It’s a short week to prep for the home opener on Saturday night vs a familiar foe, Syracuse. I can only imagine how short of a week it must be for a Wildcat team that suffered an incredibly physical game and returned home sometime around 8 am ct Sunday morning. Fitz talks about a 24-hour “flush rule” – win or lose -but as fans we don’t have parameters. It’s time to pivot towards Syracuse, though
Northwestern (1-0) vs Syracuse Orange (0-1) – History Capsule
Gameday Info: Saturday, September 7, 5 pm ct (BTN)
Alltime Series: Northwestern & Syracuse tied – 5-5
Head Coach: Scott Shafer, 1st season (was DC under Doug Marrone for past four seasons)
2012 record: 8-5 (Big East Champions)
‘Cuse 2013 record: 0-1, lost 23-17 Penn State at MetLife Stadium on Saturday
Conference: ACC (1st season)
Undergrad Population: 13.987
Venue: Ryan Field- capacity 47,330 (yes, NU has added 200 to its sellout number)
Last meeting: Northwestern 42 Syracuse 41, September 1, 2012
Opening Line: Northwestern favored by 9.5
Honorary NU Game Captain: ’89 alum, Mike Greenberg of ESPN’s Mike & Mike show. This means tons of free pub on ESPN Radio this week for our ‘Cats.
Trends: NU has won 13 straight non-conference home games (11th best streak in FBS).
Setting The Stage For Syracuse
I don’t really need to remind you about our last meeting, do I? Last year’s heart-stopping season opener in the air condition-less stadium named for the air conditioning company, left every fan dripping in sweat – including those watching on TV. Northwestern exploded to a 22-point third quarter lead thanks to Venric Mark’s incredible day on special teams, Kain Colter’s offensive weaponry and Chi Chi Ariguzo’s opportunistic INT and fumble recovery. As you know, Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib went off, picking apart our secondary and mounted what seemed like a game-winning comeback. Kain Colter pulled himself on the final drive, due to an injury, and Trevor Siemian stepped in and calmly led the ‘Cats to the win with a beautiful toss to Demetrius Fields (after a controversial late hit call kept the drive alive).
This game ends a four-game series between Northwestern and Syracuse, which dates back to 2008, when NU dominated the Orange in Evanston. The ‘Cats lost to Greg Paulus at ‘Cuse in ’09 in the Mike Williams and Mike Kafka game, and then, we tied-up the all-time series with last year’s win. Syracuse boasts the 16th most wins alltime in FBS (698), while NU is going for win #500 on Saturday night.
The Shafer Era
The Orange lost a nailbiter to Penn State in the season opener, 23-17, and looked sloppy, and at times sluggish in the loss. They certainly had every opportunity to win the game, but 5th year senior QB (Oklahoma transfer), Drew Allen, struggled with consistency (16-37, 189 yds, 2 INTs) and threw a pick on the potential game-winning drive with two minutes to go. If you watched the game (I did), it was borderline boring in the first half with a 6-3 FG-fest going on, but that would change once the suspension of Penn State WR Allen Robinson was lifted and he hung 133 receiving yards on the ‘Cuse – in one half.
Don’t kid yourself, though. This ‘Cuse team has talent. Doug Marrone was building a program that improved talent significantly in the past two years, with younger players earning time over veterans. Case in point is Ashton Broyld who is a dynamic athlete. so much so, that the ‘Cuse had to create a position for him. The ‘Cuse did lose a bunch to graduation, but RB Jerome Smith and RB Prince Tyson-Gulley, who were disappointing on Saturday, but SU fans are pinning this on a pistol formation and some less than desirable play-calling. The Smith-Gulley tandem is the fifth best returning duo in FBS (2,001 combined yards in 2012) and Smith was first team All-ACC by Athlon. Tyson-Gulley has that Venric-like chip on his shoulder. The ‘Cuse did lose star OL Justin Pugh to the league, but this team will be no easy out.
