College Football Picks: Penn State vs. Syracuse

Ross Benjamin

Sunday, August 18, 2013 9:41 PM UTC

Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013 9:41 PM UTC

The Syracuse Orangemen and the Penn St. Nittany Lions will square off in each of these teams season opener. The game will take place on Saturday 8/31 at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Saturday 8/31/2013

Syracuse vs. Penn St. 3:30 PM ET

Site: Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey

Game # 199-200

Current Line: Penn St. -7.5

Television: ESPN2

Met Life Stadium will also be the host of the 2014 Super Bowl. This line opened with Penn St. as a 7.0-point favorite and has since moved to 7.5. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN2 with kickoff slated for 3:30 PM ET.

This will mark the Syracuse head coaching debut of Scott Schaffer. Schaffer takes over for Doug Marrone who accepted the head coaching job with the Buffalo Bills. Schaffer worked as the defensive coordinator under Marrone so this should be a very smooth transitional period. This will be Schaffer’s first head coaching job at the college level, and he has some pretty big shoes to fill with no pun intended. Marrone took over a program in 2009 that had gone an atrocious 10-38 combined in the 4 previous seasons. All Marrone was able to accomplish over the next 4 years is elevate the program to a pair of Pinstripe Bowl wins over Kansas St. (2010) and West Virginia (2012). After going 4-8 in his first season in charge the Orange improved to a combined 21-17 over the next 3 seasons. Schaffer also will be taking over a team that will be competing in the ACC for the first time.

One of the challenges the Orange coaching staff among many this season will be replacing record setting quarterback Ryan Nassib. Nassib was a 3-year starter and had a terrific senior season throwing for 3749 yards, with 23 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. Nassib was able to parlay that into becoming a 4th round draft choice of the NY Giants. The two current frontrunners to take over for Nassib are Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen and sophomore Terrel Hunt. Allen spent 4 years in the Sooners program backing up current NFL quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Landry Jones. He did appear in 12 games for Oklahoma, with no starts, and completed 18 of 30 passes. The Orange will be in great shape at the running back position with starter Jerome Smith and backup Prince Tyson-Gulley. The pair combined to run last season for 2066 yards and 12 touchdowns. Syracuse returns 6 players on each side of the ball.

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Penn St. had a very successful 2012 season with all being considered. The Nittany Lions went 8-4 under first year head coach Bill O’Brien. O’Brien did a terrific job in taking over a program with a huge black cloud hanging over its head. The NCAA levied stiff penalties to the football program as a result of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. They also had to endure the offseason passing of iconic head coach Joe Paterno. Patern’s epic career was greatly tarnished as a result of the issues surrounding Sandusky debacle. In addition they started the season with an upset loss at home loss to Ohio University of the Mid American Conference. Then followed that up with a gut wrenching 17-16 loss at Virginia in a game they missed 4 field goal attempts, the last of which was on the final play of the game. O’Brien’s club showed great resiliency going 8-2 the rest of the way. The only losses in that stretch came at the hands of Ohio St. who eventually would go a perfect 12-0, and at Nebraska in a game they were robbed on an absolute brutal officiating call. 

Penn St. returns 8 starters on offense and 6 on defense. Like Syracuse their biggest challenge will be replacing starting quarterback Matt McGloin. McGloin was a tremendous leader who passed for 3271 yards good for 24 touchdowns and only 5 picks. The leader in the clubhouse at the moment is freshmen Christian Hackenberg. Junior Zach Zwinak returns at running back after leading the team with 1007 yards rushing a season ago. The Nittany Lions also return their last year’s leading receiver Allen Robinson. The junior caught 77 passes, for 1013 yards, and 11 touchdowns a year ago. The defense in spite of the loss of 5 starters should once again be solid. Penn St. finished the season by going 6-0 SU&ATS in their last 6 games as a favorite, winning those 6 by an average of 16.7 points per game.

There’s a lot of uncertainty for both of these teams heading into the season at the all important quarterback position. I give Penn St. a huge edge at wide receiver with Robinson. I give the edge to the Orange in the running game with the tandem of Smith and Prince-Gulley. The Orange will rely on those two workhorses to carry them especially early in the season to take off the pressure on an inexperienced quarterback.

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College Football Picks: I have a small lean on the Syracuse Orangemen plus the points in this contest with the Orange running game being the key element.

See my other picks:

Ole Miss vs. Vanderbilt

Texas Tech vs. SMU

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