Every team in the ACC has a couple games they wish they had back from 2012. Whether they didn’t bring their A-game, or the other guys just got lucky, every school would love another shot at an opponent, for the ability to prove it won’t happen again. Luckily, because of conference play and parity in the ACC, many will get a chance at redemption immediately, with rematches already on the books for 2013.
As part of our 2013 college football season preview, we’ll be running through the biggest “payback” games for each school. As no team finished with just one loss, there are likely multiple choices for each — none more “right’ than another, necessarily. Still, every selection should help provide some extra motivation for fans as they gear up for this season’s slate of games.
Team: Syracuse Orange
Opponent: Northwestern Wildcats
Last Year: Loss, 42-41 vs. Northwestern
This Year: September 7 at Northwestern
Syracuse wouldn’t wait very long to spring their new up-tempo, pass-happy offense on the 2012 college football season. Right from the onset, anyone who’d watched the Orange beforehand saw a much different, more dynamic offense on the field, even as they failed to score very often through the first half or so of their opening game vs. Northwestern. In fact, down 35-13 halfway through the third quarter, it seemed like more of a failed experiment for Syracuse than anything else. Then suddenly, something clicked.
By the end of the third, SU was only down eight, courtesy of two touchdown passes from Ryan Nassib. Another two scoring drives in the fourth (another two TDs tossed by Nassib) and Syracuse held a 41-35 lead with just two minutes and 40 seconds to play. What happened next still irks Syracuse fans (including yours truly) today: Kain Colter drove NU down the field fairly well, but was handed the gift of a questionable personal foul call while already in Orange territory. The 15-yard penalty, tacked on at the end of a run, all but assured the Wildcats would put the ball in the end zone. They did with just 44 seconds left on the clock, taking a one-point lead. Deflated following a stunning turn of events, SU couldn’t get in scoring range and would ultimately fall to 0-1 on the season.
This year, Northwestern figures to be even better, while the Orange have some things left to figure out in terms of their offense (like: who’s running it?). For some, it’d be easy just to point to the penalty on Keon Lyn as the turning point. But that ignores how well Northwestern was driving the ball down the field to that point, and how much SU struggled stopping NU’s offense and special teams all game. Venric Mark (203 all-purpose yards in the first half) and Colter (175 total yards and three TDs on the game) abused Syracuse throughout the contest, letting Northwestern rack up big yardage at will. Looking for a win on the road this season, SU must key in on preventing Colter from taking off too much (mobile quarterbacks have been an Achilles Heel for this defense in recent years). At the same time, they’ve got to focus on the dynamic Mark as well. A darkhorse Heisman candidate for 2013, his speed exposed some holes in the Syracuse D, and is likely to do so again. The gameplan must be to minimize damage, and force Mark (and Colter) to run inside. It’s no sure thing this year’s Orange offense can keep up with Northwestern, so the defense has to step up in a big way if SU has any shot in this early matchup against what should be a top 25 squad.