GridironGrit.com Analyst Dan Vasta breaks down 2011 college football individual team previews for the upcoming highly-anticipated 2011 season. Here’s the first edition on the Syracuse Orange from the Big East.
Oh, Syracuse. The program has gone 13-26 at home since ’05. That can’t be fun for Otto the Orange or the fans and college students. It’s also had three coaching changes since 2004.
It’s next to impossible to implement an effective and sustainable system with new players when your school is constantly changing coaches. Doug Marrone is entering his third season and holds a respectable 12-13 record. Surprisingly, that is the best two-year run at the beginning of a tenure for a coach at Syracuse since Paul Pasqualoni in ’91-’92.
2010 Season Recap
Syracuse is supposed to represent the state of New York. Last year was the first time in years where the Orange were actually entertaining to watch. An 8-5 season concluded with a Pinstripe Bowl victory over Kansas State in front of 38,000 fans at Yankee Stadium. Syracuse had a magical 8-5 season, which leads to a ton of optimism for Orange nation in 2011.
Defense: Fake Or Fraud?
The Orange’s 7th-ranked defense in 2010 returns only five starters this season. This begs the question, how much of an inevitable decline will ensue? The opener against Wake Forest should give us an inkling of how good this defense will be, but a trip to the L.A. Coliseum should tell us everything we need to know.
If the Orange can slow down the USC Trojans by any means, then I will gladly eat crow and talk about how Syracuse is well on its way to becoming a legit bowl team for years to come.
Defensive end Chandler Jones is the only Big East-caliber performer on my watch, and he has been talking a big game for the upcoming season.
“I’m not saying I’m going to get 30 sacks,” Jones told a Syracuse blog. “I’m just saying that’s my goal.”
The all-time NCAA record is 27 by the sack master himself, Derrick Thomas of Alabama back in 1988. I have Jones slated for about eight sacks, but anything more would be golden.
This front four lacks the beef up front which means that teams will attempt to run it right at them. Without a ton of depth and experience, the unit will drop from 2010′s 41st-ranked rush defense that allowed only 136 yards per game.
The linebacking corps will be tough to improve without any seniors starting and just one returning starter, so the struggles should start to mount after the Trojans chalk up over 200 yards.
The Need For Speed
Contrary to the defense, Syracuse’s 97th-ranked offense from a season ago looks to improve this year. The team lost DeLone Carter, who was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts, but running back Antwon Bailey is capable of handling the new role as a starter. Moreover, eight starters return to the offense, including quarterback Ryan Nassib. Despite only 14 combined touchdowns from the likes of Van Chew, Marcus Sales, Alec Lemon and tight end Nick Provo last year, the entire receving corps is back for the new season.
In terms of difficulty, the schedule is around middle-of-the-pack. For Big East standards, however, it’s pretty brutal. After some fun in the sun against USC, the Orange host Toledo and Rutgers. The program ends the month of October and starts November with West Virginia, Louisville, UConn, South Florida and Cincinnati.
Don’t forget that ‘Cuse won four nail-biters a season ago and miraculously only lost eight starters the entire season due to injury. The Orange could pull off an upset or two and avoid the basement of the Big East, but that is what I like to call dreaming.
Predicted Finish: 5-7 (1-6 Record in Big East)
Predicted Bowl: None
Predicted Order In Big East: 7th