Last season, the Northwestern Wildcats and the Syracuse Orange kicked off the season with a thriller.
This season the two teams hook it up again, hopefully with similar excitement.
That could be tough as the health of QB Kain Colter (concussion) and running back Venric Mark (hamstring) is a big question for the Wildcats going into this one. Both are listed as questionable heading into the game and having them on the field could be the determining factor in a Northwestern win.
With Colter’s status uncertain, Trevor Siemian will likely get the start under center for No. 19 Northwestern, which is fine for Wildcats head coach pat Fitzgerald as Siemian led the Wildcats late last year against Syracuse and finished 18 of 29 for 276 yards and touchdown, helping lead Northwestern to a 44-30 victory last Saturday at California.
The status of Mark is a bit more concerning for Northwestern, but Treyvon Green filled in with 16 carries for 129 yards and two touchdowns last week, so the Wildcats do have depth.
As for Syracuse, they are coming off of a season opening 23-17 loss to Penn State last weekend where they played pretty good defense, but showed very little rhythm offensively.
Will the Orange rebound this week or will the Wildcats prevail despite injuries to two key players?
Let’s find out.
When: Saturday, September 7
Time: 6:00 p.m. EST
Place: Ryan Field, Evanston, Ill.
TV: Big Ten Network
Spread: Northwestern -16.5
Last Meeting: 2012, Northwestern won 42-41 at Syracuse
Key for Syracuse: Drew Allen must be better
The senior signal caller, starting in place for the graduated Ryan Nassib, didn’t get off to a good start to the season, completing just 16-of-37 passes for 189 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
Those numbers could go up this week against a Northwestern defense that allowed 30 points and 548 total yards of offense in Week 1.
It would also help if running backs Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley managed more than a combined 3.5 yards per carry like they did a week ago.
Key for Northwestern: Make Allen beat you
I like where the Wildcats are at offensively, even if Colter and Mark are unable to play. He key is to tighten up the defense and not make things easy for Allen.
There’s no need for Northwestern to allow Allen to get comfortable and in a groove. We should see a lot of pressure coming Syracuse’s way on Saturday.
If the Wildcats take away the run, there will be a ton of pressure on Allen to make big plays.
We haven’t seen yet if he is capable of doing so.
Prediction: I think this will be a closer game than the spread indicates, but we won’t see anything like the thriller last season. Syracuse keeps it close with their defense but at the end of the day there just isn’t enough fire power on offense to get the job done. Northwestern 26, Syracuse 17