As we countdown to kickoff in August, we’re going to be doing a team-by-team preview each Tuesday over the summer. SU will continue its 2014 non-conference schedule when they travel to Central Michigan on Sept. 13.
TIME TO MOVE FORWARD: Chippewas fans were probably expecting a little more from the 2013 season, and rightfully so. Coach Dan Enos had just led his team to a 7-6 season, and a win in the Little Caesar’s Bowl against Western Kentucky. It was Central Michigan’s first bowl win under Enos, and first bowl win for the program since the 2009 season. That led to Enos’ contract being extended to the 2016 season. But the 2013 season started disastrously with injuries to starting QB Cody Kater and running back Zurlon Tipton, and the team fell into a 1-4 hole. But CMU did win its final three to even the team’s record at 6-6, and with several key players returning from that team, plus more parity in the MAC, the Chippewas could be a contender.
WHO TO WATCH FOR: Following the injury to Kater, backup QBs Alex Niznak and Cooper Rush were pressed into duty. Rush ultimately won the starting job for the rest of the season, and Niznak announced he was transferring to Southeast Missouri State. Rush, a redshirt freshman at the time, delivered in his first start against New Hampshire on Sept. 7, throwing for 326 yards and three touchdowns. But he also struggled at other times, coughing up the ball four times in a 38-17 loss to Toledo two weeks later. He finished the season throwing for 2,349 yards with 15 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, and will likely be the starter this season. On defense, watch out for nose tackle Leterrius Walton, who finished with 34 tackles and 9.5 tackles for a loss in 2013.
PREDICTION: This is certainly a winnable game for Central Michigan with the Orange traveling to Mount Pleasant. But in the end, the Orange ground game will assert itself against a Chippewas defense that struggled to stop the run last year. SYRACUSE 28, CENTRAL MICHIGAN 17.