Saturday withdrawals are nearing an end as college football season approaches and Rant Sports continues previewing 100 teams in 100 days. Ranked 64th in the countdown, the Syracuse Orange of the Big East.
2012 marks the final year as a member of the Big East for Syracuse with a move to the ACC slated for 2013. That is, assuming all the legal wrangling that hounded West Virginia in their exit goes a bit more smoothly for the Orange. Higher television revenues and a dreamy ACC basketball tournament await but on this final lap in their current digs, not much is expected from Doug Marrone‘s stingy squad.
In 2011, Syracuse finished 5-7 but just 1-6 in conference play. That was good enough for the basement and a step back from an eight-win 2010 campaign. Momentum stifled after a 5-2 start and an upset of 15th ranked West Virginia in late October, culminating with five straight losses to end the year.
So Orange you glad (*slide whistle*) as a Syracuse fan that there’s the ACC to look forward to in 2013?
2012 comes first though and Greg Paulus isn’t walking through that door. It was actually locked with good reason because the quarterback on campus is pretty salty.
Ryan Nassib remains the most recognizable Orange player and a candidate to be the best at his position in the Big East next season. As a junior in 2011, he tossed 22 touchdowns against 9 interceptions, sporting a completion percentage of 62.4 en route to 2,685 yards through the air. Along with Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Nassib seems likely to terrorize opposing defenses with accuracy and a flair for the dramatic. He played his best game of the year in a victory over the Mountaineers (229 yards, 4 touchdowns) so expect Marrone to rely heavily on his senior signal-caller in 2012.
That’s partly because tailback Antwon Bailey ran out of eligibility and with him, 1,051 rushing yards. Replacing Bailey figures to include a committee approach unless junior Jerome Smith (37 carries, 134 yards in 2011) gives Syracuse the production of his predecessor. The explosive all-purpose threat the Orange have lacked in recent years arrives in the form of freshman Ashton Broyld. He’ll receive looks across the entirety of the offensive game plan with running back, wideout and Wildcat quarterback in play. If you have a job or girlfriend in the Carrier Dome, chances are Ashton Broyld is waiting to take it. A quarterback by trade, it serves Syracuse’s future to get the speedy Broyld quality snaps as he’s the likely favorite to inherit Nassib’s job in 2013. In terms of full-time wide receivers, Marcus Sales returns after a suspension for the duration of 2011 as the team’s most lethal deep option.
Ideally, the 2012 Orange defense doesn’t allow 28.5 points per game on average to the opponent. That’s a tall order from a unit that produced a first-round NFL draft pick this past April in defensive end Chandler Jones. However, pieces exist, especially in the linebacking corps to think Syracuse could make marginal improvement. Dyshawn Davis posted 43 tackles, 10.5 of those for a loss as a true freshman standout. If he’s able to perform the fantasy role play for a defensive coach as torrid pass rusher, it keeps a rebuilding defensive line from assuming too much pressure.
Joining him are Dan Vaughn and Marquis Spruill who combined for 108.5 tackles, 4 sacks and 15 tackles for loss in 2011.Replicate those numbers and the Big East might have issue beating the second level of the Orange defense. Along with Chandler Jones, Syracuse lost two other ends (Torrey Bell and Mikhail Marinovich) so the hope is that the returning tackle Jay Bromley and converted tackle-to-end Deon Goggins follow through on the production Doug Marrone sees in their potential.
No one can claim the Orange will enjoy a relaxed non-conference slate in 2012. Northwestern, Southern Cal (at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey), at Missouri and college baseball darling Stony Brook mean 2-2 is to be praised and 1-3 wouldn’t surprise. Rekindling the surge Marrone brought in his second season likely does wonders for recruiting as the head coach also sells a step up in competition in the ACC. Unless Ryan Nassib simply carries this team to multiple victories though, I’m having a hard time finding an avenue where Syracuse finishes better than 6-6. That’s progress from 2011 but in Doug Marrone’s fourth year, is it enough? This is a program with 691 wins in school history. Bordering on mediocrity and blaming Greg Robinson lasts until the next pink slip is issued. The transition to the ACC seems a ideal time to make that sort of switch if Syracuse falters again.