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2007 Syracuse Orange

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jan 21, 2008


2007 Syracuse Orange Season Game-By-Game Recaps and More

2007 Syracuse Orange

Recap: The Orange maintained, even enhanced, its growing reputation as the worst program in the Big East, going 2-10 and winning just a single league game.  There was very little to cheer about at Syracuse, which lost 10 games for the second time in three years, and was routinely abused at the point of attack on both sides of the ball.  For Orange fans hoping to see a head or two roll in December, even that didn’t go their way, as beleaguered head coach Greg Robinson was given another year to get the program back to respectability.    

Offensive Player of the Year: WR Mike Williams

Defensive Player of the Year: NT Arthur Jones

Biggest Surprise: The Orange sure weaved a doozy of an upset on Sept. 22, flooring heavily-favored Louisville in one of the biggest upsets in Big East history.  Syracuse nabbed its first win of the season behind sophomore QB Andrew Robinson, who turned 17 completions into 423 yards and four touchdown passes.

Biggest Disappointment: The Orange’s encore to picking off Louisville?  Losing to Miami University, 17-14, the following weekend in a listless effort that encapsulated why the program is in such a state of disrepair.  Syracuse got out gained 436 to 302, fumbling an opportunity to build on the school’s flashiest win this decade.

Looking Ahead: Well, on a positive note, Robinson’s return for 2008 means the players won’t have to spend a chunk of the offseason, learning a new staff, a new offense, and new terminology.  Although the Orange is a mess in the trenches, the skill position players offer a hint of hope, especially if touted RB Delone Carter can make it all the way back from a dislocated hip.     

- 2007 Syracuse Preview
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2006 Syracuse Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
5-7
2006 Record:
2-10

Aug. 31 Washington L 42-12
Sept.8 at Iowa L 35-0
Sept. 15
Illinois L 41-20
Sept. 22 at Louisville W 38-35
Sept. 29
at Miami Univ. L 17-14
Oct. 6 West Virginia L 55-14
Oct. 13
Rutgers L 38-14
Oct. 20 Buffalo W 20-12
Nov. 3 at Pitt L 20-17
Nov. 10
South Florida L 41-10
Nov. 17 at Connecticut L 30-7
Nov. 24 Cincinnati L 52-31

Nov. 24
Cincinnati 52 ... Syracuse 31
Cincinnati cranked out 544 yards of total offense and sacked Syracuse quarterback Andrew Robinson 11 times, but needed a 16-yard fumble recovery for a score as part of a 17-0 run to put the Orange away. Ben Mauk had a career day with 431 yards and four touchdown passes including three to Marcus Barnett from 33, eight and 18 yards out. SU kept up the pace for three quarters with Robinson bombing away for 419 yards including a 78-yard play to Taj Smith on the first play of the second half. The two teams combined for 859 passing yards and 21 penalties.
Player of the game: Cincinnati QB Ben Mauk completed 29 of 42 passes for 431 yards and four touchdowns, and ran for a score.
Stat Leaders: Cincinnati - Passing: Ben Mauk, 29-42, 431 yds, 4 TD
Rushing: Butler Benton, 9-63. Receiving: Marcus Barnett, 11-127, 3 TD
Syracuse - Passing: Andrew Robinson, 29-47, 419 yds, 3 TD
Rushing:
Doug Hogue, 8-30. Receiving: Mike Williams, 9-160, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Whatever happens with the coaching staff, the pieces are in place for a potential juggernaut of a passing game next year. Andrew Robinson, with some more work and a lot of seasoning, is a keeper, while Mike Williams is one of the nation's best kept receiving stars. Of course, the team is going nowhere fast until the defense starts to play far, far better and the offensive line is created from scratch. The SU front five allowed 11 sacks and did nothing for the running game. Until the linemen start to show up, the program isn't going to make any major strides.

