Before we jump in to a week of intense content to prime you for the Northwestern Wildcats’ season opener at Syracuse on Saturday, I’m going to shed a little bit on my personal life as it may impact some of the content. For the second time in ten months I’m having major back surgery. Yes, I timed it so I could recover in time to be at the home opener on September 8 against Vanderbilt, but you likely could’ve guessed that. I’m hopeful this will be the one that does the trick, and based on last year, when I went 0-2 watching NU from the couch recovering (losses to Michigan and Illinois) I’m determined to break my superstitious ways. Through the magic of WordPress blogging scheduling, this post, and others like it were already in the cue before they go “live”. So, I’ll likely be back on a computer on Wednesday and when you see my byline then, you’ll know I’m back in action. Now, on to the show…
Northwestern – Syracuse History Capsule
Gameday Info: Saturday, September 1, 12 pm et (ESPN2) Northwestern @ Syracuse
Alltime Series: Syracuse leads 5-4
Head Coach: Doug Marrone, 4th season (17-20)
2011 record: 5-7, 1-6
Conference: Big East (final year before moving to ACC in 2013)
Undergrad Population: 14,201
Venue: Carrier Dome (49,262)
First meeting: 1940 – NU 49 Syracuse 0 – @Syracuse
Last meeting: 2009- SU 37 NU 34 – Syracuse, NY
Erasing The Pain
Northwestern fans don’t forget losses. So it is, we return to the same site of our last battle against Syracuse, a September 2009 date in the Carrier Dome against a team that was in year one of the Doug Marrone era and had few aspirations, but had made national CFB news by starting former Duke PG, Greg Paulus. You might remember the name Mike Williams, an extremely good WR who terrorized and toyed with our secondary that night as we found ourselves in a 17-0 hole early. Few may remember, because of the scar of the loss to an eventual 4-8 team, that Mike Kafka went off that night completing his first 16 passes as he put on a clinic for most of the night, even scoring a TD as a receiver thanks to a screen-and-go pass to Andrew Brewer. The explosive offensive night had the ball in NU’s hands for a potential game-winning drive with the score tied at 34-34. Kafka threw an untimely pick and the ‘Cuse promptly marched for a last second FG to pull off the upset. If you’re a masochist and want to relive that game then you can click here and relive the recap I wrote on that painful night.
The Doug Marrone Era
The Syracuse head coach, like Fitz, is an alum of the school he coaches. Doug played at the ‘Cuse from ’83-’85 on the offensive line and returned to get his diploma in 1991 after stints in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins (’87) and New Orleans Saints (’89). He worked his way up the collegiate coaching ranks, most notably at Georgia Tech, before ascending up the pro coaching ranks to a high water mark as the New Orleans Saints OC before becoming the Orange’s head man. Marrone has one bowl appearance (and win – Pinstripe, 2010) in his three seasons and has only won more than one Big East game in that same season. Marrone has gone 4-8 (2009), 8-5 (2010), 5-7 (2011) for a 17-20 mark at the ‘Cuse. Just last week in his press conference previewing the 2012 two-deep, he addressed Northwestern and the level of the program as an annual bowl team from the Big Ten as a level he aspires to achieve with Syracuse. Marrone is well-liked by Orange Nation and despite the falloff season last year, seems to have the arrow pointing up for the program, in part by going the JUCO route to shore-up holes.
Syracuse seems to be kindred to its color brethren in the Big Ten, Illinois. The Orange have had just two winning seasons in the past decade plus and Marrone’s 2010 squad is one of them. The Orange seemed to be on their way to a second straight bowl game last year after jumping out to a 5-1 record, including an eye-opening throttling of then #15 West Virginia. In their 22 years in Big East play, the Orange have won only two Big East titles – ’97 & ’98, also known as the Donovan McNabb era. Coincidentally, McNabb was interested in playing for the Illini, however Lou Tepper was not interested in McNabb as a QB. Oops. This is an awkward year for Syracuse as they are persona non grata in their final tour of Big East country as they, along with Pitt, bolt for the ACC in 2013. Like the Illini, Syracuse imploded down the stretch losing five straight, the longest losing streak (and still current) since 2006. By the way, NU’s 2011 slide was its worst since 2006 as well. The ‘Cuse are decidedly a front half of the schedule part team. This is likely due to non-conference competition, however, they are 20-40 in the back half of seasons since 2002, which needs no commentary. Obviously, conference play kicks in during that stretch, but this year is a tad different. Northwestern opens their season, but is a warm-up to week two when they “host” USC at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. SU also ventures to TCF Bank Stadium in week four to battle Minnesota, plus a November date to battle SEC newbie Mizzou, making their non-conference as challenging as any BCS team.
We’ll be getting in to this throughout the week, but NU fans should be very afraid of senior QB Ryan Nassib. Nassib is a one-dimensional QB (as opposed to a dual-threat) but extremely good with his arm, not so much with his legs. Nassib will vie for first team All Big East honors at the QB slot and has dramatically improved his play throughout his career (last year: 259/415, 2685 yds, 22 TDs, 9 INT). However, the real question mark for the SU success in 2012 mirrors the ‘Cats question marks – almost to a tee. The Orange offensive line has been riddled with injuries and thus, a youth movement is in place and with it come a lot of question marks. There is no real dominant, proven RB behind Nassib, but he’s got weapons at WR. With their version of Brian Mulroe (Justin Pugh) out with injury, I expect issues on the left side of the Syracuse line and a favoring of running to the strong side a likely result. However, their right side is highly unproven with few career starts to speak of. I also expect Nassib to test our secondary from snap one as he has his favorite target, SR WR Alec Lemon ready to roll. Lemon set the SU single season reception mark with 68 (hard to believe as that wouldn’t even register on the NU alltime list). Marcus Sales is the other WR starter in this pro set formation and Sales sat out last season so I don’t know much about him other than the fact that SU bloggers will tell you he was anticipated to be the BEST WR on the team last season before a run-in with the law sidelined him for the year. Jerome Smith is the #1 RB and we don’t know a lot about this group other than they are inexperienced. Smith, a 6-0, 225 pound junior, fits the typical bruiser ‘Cuse back description, but has just a few carries in his career, highlighte by a 10 car, 55 yard performance vs Pitt in 2011.
