Rant Sports College Football Top 100: No. 78 Syracuse Orange

Syracuse Orange

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Losing a head coach and a starting NFL-worthy quarterback would surely knock any team down. However, the Syracuse Orange won’t go down without a fight and this team, both Doug Marrone-less and Ryan Nassib-less, has a chance to win a second-straight bowl game this season.

The last time they even appeared in two straight bowl games was 1998-99, and the last time they actually won two straight was 1995-96. Sure, it’s been a while since this program has seen success, but they aren’t too far from getting back to the glory days with the talent on this team.

While they may be without two or more key pieces from a season ago, the No. 78 team on the Rant Sports 100 in 100 rolls on to see how they will fare against the opposition in 2013. Let’s see how new head coach Scott Shafer does in his first season in Syracuse.

KEY PLAYERS

With Nassib gone to the NFL, the quarterback battle may be still looming. Senior quarterback Charley Loeb was technically the backup to Nassib in 2012 but has seemingly seen his days of possibly playing come to an end. It looks as if Oklahoma Sooners transfer Drew Allen will win the job, and the senior looks to be a key to Orange success in 2013.

Quarterback is probably the least secure position on the offense, but running back is just the opposite.

Junior Jerome Smith is returning as the team’s leading rusher from a year ago. He ran the ball 227 times for 1171 yards and three touchdowns. A much improved runner from his freshman to sophomore season in 2012, Smith will likely be splitting time with fellow-junior Prince-Tyson Gulley.

The loss of Marcus Sales from the receiving corps will hurt Syracuse a bit, but young, new receivers look to carry the load adequately in 2013

OFFENSE

The offense was not too shabby in 2012. A big reason for their success was Nassib, but with him gone and Allen the likely candidate to replace him, they will need to rely on the young gunslinger.

Returning four of the top five rushers and 18 rushing touchdowns, the run game will be no issue come fall. Smith will likely split carries with Gulley who is also a solid pass-catching back. When Allen sees nothing down the field, dropping it off to Gulley or finding trusty tight end Beckett Wales will be beneficial to his game.

Ranking 29th in the nation in passing yards and 40th in rushing yards, there was only one thing missing from their game that could have won them three or four more games.

DEFENSE

Syracuse’s defense was top-50 worthy in 2012. They were an average defense that allowed just 24 points per game and had a pretty solid linebacking crew.

Junior linebacker Dyshawn Davis and senior linebacker Marquis Spruill return to the defense as two of the top four leading tacklers from a season ago. They combined for 133 tackles, three sacks, an interception and a defensive touchdown. It’s safe to say the linebackers will be solid once again in 2013.

The defense also returns senior safety Jeremi Wilkes who was the second-best tackling defensive back on the team, followed by senior cornerback Keon Lyn who also led the team in interceptions.

Although they are the losing their top-two tacklers from a season ago, they still have a solid core group of guys to lead the defense.

SCHEDULE

Syracuse’s schedule is not as easy as it once was because of their recent move to the ACC. They will play top teams from the conference and will likely experience a tough season in their first year of ACC play.

Their toughest games– Penn State Nittany Lions, at Northwestern Wildcats, Clemson Tigers and at Florida State Seminoles.

While all of these games could easily end up as losses, they aren’t the only tough games on the schedule as all of the away games could be challenging. I see this team finishing 6-6 and making their second straight bowl game for the first time in 15 years. The Scott Shafer era starts on a positive note.

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.

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