Nov. 17
Connecticut 30 ... Syracuse 7
Connecticut got up to a 30-0 lead with Tyler Lorenzen connecting with Terence Jeffers for a 63-yard touchdown early in the first and Andre Dixon sand Donald Brown each running for scores. The defense got into the act in the second half with Danny Lansanah picking off a pass and taking it 49 yards for a touchdown. SU finally got on the board with a two-yard Mike Williams catch for its only points of the game. The Huskies finished the year unbeaten at home.
Player of the game: Connecticut RB Donald Brown ran 22 times for 99 yards and a touchdown and caught a pass for 11 yards
Stat Leaders: Syracuse - Passing: Cameron Dantley, 7-17, 61 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Doug Hogue, 12-65. Receiving: Mike Williams, 6-24, 1 TD
Connecticut - Passing: Tyler Lorenzen, 16-24, 213 yds, 1 TD
Rushing:
Donald Brown, 22-99, 1 TD. Receiving: Andre Dixon, 4-40
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The problem with Syracuse hasn't just been the losses, it's been the lack of improvement. The offense has never been able to find itself all year, and now it's truly lost as it tries to figure out which quarterback to possibly commit to for the next few years. The defense made some decent adjustments in the second half against Connecticut, but with no offense, there wasn't any hope of making it interesting. With Cincinnati to close down yet another miserable season, the entire program needs something it can hang its hat on going into the off-season. There has to be something positive to get excited about.

Nov. 10
South Florida 41 ... Syracuse 10
South Florida outrushed Syracuse 346 yards to 15, and held on to the ball for almost 46 minutes, as Mike Ford ran for 134 yards with two one-yard scores, and Matt Grothe ran for a five-yard touchdown and threw for scores to Carlton Mitchell from 15 yards out and Taurus Johnson from nine yards away. Syracuse was down 20-0 before getting a 50-yard Patrick Shadle field goal with three seconds to play. The Orange only got into the end zone on a three-yard Mike Williams touchdown catch.
Player of the game: South Florida RB Mike Ford ran 28 times for 134 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Syracuse - Passing: Cameron Dantley, 21-38, 276 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Max Suter, 3-11. Receiving: Mike Williams, 8-99, 1 TD
South Florida - Passing: Matt Grothe, 15-22, 181 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Mike Ford, 28-134, 2 TD. Receiving: Carlton Mitchell, 6-61, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Syracuse appeared to be getting better as the season was going on, at least a little bit, playing Pitt hard last week, and then came the home clunker to South Florida to cement the team's fate in yet another clunker year. The running game continues to be non-existent, while the passing attack hasn't done nearly enough to get the offense moving. To have a chance to be competitive at UConn next week, the run defense will have to be night-and-day better than it was this week.

Nov. 3
Pitt 20 ... Syracuse 17
Pitt broke open a 10-10 tie with a one-yard LeSean McCoy touchdown run and a 32-yard Conor Lee field goal in the fourth, and then had to hang on, as Mike Williams caught a three-yard touchdown pass with 1:46 to play. After stopping McCoy on a fourth and one, SU got the ball to midfield in the final minute, but a fourth down pass was incomplete. The two teams combined for just 559 yards and converted just six of 30 third down conversion chances.
Player of the game: Pitt RB LeSean McCoy ran 31 times for 140 yards and a touchdown, and caught five passes for 12 yards
Stat Leaders: Syracuse - Passing: Cameron Dantley, 15-27, 189 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Max Suter, 6-27. Receiving: Mike Williams, 8-81, 1 TD
Pitt - Passing: Pat Bostick, 21-30, 153 yds, 1 TD
Rushing:
LeSean McCoy, 31-140, 1 TD. Receiving: Oderick Turner, 5-54, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Is this the end of the Andrew Robinson era for this year? With the SU starting quarterback getting benched at halftime of the loss to Pitt, and a nice performance from Cameron Dantley in relief, the idea is to find a spark from somewhere. The receiving corps is playing well, and it has to with no production from the running backs. The offensive line continues to be an issue, allowing six sacks to Pitt and only averaging one yard per carry. That's not a plus with South Florida and Connecticut up next.