On defense, the LB unit is the strength of the team and while the ‘Cuse lost a pair of stud DEs (including an NFL first rounder), recent recruiting and transfer upgrades have expectations high for young talent stepping in and stepping up. Again, just like NU, the ‘Cuse secondary is suspect with senior experience at two spots (one CB one safety) and a bunch of highly touted new recruits expecting to earn their stripes early. Injuries to the secondary have the roster in a bit of a question mark status, however, from a big picture standpoint, you could play Madlibs with both NU and Syracuse in terms of defensive commentary and make the teams and names interchangeable. The ‘Cuse 2012 secondary is more accurately reflective of our 2011 secondary – a couple of senior staples at CB and safety (Mabin, Peters) with two spots up for grabs, in part due to the recovering CB Keon Lyn, who will be the every down CB when he is at full strength.
There is one name that has Syracuse fans frothing to see – Ashton Broyld. He is the QB of the future and Tim Tebow-like in terms of size, style of play and ability to bruise with the run. You can bet Broyld will be in the lineup on opening day and much like Kain Colter was for us last season, Marrone will find various positions for him to get on the field as often as possible. He very well could be the “X factor” in Saturday’s game as no one has seen collegiate game tape of the true freshman. Frankly, he scares me from a scheme standpoint.
2011 Team Stats (NCAA Rank)
- Scoring Offense PPG – 24.2 (83rd)
- Scoring Defense PPG – 28.5 (73rd)
- Total Offense – 348.2 ypg (90th)
- Total Defense – 386.4 ypg (64th)
- Offense Passing Per Game – 227.8 ypg (65th)
- Offense Rushing Per Game – 120.4 ypg (95th)
- Defense Passing Per Game -258.3 ypg (98th)
- Defense Rushing Per Game – 128 ypg (32nd)
The Loud House
This is one of those self-invoked nicknames that hasn’t exactly caught on in CFB circles in part based on the fact Syracuse hasn’t been packing the Carrier Dome and second, they haven’t been ranked in eons and not part of the normal national CFB dialogue. Many of you know this, but in the ultimate of ironies, the Carrier Dome is named after the Syracuse-based air conditioning company, Carrier, yet the dome does NOT have air conditioning. An indoor facility with no AC and kickoff at high noon (ET) make for a potential sweaty mess on Sepetember 1. All I know is that the stadium brings back awful memories for ‘Cats fans whose lone mental image of the place evokes that night from ’09 when we lost 37-34. There is no doubt, regardless of attendance, the place obviously can get loud as the sound has no place to escape. The ‘Cuse averaged over 40,000 fans per game last season in a venue very close to Ryan Field capacity. I don’t expect NU to be intimidated by it as we regularly play in front of 100,000+ crowds on the road, but you wonder just how well we’ve improved our defensive communication systems to account for crowd noise like this.
Random NU-‘Cuse Connection
‘Cuse Cliff Notes
This season, I’ll be linking to sites to help you go much deeper in game week to get a glimpse of our opponents’ mindset, player personnel and perception of Northwestern. My bar for each starting point is always going to be Pre-Snap Read, the single best one-stop shop to learn about our opponents. However, as the season progresses, Paul Myerberg’s epic project becomes a little less relevant. Away we go…
- PreSnap Read Syracuse Preview (ranked #83) – CLICK HERE.
- Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician Blog – CLICK HERE.
- Inside the Loud House -CLICK HERE.
- The Juice (SNY Blog) – CLICK HERE.
- Cuse Confidential (Rivals) – CLICK HERE.
Syracuse 2012 Schedule
- 9/1 – NORTHWESTERN
- 9/8 – USC (MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ)
- 9/15 -STONY BROOK
- 9/22 – @Minnesota
- 9/29 BYE
- 10/6 – PITT
- 10/13 – @ Rutgers
- 10/20 -UCONN
- 10/27 – @ South Florida
- 11/3 – @Cincinnati
- 11/10 LOUISVILLE
- 11/17 – @ Missouri
- 11/24 – @ Temple
LTP Purple Challenge
I’m not sure how many NEW season tickets we’ve received since Sunday night as I’m currently under the knife getting back surgery. Please, don’t send flowers, buy NEW season tickets or use the fact that this deranged fan is so fired up about the ‘Cats home schedule that you’re trying to shut me up. Whatever it takes! Remember, Vandy @ night, BC late afternoon and the only way to see the soldout Nebraska game is to buy season tickets (Iowa likely as well). Plus, show them the 2013 and 2014 schedules and tell them to get in while they can. Email us at email@example.com and we’ll give you a shoutout – as soon as the morphine subsides.
NEW! LTP EXCHANGE
Many of you may have missed the launch of LTP’s very own version of Craig’s List this past Friday. The message board is designed for you, the NU fan, to unload tickets to fellow Wildcats or put in requests for things, like parking passes, that fellow readers may have. There are two ways to connect to this. First, there is a home page widget below the 2012 season calendar in the right sidebar. Second, there is a navigation tab along the top of this page called, wisely, LTP EXCHANGE. Also, be sure to read the thorough FAQs which should cover all of the caveats, what ifs and other “I need help” thoughts you have. As always, give us your feedback. Be sure to check it out as there have been over 250 views of the board and double-digit things posted already.