|There is plenty on the shoulders of senior QB Ryan Nassib. (Getty Images)|
Kickoff: Saturday, Noon ET (ESPN2)
Spread: Northwestern by 1
Watchability: Based on the rest of the Big East games this weekend, this is one of the best. Northwestern is coming off a bowl season in 2011, and Syracuse is looking for some momentum heading into their matchup with Southern Cal on Sept. 8.
Shining stars: Syracuse: QB Ryan Nassib. The senior has been the Orange starter since his sophomore year, so he has plenty of experience. The Wildcat defense allowed over 230 yards per game through the air, and Syracuse will probably put it up quite a bit. Northwestern: QB Kain Colter. A hybrid quarterback, Colter has vowed to be more effective through the air this season, despite leading the Wildcats in rushing in 2011. He will be a chore for the Syracuse defense to keep in check.
Who could steal the show: Syracuse: WR Jeremiah Kobena. It's a long shot, but Kobena could see extended action if wide receiver Alec Lemon cannot play. Lemon's status remains in doubt, and Kobena -- mainly a kick returner -- could be targeted often by Nassib.
Northwestern: WR Tony Jones. He's the great unknown. Jones missed all of 2011 with a knee injury, and the Wildcat offense is in desperate need of wide receiver depth. Their cache of receivers are young and inexperienced, but Jones could make a splash now that he's fully healthy.
You going? Ranking the road trip: The Carrier Dome will be rocking, presumably, with a solid opponent coming in. Applaud the Orange for their scheduling this year, if nothing else. This is an intriguing opener, and a win could build some confidence around the program.
Magic number for Syracuse: 134. That's the number of rushing yards Jerome Smith had last season. He will be counted on to carry the load out of the backfield, and with offensive tackle Justin Pugh out with an injury, the going may get tough on the ground.
Magic number for Northwestern: 6. Pat Fitzgerald is 6-0 in openers as head coach of the Wildcats, including consecutive road wins over Boston College and Vanderbilt in the past two. The man knows how to win early.
The game comes down to: Injuries. Pugh is out, which is a huge blow, but if Lemon sits as well, Syracuse will be in a heap of trouble. Coach Doug Marrone said Thursday that Lemon is day-to-day. Fingers crossed, Orange fans.
Prediction: Northwestern 20, Syracuse 14
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