Oct. 20
Syracuse 20 ... Buffalo 12
Mike Williams and Taj Smith each caught 113 yards worth of passes, and the defense held Buffalo to four A.J. Principe field goals, as Syracuse came away with just its second win of the season. SU's Doug Hogue ran for 83 yards with a six-yard touchdown run in the final minute of the first half. UB fumbled the ensuing kickoff, Andrew Robinson found Mike Williams for an 11-yard touchdown with 15 seconds to play, and SU had a 17-3 halftime lead. Principe connected from 31, 33, 29 and 32 yards out for the Bulls.
Player of the game: Syracuse WR Mike Williams caught seven passes for 113 yards and a touchdown
Stat Leaders: Buffalo - Passing: Drew Willy, 32-48, 286 yds
Rushing: James Starks, 20-62. Receiving: Naaman Roosevelt, 10-91
Syracuse - Passing: Andrew Robinson, 15-28, 265 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Doug Hogue, 24-83, 1 TD. Receiving: Mike Williams 7-113, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Buffalo is playing well, so while the win might not seem like that big a deal, it's huge for a SU program in desperate need of something to hang its hat on. For the first time all year, the passing game got both Taj Smith and Mike Williams involved in the attack enough to keep a defense on its heels, and while Andrew Robinson only threw for 265 yards, he did enough to get the win. Now SU needs to get a little momentum. A win over Pitt is a must before having to deal with South Florida.

Oct. 13
Rutgers 38 ... Syracuse 14
Rutgers gained 538 yards of total offense, but it took a little while to get rolling. Syracuse scored the first 14 points of the game on a 16-yard Mike Williams touchdown catch and a 15-yard Curtis Brinkley run, and then it was all Rutgers, scoring 38 unanswered points with Ray Rice scoring three short touchdowns and Mike Teel connecting with Kenny Britt from 42 yards out and Kevin Brock from 32 yards away.
Player of the game: Rutgers RB Ray Rice ran 36 times for 196 yards and three touchdowns, and caught four passes for 29 yards
Stat Leaders: Syracuse - Passing: Andrew Robinson, 15-32, 158 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Curtis Brinkley, 16-98, 1 TD. Receiving: Jawad Nesheiwai, 4-81
Rutgers - Passing: Mike Teel, 20-29, 310 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Ray Rice, 36-196, 3 TD. Receiving: Kenny Britt, 6-176, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Just when it seemed like Syracuse was going to do something special. Just when it seemed like it was going to give Rutgers a hard time. Splat. Nothing from the running game. Less from the passing attack. Nothing from the D line. Good night. The Orange has to find something that works and stick with it, but it can't keep doing the same things and getting blown out week after week. Buffalo is up next, and if SU loses that, it's really time to cash in the season and be ready to start fresh with a new coaching staff.

Oct. 6
West Virginia 55 ... Syracuse 14
With a balanced attack, West Virginia rolled for 486 yards and the easy win, getting up 31-7 at halftime and continuing a run of 334 straight points through the third quarter. Pat White threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Darius Reynaud and ran for a one-yard score before leaving with an injury, and Owen Schmitt barreled in for two short touchdowns. The Mountaineer defense also got in the act with a 19-yard Kellen Dykes interception return for a score. The Orange only gained 202 yards with most coming on a 61-yard Mike Williams touchdown late in the third quarter.
Player of the game: West Virginia QB Pat White completed 12 of 15 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown, and ran 14 times for 89 yards and a score.
Stat Leaders: Syracuse - Passing: Andrew Robinson, 5-15, 100 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Curtis Brinkley, 18-50, 1 TD. Receiving: Mike Williams, 2-72, 1 TD
West Virginia - Passing: Pat White, 12-15, 148 yds, 1 TD  
Rushing:
Pat White, 14-89, 1 TD. Receiving: Darius Reynaud, 6-48, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
The offense is regressing. About now, there should be something the attack can count on, but against West Virginia, there wasn't any running game, 62 of the 108 passing yards came on one play, and there were only 11 first downs. At this point, with the season in the tank, QB Andrew Robinson has to let it rip. The receiving corps is one of the team's strengths, and now it needs to be about building towards the future and seeing what he can do when he gets to throw it 35 times a game, ever game. Granted, it didn't work against Miami University, but something needs to change.

