Week 4 - Syracuse at Minnesota

Posted Sep 19, 2012

Week 4 CFN Fearless Prediction – Syracuse at Minnesota

Syracuse (1-2) at Minnesota (3-0) Sept. 22, 8:00, Big Ten Network

Here's The Deal: There are three remaining unbeaten Big Ten teams. Minnesota is one of them. Sure, the spotless record has come against marginal competition, but the Golden Gophers are in no position to split hairs at this stage of their evolution under second-year head coach Jerry Kill. They've survived a couple of close calls with UNLV and Western Michigan, closing out the Broncos without injured star QB MarQueis Gray. Each win brings Minnesota an important step closer to bowl eligibility. The good news on Syracuse? It snapped a nasty seven-game losing streak that dated back to last fall. The rub? A second-half comeback was needed to get past FCS Stony Brook. The Orange had Northwestern on the ropes in its other Big Ten matchup of 2012, and played surprisingly well in a loss to USC two weeks ago.

Why Syracuse Might Win: A Minnesota defense that has played well so far is about to face the best passing attack it's seen this month. Orange senior Ryan Nassib is off to the best start of his career, already throwing for nine touchdowns and more than 1,100 yards. He's done a very nice job of spreading the ball around to receivers Marcus Sales, Jarrod West and Alec Lemon. If Nassib can force the Gophers to commit extra resources to the secondary, it'll help open up space for complementary backs Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley.

Why Minnesota Might Win: So who is Max Shortell, and why should he concern a tattered Syracuse D? The redshirt freshman from Kansas played well in the first extensive action of his college career. He came off the bench when Gray was injured to throw three touchdown passes and help lead the Gophers to a victory. Shortell might be the program's best pure passer, which means TE John Rabe and WR A.J. Barker, who caught three touchdown passes last week, because more dangerous in the passing game. The Gophers also have an effective Donnell Kirkwood to fuel the ground game.

What To Watch Out For: The numbers look good for the Minnesota pass defense, but will they stay that way against a more developed passing game? Ranked No. 5 nationally in pass efficiency defense, the Gophers have only given up two touchdown passes in three games. D.L. Wilhite and Ra'Shede Hageman have helped the cause by getting a push up front, as have aggressive DBs Troy Stoudemire and Derrick Wells. If Syracuse has issues completing passes downfield, Minnesota will have aced one of its key tests for this week's game.

What Will Happen: Minnesota and Syracuse only seem to play in tight games, so it goes to figure that this one at TCF Bank Stadium will be in doubt deep into the fourth quarter. Shortell has a little something special about him, a level of poise and moxie that'll prevent him from becoming unnerved by his first career start. He and Nassib will both put up gaudy numbers, trading jabs throughout an entertaining game. The Gophers are learning how to pull out the close ones under Kill, a lesson that'll serve them well against the Orange this weekend.

CFN Prediction: Minnesota 34 … Syracuse 30
Line: Minnesota -2; O/U: 59
Must Watch Rating (5 – Ray Lewis: A Football Life, 1 – Frankenweenie): 2