents the former as a snarling, down-in-the-dirt Big 10 outfit that wins with a punishing ground game and aggressive, physical defense. All indications are that Golden Gophers running back Mo Ibrahim, who ran for nearly 1,600 yards and 21 touchdowns after rupturing his Achilles a year ago, is primed and ready for launch against an SU defense that crumbled down the stretch against opposing backs. Additionally, Minnesota’s thunderous offensive line that averages 322 pounds per man is a bad matchup against a small Syracuse defensive front.
The latter in the equation is Syracuse. NFL-caliber pieces in Sean Tucker and Matthew Bergeron are moving on to the NFL draft, and even if Garrett Williams hadn’t torn his ACL, he likely would have done the same. Throw in transfers like Ja’Had Carter and Courtney Jackson that cost the team depth, and it’s hard to see a patchwork, indoor-accustomed Orange outfit (playing with two brand-new coordinators, mind you) putting up a good fight in frigid Yankee Stadium. Expect the 2022 season to end on a sour note.
JOHN (7-2): Minnesota 27, Syracuse 13
The Gophers have a battering ram tailback in Mohamed Ibrahim who will shred this Orange defense. Minnesota also has the top 3rd down defense and has allowed the least amount of red zone house calls this year. I don’t think SU will convert touchdowns inside the 20 if they even make it there. Without Sean Tucker this team figures to be forced to pass the ball more which doesn’t bode well considering Syracuse has one receiver with a pulse. I think Syracuse is competitive in the first half but the wheels fall off in the second and Minny just pounds the rock and wears down this defense. SU maybe gets one touchdown on a trick play of some kind but that’s about it. Nonetheless a solid season for the Orange, just a really tough matchup.
LIAM (9-3): Minnesota 30, Syracuse 17
This prediction has less to do with the might of Minnesota and more the fact that we’ll be seeing a shadow of what SU has looked like all season. Thanks to both injuries and NFL Draft opt-outs, power players Garrett Williams, Sean Tucker, and Matthew Bergeron won’t be on the field. That alone is enough for me to declare that Syracuse will not have the firepower to keep up with a Minnesota offense whose strength counters the Orange’s weakness. Golden Gophers tailback Mohamed Ibrahim is a baller in every sense of the word. 1,594 yards and 19 touchdowns on the ground speak for itself. That does not bode well for an SU defense that struggled mightily against the run down the stretch. Clemson, Notre Dame, Florida State, and Wake Forest all tallied north of 200 yards rushing, and none of them had a running back with Ibrahim’s numbers. It’s been a successful season for the Orange, but it won’t be a successful ending.