As we countdown to kickoff in September, we’re going to be doing a team-by-team preview each Wednesday over the summer. SU will continue its 2015 non-conference schedule when they play Central Michigan on Sept. 19.
WACKY BOWL, NEW COACH: There’s been plenty of change at Central Michigan since Syracuse last visited in the 2014 season. The Chippewas won five of their last six games to finish 7-5 in the regular season and qualified for the Bahamas Bowl. There, CMU fell behind 49-14 at one point against Western Kentucky before pulling to within one on a Hail Mary as time expired. Central Michigan elected to go for a two-point conversion rather than send the game to overtime, and the pass was blocked, leading to a 49-48 loss. That proved to be the last game for head coach Dan Enos, who left in January to take the offensive coordinator position at Arkansas.
WHO TO WATCH FOR: The good news first: Quarterback Cooper Rush returns for his junior season. He threw for 3,157 yards and 27 touchdowns (to just 13 interceptions) in his sophomore campaign. Seven of those touchdowns came in the wild game against WKU, which is an NCAA bowl game record. Rush was also particularly sharp in the spring practice game, completing 22 of 26 passes for 197 yards and three touchdowns. The bad news? Rush’s primary weapons are gone. The Chippewas will need to replace its top rusher (Thomas Rawls) and receiver (Titus Davis) from the 2014 team. That leaves openings for receivers Jesse Kroll, Corey Willis and Mark Chapman, who all looked in sync with Rush in the spring game. In the backfield, Devon Spalding is the team’s leading returning rusher (371 yards), but also lead the team with four fumbles.
PREDICTION: Syracuse won a lopsided 40-3 decision in Mount Pleasant last season, with the Orange sacking Rush five times and getting two scoring plays from its defense. The game should be closer this year, but SU should pull away on its home turf. SYRACUSE 31, CENTRAL MICHIGAN 21.