The opening portion of Syracuse's schedule has a definite home flavor, with five of the first seven games in the Carrier Dome. But the schedule takes a steep turn toward increased difficulty after Saturday's home matchup against Central Michigan. The Orange lost last week 30-23 to Middle Tennessee in a game that saw the defense struggle to slow down Blue Raiders QB Brent Stockstill. Central Michigan is 2-0 after beating FCS member Rhode Island and Kansas, and the Chippewas are in the middle of a span of four road games in five weeks.
These two teams played in New York back in 2015 with the Orange winning 30-27 as a 7.5-point favorite. They somehow held on despite being outgained and allowing 30 first downs. We'll see if they can hold down this year's version of the Chippewas.
Central Michigan at Syracuse
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 16 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN3
Spread: Syracuse -10
Three Things to Watch
1. Dome Sweet Dome
The Carrier Dome used to be a very intimidating place for teams to come and play. These days, that's not the case, with just seven wins there over the last three seasons. The crowds aren't that great despite an offense led by dual-threat quarterback Eric Dungey that should be exciting to watch. CMU is 6-7 over the last three seasons away from home, but the Chippewas are coming off a win at Kansas, so it's not like they haven't tasted Power 5 road success this year.
2. Spread 'em out
There will be a ton of passes thrown in this game. The Chippewas have chucked it 91 times in two games, while the Orange check in at 96. Neither team has had much success slowing its opponent down through the air. We'll see how CMU handles the loss of its No. 1 WR Corey Willis, who had already accounted for 16 receptions this season. Syracuse's Steve Ishmael has 26 catches, tied for the most in the country.
As with most matchups in college football, the turnover battle is very important in this one. The Chippewas are plus-three on the season, while the Orange are even (four each). As mentioned above, neither defense is good enough to give the other team a short field without paying the price. The loss of safety Antwan Cordy for the home team has hurt the Orange in a twofold manner, creating holes both in the secondary and on special teams, as he was the main punt returner. Last week, Syracuse dropped a punt, resulting in a turnover.
This game is so important for Syracuse, which has to still play LSU, Clemson, Miami, Florida State and Louisville. The Orange only have so many opportunities to get wins for a bowl game appearance. The loss of wide receiver Corey Willis for Central Michigan is an important one to an offense that needs all the weapons it can get. I think Syracuse gets the win, but the outcome may be in doubt entering the fourth quarter.
Prediction: Syracuse 34, Central Michigan 28
– Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.