Syracuse Opponent Analysis: Northwestern Wildcats

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The Syracuse Orange open up their season this Saturday against the Northwestern Wildcats. 

Though these teams aren’t expected to have huge years, this match-up could make for a close game between two similar teams. Both have undergone similar changes over the offseason. For the Wildcats, some of their key losses came from the offensive end. 

Key Departures: 

The number one departure from the Wildcats is star QB Dan Persa. Though Persa was injury-prone during his college career, only playing more than 10 games once (his freshman year), he was an exciting playmaker when healthy. He was even thrown into the conversation for the Manning and Davey O’Brien awards. Persa finished last season with 2,376 passing yards, 17 touchdowns, a 73.4 completion percentage and 7 interceptions in just 10 games. For a guy that was on and off the field as much as Persa, those are solid numbers. 

Another loss for Northwestern this season is tight end Drake Dunsmore. After his senior season at Northwestern, he was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 7th round with the 233rd pick. He finished his senior year with 522 yards and 6 touchdowns on 45 receptions. NFL.com has compared him to a Chris Cooley or Aaron Hernandez because of his versatility at the tight end position. 

Northwestern’s offense also loses wideout Jeremy Ebert. Ebert made his last year in Northwestern his best, pulling in 1,060 receiving yards, 11 touchdowns on 75 receptions. He lead the Wildcats in receiving yards, touchdowns and receptions. Replacement QB Kain Colter will miss Ebert, who is now with the New England Patriots.

Returning Stars: 

While the Wildcats lost several strong offensive weapons, they retain the versatile junior quarterback Kain Colter. Colter can throw, run and even catch. He has starts at quarterback and at receiver. When Dan Persa ruptured his achilles toward the end of last season, Colter came in and went 2-1 as the starter. He finished the year with 673 passing yards, 6 touchdowns, 1 interception, 654 rushing yards, 9 rushing touchdowns, 466 receiving yards and 3 receiving touchdowns in 13 games. He is a team captain and can create a lot of offense for the Wildcats. 

Junior running back Venric Mark will play a large role in giving Colter good field position to work with. Mark returned 40 kicks last season for an average of 22.9 yards per. He combined his kick and punt return yards for 1,042 yards. He had six returns for 40 or more yards, which was tied for first in the FBS last season. He will also be taking over the No. 1 RB spot as Mike Trumpy recovers from an ACL injury.

One defensive player that should have an impact in this game is sophomore defensive back Iraheim Campbell. Campbell led the team with 100 tackles last season and added 2 interceptions. He was named a Freshman All-American by the Football Writers Association of America

Overall Outlook:

This Northwestern team is young, but can be explosive with Colter behind center and a strong group of special teams players. The defense has some key guys returning on the line who can cause problems for the inexperienced offensive line expected to protect Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib. Coiter can hurt a defense with his legs, but he can be an accurate passer as well, completing 67.1 percent of his passes and having one lone interception. If he’s throwing well, he could do some damage to the weak Orange secondary that last season that gave up 258.2 yards a game through the air according to Syracuseathletics.com 

Kickoff for the game is at Noon ET. 

Stats compiled using Northwestern Media Guide and Yearbook.

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Darius is in his Junior year at Syracuse University as a Broadcast and Digital Journalism Major in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. He is originally from a small town in New Jersey but grew up as a Syracuse fan. Darius enjoys going to sporting events at Syracuse and he loves to hang out with friends. In the future, Darius hopes that he will someday work for ESPN.