Think about the Syracuse football program. Do it. DO AS I SAY! Now, consider the names that come to mind: Donovan McNabb, Marvin Harrison, Troy Nunes, Larry Csonka, Jim Brown, etc. Their post-WW2 history is dripping with big names--big names that haven't been there for a long, long time. Now, without looking, name one current all-conference Syracuse player. Hell, name one current Syracuse player. You can't do it, can you?
Indeed, in the context of the past 60 years, the most remarkable thing about the Syracuse franchise might be how little they represent today.
They inherited the region's attention from fading programs in Annapolis and West Point in the early '50s. Aside from Pittsburgh borrowing the mantle for a decade starting in the late 70's--and perhaps a couple burps from Boston College and Rutgers--Syracuse has been the unquestioned king of college football in New England for as long as your grandfather's had pubes.
And yet, no matter what level of success they attained, they've never outshined New England's pigskin drug of choice: the NFL. It seems counterintuitive, but the attention given to college football in ESPN's neck of the woods is scant--especially considering the inordinate attention heaped upon nearby franchises in MLB and the NFL. Mock if you must, but imagine the anguish of so many years playing second fiddle to anything, much less the NFL. Let's be real. Iowa's been worse as a regional alpha dog over the last 25 years than Syracuse has been as a second fiddle. And yet here we find ourselves in 2007 with Iowa a prohibitive favorite.
So now Syracuse finds itself no closer to its big brother, decades of stellar play discarded like so many piss jugs on the highway. Indeed, their most remarkable youtube clips are The Stand and this clip. Watch for the instant replays, which take the following play from "ill-advised 13-foot leap" to "likely attempted murder."
So six decades and one tailback's soiled pants notwithstanding, what's there to expect from tomorrow's game? If it gives you any indication, TNIAAM has this to say:
How Fucked Are We?: Very. Last year was The Stand. Lost in that nail-biting finish was the fact that Iowa fully expected to cakewalk in that game. They remember that. And they are at home this year. In front of a sold-out crowd. And they smell blood. And urine.
Most revenge isn't spread-based, but then again, most opponents aren't late-aughts Syracuse. And with a look at the matchups tomorrow, it seems clear that Iowa will coast to victory.
WHEN IOWA HAS THE BALL
Iowa OL vs. Syracuse DL
The Orange defensive line was miserable last Saturday, never so much as threatening Jake Locker (not a real name) or his partner in crime, Louis Rankin. On the whole, Washington rushed for over 300 yards on 41 carries, which is a sure sign that the Cuse defensive line is worthless.
Iowa, meanwhile, was solid on the line last week. LT Dace Richardson is practicing, but not expected to start (if play at all) tomorrow. No matter; LT Kyle Calloway (seen here in action) stoned big-shot DE Larry English to the tune of one tackle on the day. Expect the Hawkeyes to enjoy another easy day in the trenches tomorrow.
Iowa WR/TE vs. Syracuse DB
Catch the fucking ball, would you guys? Advantage: Syracuse, if only because the Hawkeyes will be doing the Orangemen's job for them.
Iowa RB vs. Syracuse LB
Albert Young and Damian Sims may not replicate last week's triple-double (or double-triple? whatever. they both had over 100 yards), but they should continue to rack up yards with impunity. Meanwhile, there is simply nothing good you can say about Syracuse's linebackers, who will be opponents in name only tomorrow.
Iowa QB vs. Syracuse D
Jake Christensen's numbers were rather lackluster against NIU (12-29, 133, 1 TD), but about half of the incompletions came from drops, so it's not as if he was lousy last week. Still, he seemed out of rhythm in the first half, often throwing passes unnecessarily hard. That, plain and simple, cannot continue. If it does, Iowa is in trouble.
Syracuse's pass defense allowed only 142 yards to Jake Locker, but that was only on 19 passes (which is in and of itself a mystery; WHY ARE YOU PASSING AT ALL?! Look at their front 7!). Jake Christensen should find himself in a similar role Saturday, tossing short- to medium-length passes whenever he senses the wide receivers getting bored. How do you folks feel about 13-21, 160 yards, and a touchdown? Good enough? Good.
WHEN SYRACUSE HAS THE BALL
Syracuse OL vs. Iowa DL
Washington registered seven sacks on hapless QB Andrew Robinson last week, though the number jumps to 11 if you count the teabagging that the starting four gave him. Worse yet, they allowed the Orange to tally eight yards of rushing on the day. Eight. Realistically, the Iowa defensive line should be able to reduce Robinson to the Grape Stomping Lady by the middle of the third quarter.
Syracuse WR/TE vs. Iowa DB
I'm still not sold on the secondary as yet, but they played with a spark that we, y'know, might have wanted to see last year too. Obviously, Godfrey will not continue to collect two interceptions a game, but his play was stellar throughout the course of the contest against NIU, and it's reasonable to think he'll continue to keep that up.
Syracuse's receivers are ho-hum, with Taj Smith an underwhelming first option. Another advantage for Iowa.
Syracuse RB vs. Iowa LB
Curtis Brinkley (son of Christie and Billy Joel) is the Orangemen's starting tailback, and while he is a solid receiving option out of the backfield, he was smothered in the backfield, tallying just four yards on six carries. Fellow tailback Derrell Smith barely fared better, with a whopping 19 yards on five totes against garbage-time defenders. The Iowa rush defense should allow similarly anemic numbers Saturday.
Syracuse QB vs. Iowa D
Poor Andrew Robinson. He had a pretty decent day on Saturday, going 20-32 for 199 yards and a score. But that offensive line against this Iowa front four? He may want to ask his trainers to reinforce his pads with steel. There is no area of play on offense where it looks as if Syracuse will have an advantage, and Iowa's defense will be typically strong. Is a shutout in the offing? Maybe. You certainly can't rule it out, can you?
Let's make one thing clear: If Austin Signor keeps leaving four easy points off the board, it will come back to haunt Iowa, and he will not be kicking for much longer. That said, he earned his spot as the starting kicker over the course of practice, so he's probably going to be better than the NIU game on the whole. If he isn't, he'll be yanked. Simple as that.
Between that, the shank job that Ryan Donahue pulled in the first quarter of the Syracuse game, and the generally baffling play of the coverage teams, I can't say Iowa's at an advantage here.
Greg Robinson's sheer ineptitude is going to come back to haunt me in about 48 hours.
Iowa wins easy. 37-7 or something similar.