It’s always nice to feel that special sort of buzz that comes the day after a win. For the most part, you’re riding high and excited about the fact that your team emerged victorious. Obviously there are exceptions, like last year’s Villanova game, which had Syracuse University fans nervous. But then the following week, the Orange pummeled Central Michigan on the road by a final score of 40-3, and that buzz really kicked in. Well, Syracuse is 2-0 after knocking off Wake Forest yesterday, but there’s plenty of work still to be done. Next up: Central Michigan, as it happens.
Every fan of the Orange knows how critical these first three weeks are for Syracuse’s bowl chances. Going 2-1 against URI, Wake, and Central Michigan would make it incredibly difficult for Syracuse to reach that six win mark, and the good news is that, so far at least, everything is going according to plan.
Syracuse was supposed to kick the crap out of Rhode Island? Check. One win down.
Syracuse was supposed to be able to beat an ACC cellar dweller like Wake at home? Check. Two down.
Syracuse gets CMU at home after beating them by 37 last season? Well, let’s see what happens, shall we?
Central Michigan is 1-1 heading into Saturday’s game, with their loss coming against Oklahoma State in a 24-13 decision that was more competitive than the final score lets on. Yesterday, the Chippewas beat Monmouth 31-10. That’s not exactly an eye-popping final score when you’re playing Monmouth, which lost to Holy Cross 27-19 in the first week of the season and went 6-5 in FCS play a year ago.
Still, Central Michigan presents some challenges, and as we saw from Toledo and Bowling Green yesterday, MAC teams are very capable of pulling off upsets over Power 5 conference teams. Oh hi, Arkansas and Maryland.
Here’s where things are going to get interesting on Saturday: Central Michigan likes to throw the ball, and as yesterday’s game against Wake showed, the Orange are susceptible to giving up big plays through the air. Chippewa quarterback Cooper Rush has completed 53-of-77 passes for 553 yards with three touchdowns against two picks, and three of his receivers have surpassed 100 receiving yards through the first two games.
Of course on the flip side, Central Michigan has really struggled to run the ball, which is bad news for them since they’re going against a Syracuse defense that’s yielded a grand total of 50 rushing yards through two games. Martez Walker is CMU’s leading rusher and he’s gained all of 59 yards, and is averaging a measly 3.0 yards per carry. Overall, the Chippewas have gained just 152 yards in two games with a team YPC of 2.5, which means that this weekend in the Dome, things aren’t going to get much rosier on the ground.
Syracuse needs to find six wins on the schedule, and as I’ve mentioned before I think those wins are there for the taking – especially now that Pitt is without reigning ACC Player of the Year James Conner, making that game much more winnable. But unless the Orange get the job done against teams they should beat, it might not matter. The best way to approach a college football season is to take things one game at a time, which is what we have to hope the Orange get drilled into them this week by head coach Scott Shafer. After all, looming in two weeks is a visit from LSU and Heisman candidate Leonard Fournette, the 6-foot-1, 230 pound freight train who will push Syracuse’s run defense to its limits and then some.
But the Orange can’t afford to look that far ahead. Every week matters for this bunch, the focus needs to be on going 1-0 for this particular week. Forget 2-0, and forget the upcoming matchup with LSU. That’s the key to Syracuse putting together a strong performance and getting a critical third win of the year.
Yesterday against Wake Forest, this team made some very serious mistakes. That’s to be expected with such a young, inexperienced team. Hopefully this week the Orange will look at the film and clean some things up, and show the fans a much more complete performance against Central Michigan. If they do, maybe they’ll start putting more asses in the seats of the Carrier Dome, and prove that they really are a talented team on the rise.