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Northwestern vs. Syracuse: gameday study guide

Week 1 is a matter of the past. An artifact. A data point in what could turn out to be another brilliant season for Northwestern. It’s no small thing, a Big 10 team surviving a Pac 12 road trip, and the Wildcats did it convincingly. It required two second-half interception returns for touchdowns, and no shortage of typical Wildcats second-half heart-pumping hysterics, but Northwestern showed much of the same grit and resolve it evinced in large stretches last season, against a team that – while not elite – is clearly going to give Pac 12 opponents problems this season with its uptempo offense and promising true freshman quarterback.

Getting over that hurdle was big for Northwestern. But the post-Cal celebration period has long since faded into irrelevance. It’s time to refocus, to size up what Northwestern has lurking in the fore. The comparatively softer part of its nonconference slate beckons: new ACC member Syracuse is the first of a trio of should-be-win opponents. Northwestern is a heavy favorite (- 16.5, according to most lines) in this game, and losing would be a massive disappointment. But as the Orange showed last week in pushing Penn State deep into the fourth quarter, an upset is not inconceivable. Coach Pat Fitzgerald has repeated this almost as a reflex throughout the week.

Anyway, it's week 2, and here’s everything you should have, or still need to read before kickoff (5 p.m. CT, BTN).


Not only is Northwestern better than Syracuse in the aggregate, it has the Orange beat in all three phases. In other words, the Wildcats have all three edges.

For the second straight week, our trusty picks panel was solidly pro-purple, and the predicted margins of victory were even more bloated this time around.

It may not have made the biggest conference realignment headlines -- and if it did, it had much more to do with basketball than football -- but Syracuse, who became an official member of the ACC on July 1, is in the principal stages of its new conference debut. The Orange will soon find out that league competition (in both revenue-producing sports) isn't quite as forgiving as it was in the Big East (Syracuse faces games against Clemson and at Florida State later this year). The transition might have been easier to manage had their respected head coach, Doug Marrone, not headed west, within state borders, to accept the same position with the Buffalo Bills. Yes, Syracuse is bursting with interesting sidebars and macro storylines this season. Read about them here, in this week’s compilation of “opponent links.”

Another week of press conference and practice notes: Monday press conference notes, Tuesday practice notes, Wednesday practice notes.

This week’s injury report features two of the Wildcats’ offensive stars; both players are questionable, but should see the field in limited action Saturday.

The devastating knee injury Daniel Jones suffered near the end of the first half Saturday night opened a starting opportunity at the No. 2 cornerback spot. Redshirt freshman Dwight White stepped in, was immediately burned for a 52-yard touchdown by Cal receiver Chris Harper, but is hoping “experience” will help him settle into his new role.

Even after suffering a mild concussion on Northwestern’s second play from scrimmage Saturday, Kain Colter isn’t changing his running style. Sliding isn’t really his thing, anyway.

There were a lot of Wildcats fans in Berkeley last Saturday. I was there. I saw them. Weekly columnist Jon Davis, otherwise known on Twitter as NUHighlights, was not, but the big turnout left a “strong impression” all the same.

Football will be the main attraction Saturday. But for the people who write about football, including most of the contributors to this site, along with NU's honorary captain, a quirky subplot looms large: the Prose Bowl.

A former Wildcat, linebacker Nate Williams, shares his unique perspective on the Northwestern injury-faking accusations.