Sept. 29
Miami University 17 ... Syracuse 14
Cory Jones ran for two touchdowns, and Trevor Cook hit a 19-yard field goal, after Syracuse came up with a goal line stand late in the fourth, to come up with a shocking win. The Orange fought back late, stuffing MU three times on the one line to force the Cook field goal, and then answering with a 28-yard Taj Smith touchdown catch with just over four minutes to play. SU had one last shot, but couldn't get further than its own 13.
Player of the game: Miami RB Cory Jones ran for 125 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries, and had three receptions for 21 yards.
Stat Leaders: Syracuse - Passing: Andrew Robinson, 17-36, 236 yds, 2 TDs
Rushing: Curtis Brinkley, 12-36. Receiving: Taj Smith, 6-81, 1 TD
Miami - Passing: Mike Kokal, 13-26, 150 yds, 3 INTs
Rushing:
Cory Jones, 12-125, 2 TDs. Receiving: Dustin Woods, 6-95

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... How could the offense be so good against Louisville, and then do nothing against Miami University for extended stretches. This weren't the Miami Hurricanes, but SU could only manage 66 rushing yards. QB Andrew Robinson came up with the big plays, but not the consistent ones, converting three of 13 on third downs. This was a disastrous step back after all the goodwill built up by the win over the Cardinals, and now comes West Virginia and Rutgers. Uh oh.

Sept. 22
Syracuse 38 ... Louisville 35
In a wild game, Syracuse QB Andrew Robinson bombed away with a 79-yard touchdown pass to Taj Smith on the opening play, connected with Smith again in the third quarter for a 60-yard score, and threw two other touchdown passes to pull off the shocker. The Orange answered Louisville's first score, a four-yard Scott Kuhn touchdown catch, with a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown from Max Suter. The Cardinal offense roared in the second half, with Brian Brohm throwing three of his four touchdown passes, including a five-yard scoring strike to Patrick Carter in the final minute, but Syracuse recovered the onside kick. The two teams combined for 1,093 yards of total offense, 978 passing yards, and 23 penalties for 201 yards.
Player of the game ... The quarterbacks. Syracuse QB Andrew Robinson completed 17 of 26 passes for 423 yards and four touchdowns, and in a losing cause, Louisville QB Brian Brohm completed 45 of 65 passes for 555 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions.
Stat Leaders: Syracuse - Passing: Andrew Robinson, 17-26, 423 yds, 4 TD
Rushing: Curtis Brinkley, 23-53 Receiving: Mike Williams, 5-83, 1 TD
Louisville - Passing: Brian Brohm, 45-65, 555 yds, 4 TD, 2 INT
Rushing:
Anthony Allen, 18-66  Receiving: Harry Douglas, 12-205, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Thank you Louisville for helping get the offense rolling. It wasn't consistent, and there wasn't any semblance of a running game, but when the passing game is clicking like it was this week, with Andrew Robinson averaging a ridiculous 24.9 yards per pass, the wins will come. The Louisville offense will rip everyone apart, and the Orange secondary struggled way too much, but it'll all be glossed over this week after the biggest win in the Greg Robinson era. Now the offense has to build on this. Middle Tennessee wasn't able to do anything after the big performance against the Cardinals, and that can't happen to the Orange. With Miami University up next, there's no excuse to not keep the momentum rolling.

Sept. 15
Illinois 41 ... Syracuse 20
Illinois jumped all over Syracuse with a 20-3 lead on a 22-yard touchdown catch from Jeff Cumberland and a two-yard Rashan Mendenhall scoring run. The Orange appeared to get back into the game halfway through the third quarter on a two-yard Jeremy Sellers run, but the Illini put it away on a ten-yard Juice Williams run and two scores from Mendenhall on runs from 50 yards and one yard. The Illini outgained SU 508 to 286.
Player of the game ... Illinois RB Rashad Mendenhall ran 16 times for 150 yards and three touchdowns and caught three passes for 20 yards
Stat Leaders: Syracuse - Passing: Andrew Robinson, 17-26, 208 yds
Rushing: Curtis Brinkley, 18-54  Receiving: Curtis Brinkley, 4-89
Illinois - Passing: Juice Williams, 13-18, 97 yds, 1 TD
Rushing:
Rashad Mendenhall, 16-150, 3 TD  Receiving: Arrelious Benn, 4-26
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The problems keep stemming from the offensive line that isn't doing much of anything right. Illinois has a decent defensive line, but it's not so good that it should've dominated like it did. SU was only able to manage 1.9 yards per carry and allowed five sacks, while the defensive line got shoved around and struggled against the Illini runners. This should be an Orange team built around coming back, with a good receiving corps and promising passing QB in Andrew Robinson, but it hasn't happened yet. It all has to be geared up for Louisville next week.

