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August 29, 2007

Matchup breakdown: Syracuse vs. Washington

So this is where it all begins for the 2007 Syracuse Orange football team as they welcome the Washington Huskies to the Carrier Dome for a nationally televised season opener Friday night.

This will be the Orange's first season opener at home in a couple of years and they certainly be drawing energy from the crowd in the early going.

There will be a lot of things to look forward to. Andrew Robinson gets his shot to be the man at quarterback and the rest of the offense comes back with another year of experience under its belt.

Washington comes in from the Pac-10 and is a team that was very up and down last year, finishing with a 5-7 record. The Huskies do something that was a real problem for the Orange a year ago, score the football.

Running back Louis Rankin should be the main player to watch early on. If he can get going it could be a crazy night at the Carrier Dome.

Read on for a further breakdown of the matchup:

Syracuse Offense

It will be interesting to see where the Orange plan on starting their attack. Will they go with the experience of Curtis Brinkley rushing the ball or with new quarterback Andrew Robinson sending it through the air?

Having Brinkley is a good insurance policy, but we have been waiting to see what Robinson can do for a year. It is time to show and prove.

To his advantage, Robinson will have a lot of weapons to throw to as Taj Smith, Mike Williams and Rice Moss should all see the ball come their way Friday night. If Robinson can get those guys the ball things could open up for the running game.

And if the running game opens up we will get to see the new and improved Curtis Brinkley he told us about recently.

Brinkley should be able to piggy back off the effects of the ball sailing through the air. If he can get some breaks to the outside on 10-14 carries he could go for big yardage.

Syracuse Defense

The offense should be able to hold their own, but the defense is where skepticism will arise.

Gone are all the impact players on defense. Senior Jameel McClain will have to anchor the front as he looks to build on his 9.5 sacks from a year ago.

Look for the defense to pretty much follow McClain's lead as he is the main guy on the field with the most experience. In the secondary, senior Dowayne Davis will try to keep things afloat if the ball gets sent through the air.

McLain and Davis are the two guys who will have to battle all season and it starts with Friday night. If one of the younger guys can step up and make a play, then the Orange defense might have a shot. If there is a plus, it's that the home crowd will provide the defense with plenty of energy to make a big play.

Washington Offense

Last season the Huskies depended a lot on the run with Isaiah Stanback at the quarterback position. Stanback is now gone and former prize recruit Jake Locker is the main guy at the helm.

Locker will be making his first start for the Huskies, but he was rated as the number four dual threat quarterback by Rivals.com coming out of high school in the class fo 2006.

Locker has plenty of talent, but in front of a hostile crowd it is likely he will be leaning on his running game at least in the early going.

Louis Rankin can go for 100 yards in a game at anytime and at his size (6-foot-1 205 pounds), he could be a tough matchup for Orange defense.

Last season, Rankin rushed for 706 yards to go along with four touchdowns. Expect Rankin to get a heavy load of carries Friday night.

Washington Defense

The Huskies will have some questions to answer defensively in this season opener. They lost four of their six leading tacklers from last year, and opponents averaged close to 140 yards rushing and 240 yards passing per game last year.

While the 240 might look like a big number, the secondary is actually the strength of the Washington defense.

Roy Lewis is one of the anchors of the secondary at cornerback. Lewis is a decent corner who has the size and speed to break on the ball very quickly. If he can get an interception early or make a big play it could give inspiration to a young defensive squad.

Player to watch: Louis Rankin

Rankin could be the star of this game if the Orange defense is not ready to play. With the Huskies playing in the Pac-10 you know scoring will be one of their specialties and Rankin could be the catalyst. Last season, he rushed for 100 or more yards three times and that was with an offensive line that was one of the worst in the Pac-10.

Prediction:

If the Orange can put some points on the board, then we are looking at a 27-26 game. If they can't, this one will be a laugher. Washington will be able to score some points offensively. In 2006, the Huskies scored 20 or more points in nine games.

I think the offense the Huskies have will be too much for the Orange to overcome and in the end, Syracuse will fall short at home.

Final Score:

Washington 23
Syracuse 13


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