Week 8 – Connecticut at Syracuse

Posted Oct 19, 2012

Week 8 Fearless Prediction – Connecticut at Syracuse

Connecticut (3-4) at Syracuse (2-4) Oct. 19, 8:00, ESPN

Here's The Deal: Connecticut is reeling. So, too, is Syracuse. Hey, at least the fans in Upstate New York get an opportunity to welcome back head coach Paul Pasqualoni, who coached in the Carrier Dome as an assistant and a head coach for almost two decades. His Huskies are coming off another gut-wrenching loss, blowing a late lead before falling in overtime to Temple. This is going to be a crucial and difficult stretch run for Pasqualoni, who cannot afford to miss the postseason in each of his first two seasons at the helm of Connecticut. His coaching counterpart, Doug Marrone, is under no less scrutiny from his boss as his Orange squad fell to two games below .500 with last week's 23-15 loss to Rutgers. Syracuse actually outgained the unbeaten Knights, but costly, unforced mistakes snuffed out any hope for a much-needed upset win.

Why Connecticut Might Win: Through it all this season, the defense has remained the backbone of the Huskies program. On the field far more than it should be, Connecticut is still ranked No. 6 nationally, while yielding more than 21 points in a game just once in seven weeks. They're talented at every level, collapsing the pocket with DE Trevardo Williams and linebackers Yawin Smallwood and Sio Moore, while leaning on corners Dwayne Gratz and Blidi Wreh-Wilson to blanket opponents' best receivers. The Huskies have yet to allow more than one touchdown pass in a game, which is going to be a problem for pass-heavy Syracuse.

Why Syracuse Might Win: Despite all of its defensive prowess, Connecticut is under .500 because they simply can't score with any consistency. Ranked last in the Big East, top RB Lyle McCombs missed last week with an injury, and QB Chandler Whitmer has been hit-or-miss. The situation isn't likely to improve against Syracuse, which is playing markedly better on defense for coordinator Scott Shafer. The Orange is only allowing an average of 17 points over the last four games, and just got done holding Rutgers to 237 yards. DE Brandon Sharpe has come to life as a pass rusher, and S Shamarko Thomas and linebackers Marquis Spruill, Siriki Diabate and Dyshawn Davis have been narrowing the field on opponents out of the back seven.

What To Watch Out For: With Shafer calling the shots, Syracuse is consistently finding a way into the other team's backfield. And there's a different hero stepping up every week. Whether it's Sharpe or Diabate or Spruill, the Orange is going to find a way to rattle Whitmer into poor decisions. Making matters even worse for Connecticut, it's O-line has struggled all year to get off its blocks and make life a little easier on the supporting cast.

What Will Happen: Two similar programs, who play in nothing but tight games, are bound to be embroiled in another nail-biter that doesn't get decided until late in the fourth quarter. Syracuse and Connecticut will duke it out for 60 minutes, with the defenses setting the tone for most of the evening. When drives matter most in the second half, the Orange will benefit from having a seasoned veteran behind center. Senior Ryan Nassib will lead his team downfield, helping provide the difference in a see-saw game.

CFN Prediction: Syracuse 27 … Connecticut 20
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Syracuse -4.5 O/U: 43.5
Must Watch Rating (5 – Seven Psychopaths, 1 – Here Comes the Boom): 1.5