Sept. 8
Iowa 35 ... Syracuse 0
Iowa had few problems with the Orange as Jake Christensen threw four touchdown passes with three to Tony Moeaki, Damian Sims ran for a one-yard score, and the defense allowed just 103 yards of total offense. Even the SU special teams had problems getting two field goals blocked. Moeaki took a pass 52 yards for the first score, and then Albert Young put the game well out of reach in the first quarter on a 36-yard touchdown. The Hawkeye defense came up with six sacks, with three coming from Bryan Mattison.
Player of the game ... Iowa TE Tony Moeaki caught eight passes for 112 yards and three touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Iowa- Passing: Jake Christensen, 23-32, 278 yds, 4 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Damian Sims, 12-62 yds, 1 TD  Receiving: Tony Moeaki, 8-112, 3 TD
Syracuse - Passing: Andrew Robinson, 7-20, 79 yds, 1 INT
Rushing:
Curtis Brinkley, 12-36  Receiving: Taj Smith, 3-51

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Syracuse has to get better play from the lines in a big hurry or the season will go into the tank before it even gets started. Iowa had its way with the Orange offensive line, while the SU skill players never had room to move. With Illinois up next, the defense has to show some sign of life against the run, while the offense needs an identity. But to get one, the line has to jell, come up with different blocking schemes, anything to give QB Andrew Robinson time. The Big East season could get very ugly, very quickly if the the coaching staff doesn't do something drastic.

Aug. 31
Washington 42 ... Syracuse 12
Washington's Louis Ranking tore off touchdown runs from 13, 47 and 20 yards out and Jake Locker added scoring dashes from one and eight yards on the way to a stunning blowout. Syracuse managed two 42-yard Patrick Shadle field goals in the first half and got a ten-yard Mike Williams scoring grab late in the fourth, but the run defense couldn't handle the Huskies, who outgained the Orange 302 yards to eight on the ground.
Player of the game: Washington RB Louis Rankin ran 17 times for 147 yards and three touchdowns and caught two passes for ten yards
Stat Leaders: Syracuse - Passing: Andrew Robinson 20-32, 199 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Derrell Smith, 5-19. Receiving: Taj Smith, 5-33
Washington - Passing: Jake Locker, 14-19, 142 yds
Rushing:
Louis Rankin, 17-147, 3 TD. Receiving: Anthony Russo, 5-49
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Orange needed a good first home game to give the struggling program some confidence, and it got run over, around and through by the Washington ground game. The biggest problem? The lines. The O line didn't do nearly enough to give Andrew Robinson some time, and the defensive line got shoved all over the place against the Husky front five. Robinson was a bit off all game long, mostly because he was under pressure, and there was no ground game whatsoever. Against Iowa next week, the offense has to find one thing it can do relatively well. Nothing worked against the Huskies.


Aug. 31 - Washington
Offense: All eyes in Seattle will be fixed on the debut of hot-shot rookie quarterback Jake Locker, but if there’s one priority for Tyrone Willingham in 2007, it’s to get more consistent on the ground.  Conservative by Pac-10 doctrine, the third-year coach wants to pound it between the tackles to set up the pass.  Top back Louis Rankin is more of an outside runner, putting the onus on 210-pound sophomore J.R. Hasty to start realizing his vast potential.  While Locker has all the tools for stardom, he’ll spend most of the upcoming season adapting to his new role as the face of the program.  His big-play target will be senior Marcel Reece, a Mike Walker clone poised to make a salary run.
Defense:
Even with a slight improvement in 2006, the Husky pass defense ranked among the nation’s worst for the second straight year.  With no stars and two new starters, expect more of the same in 2007.  The problems in the secondary will again overshadow a sneaky good front seven that features four returning starters on the defensive line and a group of young, dynamic linebackers, including sophomores E.J. Savannah and Donald Butler that could evolve into playmakers.  Defensive ends Greyson Gunheim and Daniel Te’o Nesheim are a couple of warriors that combined for two dozen tackles for loss last fall.  At 6-5 and 265 pounds, Gunheim runs like a gazelle, making him a magnet for NFL scouts visiting the Northwest.

