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Tough Early Schedule Will Make Transition to ACC Difficult for Syracuse Orange

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Rich Barnes – USA TODAY Sports

As the Syracuse Orange work to prepare for their move to the ACC in 2013, they face a lot of questions over the summer. Concerns over the quarterback position and how well Scott Shafer transitions into the head coach role leave plenty of trepidation when it comes to projecting Cuse next season. Also not helping their case is a rough road to kick off their schedule which could short-circuit any positive momentum for a strong inaugural run through their new conference.

Syracuse kicks off the season with a non-conference game against the Penn State Nittany Lions at MetLife Stadium. That kicks off a slate that will send Syracuse on the road another three times in first two months of the season against the Northwestern Wildcats, NC State Wolfpack and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Their only home game in the first seven games against a BCS opponent is their ACC-opener against the Clemson Tigers, a likely top-10 team next fall and rough introduction into the conference.

That is a rough stretch for any team, but particularly for a club that is looking to establish an identity in unfamiliar territory. Syracuse still doesn’t know just what their team will look like next season, but they won’t get a lot of opportunity to figure it out as the competition will be stiff right from the opening weekend. A few quick losses could impact the confidence of the club and set them back before they get a chance to get their feet underneath them in 2013.

It will be imperative for Shafer and the Orange to have a great fall camp this August so that they can hit the ground running when the season kicks off. If they come out stumbling and struggle to establish their identity from the opening kickoff, they could find themselves buried before they even get started in the ACC.

You can follow me on Twitter @Teeblerone and Rant Sports @RantSports

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Duke-Syracuse Game Preview, Prediction





Starting the season outside of the Top 25, the Duke Blue Devils were playing with a chip on their shoulder. Now that they are 7-1 on the year, no one is overlooking the darkhorse favorites to dethrone Florida State for an ACC title. The Syracuse Orange started the season 2-0, but have since lost six of seven to lead to a 3-6 record. While they aren’t a threat for the conference title, the Orange can still play spoiler.

Senior quarterback Anthony Boone has been the spark that has gotten the Blue Devils going this season. Boone has passed for 1,628 yards, 12 touchdowns and just three interceptions while rushing for another 243 yards and four touchdowns. Jamison Crowder is clearly the team’s top receiving weapon, catching 49 passes for 636 yards and four touchdowns. Max McCaffrey and Issac Blakeney have been basically equal in the receiving department, both catching 26 passes for three scores apiece while McCaffrey has 261 yards and Blakeney has 259 yards. Freshman running back Shaun Wilson has been a main reason for the team’s run success, rushing for 528 yards and four touchdowns.

Syracuse had been led by a dual-threat quarterback of its own in Terrel Hunt who had 983 passing yards and a touchdowns as well as 292 yards and six rushing scores before his injury. He hasn’t returned yet, paving way for freshman quarterback AJ Long to get the nod as the starter. Long hasn’t been very impressive, however, passing for 727 yards and four touchdowns with six interceptions. Jarrod West doesn’t care who’s behind center as he has been effective either way, catching 40 passes for 610 yards. Steve Ishmael has been the second-best wide out on the team, catching 20 passes for 311 yards and three scores. Prince-Tyson Gulley has been solid this season in the run game, leading the team with 526 yards and a touchdown while also catches 20 passes out of the backfield for 107 yards.

Defensively, the Orange have been a bit above average this season, ranking 38th in total yards allowed as well as 43rd in points allowed per contest. In their three wins this season, Syracuse has given up an average of 12 points. Before last week, Duke had done a solid job of keeping opponents out of the end zone. On the year, the Blue Devils rank 13th in points against and a lowly 81st nationally in total yards allowed.

Duke will travel to Syracuse to take on the Orange at 12:30 p.m. EST on Saturday, Nov. 8. The game will be broadcasted on GamePlan/ESPN 3.

PREDICTION: Duke 23, Syracuse 21

Want to see the Blue Devils take on the Orange in week 11? Check out ScoreBig for tickets.

Connor Muldowney is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at connor.muldowney@rantsports.com.

Duke will travel to Syracuse to take on the Orange in week 11. Who will come out on top?

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