Previewing Penn State Football's Opponents: Syracuse Orange
In just over a month the Nittany Lions will start their second season under head coach Bill O'Brien at MetLife Stadium just outside of New York City.
Nobody knows how Penn State's season will unfold, but there is plenty to know about each of the opponents the Nittany Lions will line up against this coming year. First on the list, an August 31 meeting with the Syracuse Orange.
Last Year: (8-5)
After starting out the 2012 season with a two-game losing skid, the Orange slowly turned things around, winning six of their last seven games including a 38-14 victory over West Virginia in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. The highlight of the season came on Nov. 10 when Syracuse knocked off No. 9 Louisville 45-26 in the third and final meeting between a Top 25 opponent and the Orange. Syracuse fell to No. 2 USC (42-29) and No. 20 Rutgers (23-15) earlier in the year.
Top Performers Lost:
Senior wideout Alec Lemon pulled down 72 catches for seven touchdowns and 1,070 yards of receiving along with follow senior Marcus Sales who had 64 catches for 884 yards and eight touchdowns. The Orange will need to replace both players quickly in order to make up for almost 2,000 yards of offense and 32-percent of all touchdowns scored last year.
Top Performers Returning:
With 1,171 yards to his name in 2012, Jerome Smith will be asked to carry the load quite literally early on in Syracuse's season. Prince-Tyson Gulley also scored more touchdowns than anyone else on the team with nine scores on 158 carries for 830 yards.
Defense: The Orange will return six starters on defense this year, five of whom are seniors. Durell Eskridge is the only underclassmen in the starting defensive unit at strong safety. In all, the Orange only have six underclassmen listed on the two-deep depth chart meaning the Orange won't be without experience heading into this season.
Story of the offseason:
Many teams around the nation including Penn State are looking for a new starting quarterback. After senior gunslinger Ryan Nassib graduated following the 2012 season it left many Orange fans wondering who would step into the starting role. In an unexpected twist Oklahoma transfer quarterback Drew Allen announced that he would be taking his talents to Syracuse sending Orange fans into a frenzy.
Even so, the race for the starting nod is a four man competition between Terrel Hunt, John Kinder, Charley Loeb and Allen. The anticipation at this point in the summer is that Hunt will start under center against Penn State, but the addition of Allen to the mix has created a whole new offseason buzz for Syracuse fans.
Second to the quarterback race is Syracuse's new home in the ACC. In the past the Orange had to battle Big East foes in relative obscurity. Syracuse will now take on the likes of Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech and NC State. Pittsburgh also made the jump from the Big East to the ACC with Syracuse. The two teams will renew their old Big East rivalry in the second to last game of the season on Nov. 23.
Outlook: The Orange have questions on offense but a veteran heavy defense could help keep them in games anyway. Moving to a new conference makes for a lot of unknowns, but if Syracuse can transition in a new quarterback with relative ease it could be another good season for the program.