Sept. 8 – at Iowa
Offense: The Jake Christensen era starts after four years of the Drew Tate regime, but backup quarterback Arvell Nelson is a terrific prospect who could push hard this fall. With the 1-2 rushing punch of Albert Young and Damian Sims, the ground game will be strong if the questionable offensive line pulls out a better season than last year (when injuries were a major problem). Dominique Douglas and Andy Brodell are emerging targets, and they'll shine with a passer like Christensen winging it. As good as Christensen might be, the offense will try to run first.
Defense: You basically know what you're getting with the Iowa defense. It's not going to do anything fancy, it's not going to bring any funky blitzes, and most teams should be able to get yards through the air without a problem. However, everyone can hit and there are few mistakes made. Eight starters return, led by end Ken Iwebema and one of the Big Ten's best lines, while the replacements for the departed starters are good. Forcing more turnovers, making more plays behind the line, and generating more pressure are all vital to coming up with a better year.

Sept. 15 - Illinois
Offense:
Has there ever been so much of a buzz for an offense that's done absolutely nothing? Juice Williams led the way to the nation's most inefficient passing attack, the O struggled to average 20 points a game, and never, ever came up with a clutch play. Chalk it up to youth, but this year's offense is still insanely young, and getting younger with the best receiver, Arrelious Bean, a true freshman. Even so, all will be fine as long as the starting 11 stays healthy. If injuries strike, things will go in the tank with no one to rely on behind Williams, no solid number two running back behind home-run hitter Rashard Mendenhall, and little developed depth behind an average line with four starters returning.
Defense: The defense never got any credit for a not-that-bad season. It was good at not giving up long drives or tons of yards, but it never, ever, ever came through with a key stop. How strange was the Illini D? It was 33rd in the nation allowing 310 yards per game, but allowed 26.75 points per game. This was going to be a good defense returning with J Leman tackling everything in sight at middle linebacker and Chris Norwell staring at tackle, and now there's actual talent to get excited about with the addition of mega-star recruits D'Angelo McCray on the line and Martez Wilson at linebacker. It'll be an interesting mix of good senior veterans and more talented underclassmen.

Sept. 22 – at Louisville
Offense: The coaching staff is new, but the results won’t differ much from last season when Louisville rung up 37 points and 475 yards a game.  The Cardinals will spread the field and ask future first round draft choice Brian Brohm to distribute the ball to his plethora of playmakers.  Brohm’s embarrassment of riches at receiver includes senior Harry Douglas, junior Mario Urrutia and senior Gary Barnidge, who combined for 159 receptions and 16 touchdowns in 2006.  Head coach Steve Kragthorpe and offensive coordinator Charlie Stubbs love leaning on the tight end, so Barnidge could be particularly busy this fall.  Even without Michael Bush the running game is in good shape with the returns of Anthony Allen and George Stripling, a thunder and lightning combo that had 20 touchdowns a year ago.  If Kragthorpe was able to supercharge the Tulsa offense, just imagine what he’ll do with all the resources they have in Louisville.
Defense: Not unlike the offense, the Cardinal D is aggressive, unpredictable and built on speed.  They’ll attack regularly which often means sacks, turnovers and the occasional busted play that goes for 65 yards.  The latter could happen a little more frequently in 2007, as the secondary adjusts to three new starters and uncertainty at cornerback.  Even without All-American tackle Amobi Okoye, the defensive line figures to be among the best in the Big East.  Sophomore end Peanut Whitehead and junior tackle Earl Heyman aren’t household names today, but both have the explosiveness to change that by November.  Senior linebacker Malik Jackson is a disruptive force with enough range to wreak havoc all over the field.

Sept. 29 – at Miami University
Offense: It's all about the offensive line. The front five was hit by injuries last season and the whole machine broke down with no running game, an obscene amount of sacks, and not enough of a passing game. Now the line is experienced with decent depth, the running backs should be solid as long as Brandon Murphy is over his ankle problems, and Mike Kokal has the potential to be the MAC's most effective all-around quarterback. And then there's the receiving corps. With Ryne Robinson gone, there's no proven number one receiver, but there's a boatload of speed on the outside in Dustin Woods and Armand Robinson. While they'll make big plays, someone has to become a go-to guy.
Defense: There were huge concerns about the defense going into last season with only two returning starters, but the lumps taken against the run and against way too many mediocre offenses should pay off in a return to the days when MU had one of the MAC's best defenses. While just six starters are back, there are more than enough promising options at several positions to create good overall competition and have more depth than there's been in a long time. The pass rush needs to be better with Craig Mester needing to get back to form to help out junior end Joe Coniglio. Joey Hudson and Clayton Mullins form one of the MAC's best 1-2 linebacking punches, while the secondary should be one of the team's strengths led by speedy corner Jerrid Gaines and veteran safety Robbie Wilson.


