By Sean McMahon @WolfKaosaun
A new era dawned at Penn State last year with head coach Bill O’Brien, actually surpassing expectations and reaching a 8-4 record. Just as a new era started in Penn State, one is beginning for Syracuse this year. Doug Marrone left the program for the NFL after reaching two bowl games in three years, thus leading to Scott Shafer becoming the new head coach. Both teams will have a new starting quarterback this season, which leaves many question marks for both offenses.
Bill O’Brien has taken the Bill Belichick approach when it comes to allowing the media know what’s going on with the team, wait until game time. So far, Penn State has been hosting a quarterback competition between Christian Hackenberg and Tyler Ferguson. Neither has been announced as the starting quarterback, but they will have plenty of support around them. Allen Robinson was voted the Big Ten’s receiver of the year and made the first team on the All-Big Ten team. Robinson had a tremendous breakout year, and has shown he has the ability to surpass what he has done. The quarterback will also have a bailout tight end to throw to in Kyle Carter, a sophomore whom could have a breakout year. Finally, the starter could just hand the ball off to the bruising running back Zach Zwiank. Whomever the starter is, he has a supporting cast around him that can help him develop. For Syracuse, however, they lost their star quarterback Ryan Nassib to the NFL and lost their receiver who led the team in yards Alec Lemon. Syracuse head coach Shafer stated he would play both sophomore Terrel Hunt and Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen. The bright side for these quarterbacks is the fact that they can hand the ball off to two dynamic runners, Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley. The offensive line also holds three very good players returning that could help keep the quarterback upright and give him time.
When it comes to defense, Penn State has numerous starters coming back. One player to watch is going to be defensive tackle, Deion Barnes. Barnes was voted Big Ten’s freshman of the year and has a chance to improve. Syracuse is going to be a huge test for them, as their offensive line has three returning anchors that will be tough as nails. Penn State is going to have to stop the run and try to make Syracuse’s young quarterbacks beat them. With that said, Syracuse should have the same game plan to beat Penn State. Zwiank is a hard runner, but seniors Marquis Spruill and Jay Bromley will have the step up and take him on. If they can stop Penn State’s running game, then the Nittany Lions will have to rely on one of their quarterbacks who have yet to take a snap with Penn State. The defensive lines are going to not only stop the run, but add pressure to the young quarterbacks, trying to disrupt rhythm.
This game is a stepping stone for both teams starting off new eras. O’Brien and the Nittany Lions have already started last season and look to continue down that path, whereas Shafer and the Orange are starting it off. This is going to be a tough, hard nosed football game that will rely heavily on the running game. Both defensive coordinators will generally have the same game plan with tweaks here and there, but it could ultimately come down to how the young quarterbacks play. Penn State seems to have the upper hand here, as they have experience and a much more loaded offense to help bail their starting quarterback out, whomever it may be. Syracuse is building in the right direction, but they will have to continue to build. Both of these programs are very similar, but Penn State is just farther along the process. If you love to watch physical, hard hitting football, you should definitely keep your eye on this game.
Final score prediction: Penn State 24, Syracuse 14