The NUmbers Guy: Syracuse Preview

Yes, college football season is FINALLY here! To mark the occasion, The NUmbers Guy, Jim Sannes (@JimSannes) is back with his typical wit and humor. This week, he previews Northwestern’s Week One matchup against Syracuse.

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Welcome back, kiddos, from hopefully a summer filled with puppies, unicorns, barbecue and Carly Rae Jepsen mash-ups. Now, though, it’s time for the real business to start. Because nothing says realism more than grotesquely large individuals smashing their heads together over and over for three consecutive hours. IT’S TIME FOR FOOTBALL WEEEEEEEEEE!!!! Northwestern’s season opener is this Saturday against the Syracuse Orange, in case you hadn’t heard, and it’s time to look forward to that wondrous day by taking a peek through the glory hole of life that is numbers.

5-7: Syracuse’s record in 2011.

After starting out 5-2, the Orange dropped their final five games of the season to finish below .500 for the sixth time in the last seven years. This disappointing finish followed the 2010 season in which they finished 8-5, including a victory in the Pinstripe Bowl over Kansas State. So, logically, because Syracuse has won a bowl game during the Obama administration and Northwestern hasn’t won since Harry Truman was in office, Syracuse has this one locked. That’s how college football works, right?

72.7: Percentage of rushing yards gained by Antwon Bailey last season.

Bailey averaged 4.4 yards per carry last season while the rest of the team averaged only 2.53 yards. Bailey graduated last season, and taking him from the equation is similar to taking the cool hair from the guys in LMFAO. The result is just bland and will probably leave a bad taste in your mouth (hooray, cannibalism!). The Orange’s leading returning rusher is junior Jerome Smith who amassed 134 yards on the ground last season. Expect the stout Northwestern linebacking core to have a good day.

6.5: Yards per attempt by Syracuse passing game last season.

It’s the fabled very-much-stoppable force meeting the extremely-moveable object. The Orange passing game last season ranked 93rd in yards per attempt while Northwestern single-handedly made AJ Jenkins of Illinois a first round pick by allowing him to be that bully kid with a magnifying glass, frying Northwestern defensive backs like ants left and right. The Orange quarterback, Ryan Nassib, will return, however, after being serviceable in the role last season. He completed 62.4 percent of his 415 pass attempts for 223.8 yards per game, 22 touchdowns and nine interceptions. His favorite target, Alec Lemon, will also return after recording 68 catches for 834 yards and 6 touchdowns last year. That said, Lemon is the only one of the top five receivers from last year that will be on the field on Saturday. If Nassib decides to lock into Lemon, Ibraheim Campbell could have a very fun day to say the least at safety for the ‘Cats.

10: Number of interceptions recorded by the Syracuse defense last season.

This number at face value is extremely mediocre, if not below average. Then you take a look at who recorded the 10 picks, and Orange fans may toss projectile vomit across the screen (you’re welcome for that pleasing mental image). Their leader in interceptions, Phillip Thomas, had six of the 10 in only 10 games played. He also led the team in tackles with 82, but he has graduated and signed with the Philadelphia Eagles after going undrafted. Second in team interceptions was Kevyn Scott with two. Shockingly, he also graduated. Cool. The only returning player that recorded an interception last year was Jerimi Wilkes, a junior free safety. Toss in the fact that Kain Colter only threw one pick last year in 82 attempts and it becomes evident that Syracuse is going to have trouble forcing turnovers on Saturday.

38-24: My prediction of the score, with Northwestern defeating Syracuse and moving to 1-0 on the season.

As long as the Northwestern offensive line doesn’t self destruct and allow Colter to get knocked around, the ‘Cats should take this game easily. Both teams are very young, but Northwestern has more experience among their young players which should bode well for Coach Pat Fitzgerald’s squad. If Syracuse can pull of the victory, I will look like an idiot (which is a regular occurrence), and Wildcat fans could be in for a long season. We’ll just have to rub our lucky 1949 Rose Bowl Champion blankets together and hope for the best.

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