Syracuse Orange (0-0, 0-0 Big East) @ Northwestern Wildcats (0-0, 0-0 Big Ten), Aug. 30, Noon,…
Voltaire once said, "Optimism is the madness of insisting that all is well when we are miserable." In that case, optimism may be the best word to describe how Syracuse fans feel about the team. The Orange has struggled mightily recently, compiling a 7-28 record in Greg Robinson's first three years at the helm. Despite all rumors and protests, AD Daryl Gross brought back Robinson for a fourth year, insisting that it was only fair and also noting that Robinson has a chance to work with a team full of his own players.
So just what should ‘Cuse fans expect this year, coming off a 2-10 campaign a year ago? The best case scenario looks to be a 6-6 season with a trip to the Toronto Bowl. On the other end of the spectrum, should the Orange lose to Northeastern on September 20th, widespread student rioting would most likely occur.
Starting on the offensive side of the ball, the Orange looks to be in decent shape. Andrew Robinson is an experienced quarterback who has potential, shown by his 423 yard, four touchdown effort against Louisville last year. Other times, Andrew would overthrow receivers and misread defenses, as shown by his paltry 53% completion rate. Even when Andrew put the ball on target, his wide receivers' slippery fingers betrayed him time and time again. Now, Robinson's top two targets (Taj Smith and Mike Williams) are gone. To replace them, SU will look to local product Lavar Lobdell, a 6'3" junior. Sophomore Donte Davis and senior Bruce Williams, a team captain, will also see their share of passes. Williams moved from safety to wide receiver in the offseason, in light of a leg injury to wideout Dan Sheeran.
SU will most likely concentrate on a run-first approach this season under new offensive co-ordinator Mitch Browning. The backfield is filled with unproven stallions. While the starting job is still up in the air between Curtis Brinkley, Doug Hogue and Delone Carter, speedy freshman Averin Collier could see time if the injury bug bites again.
While SU seems to have a bright future at the skilled positions, whether they have the ‘hogs' up front to open holes and create time for them remains in question. This year, the Orange decided to get smaller, quicker and in better shape on the offensive line. Time will tell if it will show improvement in their play. The Orange do not have a single player listed over three hundred pounds on the defensive side of the ball this year. In fact, their entire roster only contains six such players. Meanwhile, South Florida has twelve such players, while Connecticut has five upperclassmen that fit the prototypical ‘hog' image.
The Orange will be a young, undersized team once again, but improvement should be evident this year. The offense should have considerable firepower. However, the Orange defense will be hard-pressed to slow down some of the offensive juggernauts they face this season. With three nationally televised games and four against teams in the preseason top 25, the Orange's schedule packs quite a punch in 2008.
The Orange must improve on their turnover margin to reach their potential. They can put points on the board and will be involved in lots of close games, particularly in Big East play where there are not many elite teams. Special teams play should enable the Orange to win a down-to-the-wire game or two this season. Patrick Shadle, Rob Long and Max Suter, the anchors of this unit, are coming off solid seasons and will have high expectations for themselves.
AD Daryl Gross said that he saw ‘tangible evidence' of improvement last season to keep Greg Robinson around. This year, he should see some evidence that's a bit more tangible, as in the win-loss record. While the ‘Cuse are a far cry from a powerhouse, their gradual rise to back to prominence should begin this year.
Without further ado, here are your 2008 predictions:
Date Opponent Projected Result
08-30 @ Northwestern L 34-24
09-06 v. Akron W 31-14
09-13 v. #22 Penn State L 38-21
09-20 v. Northeastern W 49-13
09-27 v. #25 Pittsburgh L 24-17
10-11 @ #8 West Virginia L 52-21
10-18 @ #19 South Florida L 27-17
11-01 v. Louisville W 38-31
11-08 @ Rutgers L 28-17
11-15 v. Connecticut W 20-16
11-22 @ Notre Dame L 27-10
11-29 @Cincinnati W 26-24
2008 Projected Final Record: 5-7 (3-4)