Oct. 6 - West Virginia
Offense: Unlike most schools that run the spread offense, West Virginia aims to open lanes for its prolific ground game, rarely putting the ball in the air more than 20 times a game.  The Mountaineers want the ball in the hands of its two junior Heisman candidates, quarterback Patrick White and running back Steve Slaton.  Along with receiver Darius Reynaud, they form the fastest offensive trio in America, and are threats for six with even a hint of daylight.  White is an underrated passer that rarely misses his target, but needs more help from a receiving corps that’s suspect after Reynaud.  Few schools rebuild on the offensive line better than West Virginia, but how will the unit react without its long-time quarterback Dan Mozes and long-time coach Rick Trickett?
Defense: Lost in all the yards the Mountaineer offense gained in 2006 was all the yards the defense allowed.  West Virginia allowed 35 or more points three times last fall and was torched through the air repeatedly over the second half of the year.  Worse, this once relentless defense had trouble getting to the quarterback and looked a step slow.  Rich Rodriguez is banking on a few tweaks to the back eight and an influx of faster players as the solutions in the team’s 3-3-5 stack formation.  Led by playmaking senior safety Eric Wicks, the secondary has a glut of really talented athletes that need to gel into a cohesive unit.

Oct. 13 - Rutgers
Offense: Although Rutgers is more than content to pound the ball between the tackles 30 times a game with All-America running back Ray Rice, it wouldn’t mind a little more offensive balance this year.  Whether that happens depends on the development of junior quarterback Mike Teel who struggled badly last year, but did play his best ball at the end of the year and has a speedy group of receivers needed to author a rebound.  While question marks exist on the interior of the offensive line, the tackle tandem of seniors Pedro Sosa and Jeremy Zuttah is one of the best in the country.
Defense: For Greg Schiano and his Rutgers defense, it’s all about creating pressure and turnovers with a variety of different looks to confuse opposing offenses.  Everything came together last year for a unit that had 31 takeaways and allowed just 252 yards and 14 points a game, but five starters need to be replaced.  Senior defensive tackle Eric Foster is a ticking time bomb that exploded on quarterbacks in 2006, en route to All-America recognition.  He’s the physical and spiritual leader of a front seven that’s noticeably less experienced than last year.  Provided sophomore Devin McCourty can handle the corner spot opposite twin brother Jason, the secondary will rock with the return of all-league safeties, Courtney Greene and Ron Girault.

Oct. 20 - Buffalo
Offense: The overall offensive production improved from ten points per game to 18.33. Now the attack has to be more consistent and explosive, and that all comes from the offensive line. It's a big, experienced line that has to give the promising skill players a chance to do their thing. UB can win with QB Drew Willy and RB James Starks, but they haven't had any chance to show what they can do with no time or room to work. Naaman Roosevelt has to be used somewhere. If he's not the starting quarterback, he'll provide a boost to a mediocre receiving corps.
Defense: Last year was a big transition year with several young players getting time as the scheme was switched from a 4-2-5 to a 4-3. Size is sacrificed for speed almost everyone, but there are big backups at tackle. Now the production against the run has to be better. Getting into the backfield won't be an issue as UB could be among the MAC's leaders in sacks and tackles for loss led by senior Trevor Scott on the end. The secondary has the potential to be far better if safeties Kareem Byrom and Mike Newton, along with rising corner Kendric Hawkins, can spend all their time trying to make plays against the pass instead of always having to deal with the run.


