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Here are two teams that are going in opposite directions from a year ago. Syracuse will be struggling to reach a bowl game this year, while Northwestern started the season ranked in the Top 25. The Orange lost in their first game to a Big Ten team with an arguably less dynamic offense than Northwestern's. Even though Penn State only scored 23 points, Syracuse couldn't do much better struggling to do anything on offense. Northwestern, on the other hand, picked up right where they left off in 2012, sort of. A couple pick sixes were needed, but they still scored 44 points at California.
The bad thing in that game for the Wildcats was that they gave up 455 passing yards to a freshman quarterback. They are a better team defensively at home, but the opportunity will be there for Syracuse to put points on the board if Drew Allen can figure things out. Allen managed just 189 yards and two interceptions while going 16-for-37 against the Nittany Lions. The Wildcats won last year's meeting 42-41 on the road as 2-point underdogs.
The biggest question entering this game and possibly the only way Syracuse has a chance, revolves around Northwestern's injuries. Quarterback Kain Colter was only in for two plays before suffering a concussion against California. Even though the Wildcats generally use a two-QB system, losing a guy like Colter limits what the offense can do. Trevor Siemian played fine against the Golden Bears, but he doesn't have the ability to move the chains with his legs like Colter. That will definitely be something to keep an eye on before making a play on this game. Leading tailback Venric Mark is also dealing with an injury and didn't see much time although he did get 11 carries. Even if Colter misses the game, will Syracuse be able to stop the Northwestern offense on the road? At this point, it doesn't seem likely.
As for the Orange on offense, it's obviously not the same team that put up 41 points a year ago. Their best player is running back Jerome Smith who tabbed the team's only two touchdowns last weekend. Smith ran for 1,171 yards last season, but only had three TDs on the season.
This is also Northwestern's first home game of the year and they have been a very tough team to play at home in the past few years, any Big Ten team can attest to that. To back that up even further, the Wildcats have covered in their last eight home games. Take that for what it's worth, while the Orange are only 3-8 ATS in their last 11 road games, not to mention 1-5-1 ATS in their last seven games after scoring less than 20 points in their previous game. The under is a solid 9-2 in Northwestern's last 11 home games, which is something to look at considering the state of Syracuse's offense.
As of this writing on Wednesday, this game is off the board at most shops. At one point there were some shops that at Northwestern favored by 12. The game has been off the board due to the Northwestern injuries. We're not so sure Syracuse can go toe to toe with Northwestern offensively the way they did in last years shootout. If that's the case, Northwestern could very well be the side here laying -12 or so.
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