We're heading into week three, and we are ready for another Q&A! Central Michigan will be playing the Syracuse Orange of the ACC for the second year in a row. Unfortunately, last year's contest did not go well for the Chips, losing by a score of 40-3. The Chippewas will hit the road for the first time of the season for this game. We asked John Cassillo, managing editor of Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician, SB Nation's Syracuse blog, seven questions about the upcoming match-up at the Carrier Dome.
Hustle Belt: Has Syracuse lived up to the expectations of fans so far this season?
Yes and no. Yes in that they're 2-0 and they were supposed to get to that mark. No in that Terrel Hunt was not the one to lead them. So while Orange fans are excited about the two expected victories, there's a ton of question marks at the QB position we didn't expect to have. Freshman Eric Dungey's done extremely well thus far, but it's such a small sample size that we still need a little more to go off of before we feel secure.
Who are the play-makers on offense and defense for the Orange?
On offense, the newest playmaker is Dungey. He's mobile but in a quick way that Hunt wasn't. He also has a great downfield arm, which is helpful in getting it two speedy receivers like Steve Ishmael and Brisly Estime. Know those three names more than the rest on that side of the ball.
Defensively, Ron Thompson is a phenomenal athlete at defensive end, and he'll play a key part in SU's typically aggressive pass rush. Linebackers Zaire Franklin and Parris Bennett have also had strong starts to the 2015 campaign and will look ton continue that this Saturday.
Are there any weak links on either side of the ball? If so, where are they?
The most glaring issue remains the secondary, which is ridiculously green this year (just one returning starter and a ton of freshmen in the regular rotation). Last week, they allowed Wake Forest's John Wolford to throw for 373 yards and a touchdown, numbers that only started getting curbed once the Deacons stopped running the ball, allowing the defense to blitz more freely. Syracuse pulled in three interceptions last week, but just one of them was actually from this group.
How are most Syracuse fans looking at the match-up against the Chippewas?
Most Syracuse fans are cautiously looking at this one as a win, though we're very aware of your closer-than-expected game against Oklahoma State back in week one. Everyone remembers last year and that certainly influences a lot of opinions -- especially given the fact that this year's matchup is an Orange home game.
Who are the players to watch on CMU, as a Syracuse fan?
Primarily, it's Cooper Rush. Syracuse largely held him in check in 2014, but it's clear he's an improved quarterback and the weapons around him have also improved. If the Orange can keep him more one-dimensional (pass-focused), that should help out the blitz and then dare CMU to beat us on the ground -- which doesn't seem likely based on early production from the Chips' run game.
How would Central Michigan have to play in order to pull off an upset?
Smart and mistake-free. Syracuse has won its first two games by way of a ton of mistakes both forced and unforced by opponents. Outside of an early pick against Rhode Island, however, the Orange have avoided the same sort of errors. So if CMU can prevent turnovers and maybe force one or two of their own... now suddenly SU is playing a very different game than they have thus far.
What is your prediction on the game's outcome?
I really like what we've seen from Dungey and the Orange defense thus far, and do expect a lot of that to continue against the Chippewas. It won't be last year's runaway victory, but Syracuse will continue moving the ball well and staying aggressive on defense to grab the 26-17 victory.
I would like to thank John Cassillo of Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician for participating in this Q&A. You can find him on Twitter @JohnCassillo and his site @NunesMagician .