Nov. 3 – at Pitt
Offense: The graduation of Tyler Palko leaves a gaping hole on the Panther offense that’ll be filled by either junior Bill Stull or hot-shot rookie Pat Bostick.  Whoever gets the ball will enjoy an outstanding supporting cast that includes junior running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, one of the deepest receiving corps in the nation and the program’s best front wall since Dave Wannstedt arrived.  Wannstedt and Matt Cavanaugh want to establish a more physical ground game, but if the new hurler is up to the challenge, the ensuing balance will make this a very dangerous offense.   
Defense: Last year’s defense had big names, like H.B. Blades and Darrelle Revis, with poor results.  This year’s defense is devoid of stars, but might wind up being statistically better.  The key will be stopping the run, something that vexed the Panthers throughout the second half of the 2006 season.  The difference this fall will be a defensive line that’ll be much deeper than last year, and capable of creating inside-outside pressure with junior tackle Gus Mustakas and senior end Joe Clermond.  Although replacing Revis won’t be a snap, the secondary is busting with potential from future all-Big East players, like sophomores Aaron Berry and Elijah Fields.

Nov. 10 - South Florida
Offense: This is Matt Grothe’s offense, but unlike last season, he shouldn’t have to do everything short of crafting the weekly gameplan in order to make the unit hum.  Although he led the offense in passing, rushing and scoring, the program realizes it needs to protect its most important commodity and give him more support.  Can freshman Mike Ford live up to the hype?  Plenty is expected from a back that should ignite a rushing attack that did little in 2006 when Grothe wasn’t slithering through opposing defenses.  Originally headed to Tuscaloosa, he’s the highest-profile recruit to ever sign with USF.  The Bull receivers are a dynamic bunch that’s loaded with size, speed and underachievers that need to get their act together.
Defense: Like all teams from Florida, the USF defense pursues well and is built on speed.  Wally Burnham’s unit is well-coached, prevents the big play and is vastly underappreciated and unnoticed on a national level.  That could change if the Bulls crack the top 10 in total defense in 2007, a distinct possibility.  Next level corners Trae Williams and Mike Jenkins allow the defense to sell out on occasion, and the front four, led by sophomore rush end George Selvie, returns seven linemen that started games in 2006.  Importing defensive line coach Dan McCarney and linebacker Tyrone McKenzie from Iowa State were coups that’ll pay immediate dividends.

Nov. 17 – at Connecticut
Offense: For two years running, the Husky offense has been painfully inept, particularly in the passing game.  Tyler Lorenzen was recruited from the ranks of the junior colleges to specifically address that vertical shortcoming.  His arrival pushed D.J. Hernandez to slot receiver and set up a heated competition with sophomore Dennis Brown that’ll resume in August.  While quarterback is a question mark, running back is not.  Sophomore Donald Brown exploded on to the scene in 2006 with almost 700 yards and five scores in a torrid five-game stretch to finish the season.  With a bunch of linemen back, he’s poised for a monster season in an offense that still uses the run to set up the pass.
Defense: The bend-but-don’t-break Huskies snapped like a toothpick in 2006.  The main culprit was a run defense that couldn’t slow down anyone not named Rhode Island.  Things don’t get any easier this year, as the unit will be looking for ways to replace both of last year’s starting tackles.  Uh-oh.  Led by senior linebacker Danny Lansanah and junior corner Darius Butler, the back seven will be picking up a lot of the slack on Saturdays.  Expect the pass rush that produced only 11 sacks in the final eight games to get a spark from the returns of junior Cody Brown and sophomore Lindsey Witten, disruptive ends that’ll be on the line together for the first time in September.

Nov. 24 - Cincinnati
Offense: Take whatever you knew about last year’s Cincy offense and delete it.  Nothing will be the same, as Brian Kelly and his staff dismantle Mark Dantonio’s plodding run game in favor of a fancy spread attack.  There’ll be growing pains, to be sure, but by mid-season, there should also be improvement if a consistent quarterback, such as Wake Forest transfer Ben Mauk, develops and the line adjusts to a zone blocking scheme.  A receiving corps that’s led by juniors Derrick Stewart, Dominick Goodman and Connor Barwin has a chance to blow up in the new system.
Defense: That Bearcat defense, which was so stingy a year ago, returns almost virtually intact.  The unit is small, but very quick from sideline to sideline, and prone to swarming anyone with the ball in his hands.  It all starts up front with a line that welcomes back four players with starting experience, including its figurehead, junior tackle Terrill Byrd.  Junior cornerback Mike Mickens is one of the best unknown cornerbacks in the country and the kind of defender that can shut down the opposition’s No. 1 receiver.  While the offense takes time to adjust to a new system, the defense is going to keep Cincy in plenty of games.



 

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