Orange Watch: Our 2012 Syracuse football predictions Part I

Syracuse needs a big crowd against Clemson

Orange Watch is going to be away on assignment until the eve of the season opener against Northwestern on Sept. 1. So, with one final opportunity, here’s how we forecast the 2012 football season to play out, understanding the many variables yet to come. This is Part I. Check out Part II.

Will Syracuse improve this year?

Doug Marrone’s first win as Orange boss was a gutsy 37-34 (Greg Paulus-led) victory over Northwestern in the Dome in 2009. That was the third game of the season–this time it’s the season opener in the technically modernistic-looking (hey, it’s all relative) Dome.

The Wildcats won at Nebraska last season but lost at Army, and dropped their bowl game to new SEC member Texas A&M, finishing 6-7. Junior QB Kain Colter will be the test for the ‘Cuse “D,” and Ryan Nassib looks to spread the field getting his final season debut off to a rousing start. Like ’09, SU will squeak it out by a FG margin.

» Related: Syracuse season football preview — Offense

It will be interesting to see if more than 49,262 fans attend the first (annual – after all the Orange do play Penn State and Notre Dame there in 2013 and 2014 respectively, as well, with more games to follow) New York’s College Classic game against Southern California at Met Life Stadium.

That five-figure number is the Dome’s official capacity, and we all know why the game was moved for a healthy guarantee, vs the uproar from central New York natives for losing a marquee national opponent to northern New Jersey.

On the field, the Orange will give it all, but fall. And not after making the top 1-2-3 range-ranked Trojans sweat a little bit after the Los Angelinos went sight-seeing in the Big Apple the day before.

Stony Brook, a baseball participant with the big boys in this past June’s College World Series, hopes its football team has the Orange right where it wants it emotionally for the week three matchup as the Seawolves tune-up with Central Connecticut and Pace before leaving the north shore of Long Island to head upstate.

» More SU football: Syracuse v. Stony Brook Preview

Coming off of a game in which his team gave USC a run for awhile, Coach Marrone has to get his team up for defending home turf against a strong FCS program that is getting progressively better under seventh-year coach Chuck Priore. But it doesn’t stack up with the Orange talent wise, and Marrone will defend his turf but under the point spread.

Before a week off, the four-game September run finishes with a tricky road test against Minnesota, a Big Ten enigma. The Gophers, 3-9 last season including playing sleep-waking Southern Cal tough, then losing to New Mexico State the following week, and with just two BIG Ten wins. Minnesota also witnessed health concerns for second-year coach Jerry Kill who twice suffered seizures after games in 2011.

The school’s having trouble selling tickets at beautiful four-year facility TCF Bank Stadium (capacity 50,805), down more than 4,000 season ticket sales from 2009. After opening at UNLV and then hosting New Hampshire and Western Michigan the weeks prior to welcoming the ‘Cuse, it might be a quiet night in Minneapolis, especially with the Vikings hosting the Chargers the following evening during Sunday Night NFL Football.

» How will Syracuse’s offense do? Mixed Juice weighs in.

Oh, and Doug Marrone records his first (true) road victory against a BCS conference opponent–we don’t count the Kansas State bowl game victory at Yankee Stadium.

Call it the “ACC Exit Bowl” when the Orange hosts Pittsburgh in another one of those “Fun Friday Nighters” that ESPN loves to televise from the climate-controlled building, to kick off the last season in the Big East.

As it’s been seven long seasons since a win over the Panthers, something Paul Pasqualoni was the last to accomplish in double overtime in 2004 and with the Panthers a permanent annual foe in the ACC, it’s a great time to end that streak, and SU ices matters with a late field goal to extend a tenuous lead.

» More Orange Watch: Problems with scheduling in college football

SU is 14-7 against Rutgers in the two teams Big East history, including games in which the Orange has rung up 42, 50 twice, and 70 points, before Greg Schiano arrived to right the ship in Piscataway and the Scarlet Knights have won five of the last seven meetings.

New coach Kyle Flood was the proper move to make from Schiano’s staff, as he has fortified a recruiting battle, which counts SU as a foe, and although ‘Cuse fans won’t like it, this is loss number two in a closely fought game as the Knights fans mockingly wave goodbye to the ACC-bound Orange at High Point Solutions Stadium.

Check out Part II of Brad Bierman’s predictions.

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About Brad Bierman 848 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.