Obviously, Penn State is a solid team. Syracuse got gashed for two big plays on defense, and their secondary is the glaring weak link, but the front seven is good. No, check that, very good. Obviously with so much uncertainty around the ‘Cats line-up for Saturday (both Kain and Venric are listed as starters at this point), the gameplan is going to be a surprise until kickoff for ‘Cats fans. Let’s dig in to some numbers.
NU vs SU Head-to-Head
Box Score Browsing:
Here is the Penn State-Syracuse box score from Saturday. Key stats that should stick out – Syracuse posted a rushing average of only 1.9 ypc.
- There aren’t many, but three stand out.
- First, the major motion picture, “The Express”, featuring the story of Syracuse star and 1959 Heisman winner, Ernie Davis, was filmed at Ryan Field in 2007. The ‘Cats home stadium served as the set for ‘Cuse’s old home stadium, Archbold Stadium.
- Second, much has been made about Northwestern’s brand positioning of “Chicago’s Big Ten Team”. Well, the ‘Cuse have been doing a similar positioning long before we unveiled our slogan. For years, it seems like the tops of cabs in Manhattan have been graced with the Syracuse logo and the slogan “New York’s College Team”.
- Third, my sister older went there. Hence, I really want this one for family bragging rights.
- Home Sweet Home
- As you know, Northwestern is still three weeks away from starting school, so there will be a minimal student section on Saturday night. However, I’m expecting a crowd in the upper 30,000s – around 36,000 or so. It is Chicago Blackhawks night, by the way, so if you know folks enamored in seeing the Stanley Cup, bring them along. The ‘Cats are boasting some impressive marks at home. Consider, NU has won 13 straight non-conference home games, a streak dating back to Sept. 15, 2007, which is currently the 11th best such streak in the FBS (in the great trivia question department, LSU (28), Texas Tech (26) and Wisconsin (25) are the top three).
- ‘Cat Tracking
We can browse, study and respect our ACC opponent all day long. However, as we try and get to that next level as a program, eyes are inward this week for fans, looking at the potential of no Kain Colter, the loss of Daniel Jones for the entire season due to a knee injury and the uncertainty surrounding Venric Mark’s health. Here is the depth chart for NU that was posted in this week’s game notes by Northwestern Athletics. Note that Fitz said Kain Colter, Venric Mark and true freshman CB, Matt Harris are all “day-to-day”. Let’s take a look at our offensive and defensive two-deeps.
‘Cat Awards Of The Week
- Collin Ellis won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for his pair of pick 6s.
- Collin also won your “game ball” vote in the LTP poll:
- Who do you give the game ball to?
- Collin Ellis (67%, 398 Votes)
- Game ball, schmame ball. I’m too concerned about injuries! (13%, 75 Votes)
- Treyvon Green (10%, 61 Votes)
- Trevor Siemian (8%, 47 Votes)
- Dan Vitale (2%, 14 Votes)
Total Voters: 595
- Pat Fitzgerald and the coaching staff gave out the folllowing week one awards:
- Offensive POTG – Treyvon Green. OFF Big Playmaker – Dan Vitale, Off Practice – Connor Mahoney
- Defensive POTG – Collin Ellis, Def Big Playmaker – Dean Lowry, Def. Practice – Tom Hruby
‘Cuse Cliff Notes & Bookmarks
There are a couple of places for you to sharpen your background intel on Cal. Paul Myerberg ranked Syracuse #81 in his countdown and you can read it here. The definitive Syracuse blog is the insider-named Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician. Here is a link to our off-season Q&A with one of the more respected sports bloggers out there, Sean Keeley.
Syracuse’s 2013 Schedule
Aug. 31 Penn State (L 23-17)
Sept. 7 @ #22 Northwestern
Sept. 14 Wagner
Sept. 21 @Tulane
Oct. 5 #8 Clemson
Oct. 12 @ NC State
Oct. 19 @ Georgia Tech
Nov. 2 Wake Forest
Nov. 9 @ Maryland
Nov. 16 @ #11 Florida State
Nov. 23 Pittsburgh
Nov. 30 Boston College