No. 19 Northwestern hosts Syracuse on Saturday in Evanston, coming off a 44-30 victory over Cal.
The Wildcats—led by running back Treyvon Green—were in a back-and-forth battle with the Golden Bears in Week 1 before gaining distance down the stretch in the final quarter. Green rushed for 129 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries in the victory.
Syracuse, on the other hand, lost to Penn State, 23-17. Lead rushers Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley managed a combined 3.5 yards per carry in the loss, while senior quarterback Drew Allen went 16-of-37 for 189 yards with two interceptions.
Will the Orange bounce back in Week 2?
Here's a look at the upcoming action, complete with my prediction.
When: Saturday, Sept. 7 at 6 p.m. ET
Where: Ryan Field, Evanston, Ill.
Watch: Big Ten Network
Live Stream: BTN2GO
Betting Line (via Bovada): Northwestern -16 1/2
Syracuse Injuries (via USA Today)
Adrian Flemming, WR, Out for Season (Leg)
Northwestern Injuries (via USA Today)
Matthew Harris, CB, Probable (Undisclosed)
Kain Colter, QB, Probable (Head)
Venric Mark, RB, Probable (Lower Body)
Daniel Jones, CB, Out for Season (Knee)
Top Storyline: Will Running Back Venric Mark Return to the Field?
Who will win on Saturday?
Venric Mark rushed for over 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior last season, while adding 20 receptions for 104 yards and one touchdown. He also returned two punts for touchdowns. He's a dynamic player who has game-changing ability.
Junior running back Treyvon Green did well in relief of Mark in Week 1 against Cal, but the Wildcats offense is still more dangerous with Mark on the field.
Syracuse's defense was solid against the run against senior running back Zach Zwinak and Penn State in Week 1. The Orange may be able to contain the Northwestern running game if Mark is unable to play.
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald is calling Mark "day-to-day," according to Patrick Stevens of Syracuse.com. The USA Today injury report has him listed as "probable."
Prediction: Northwestern 30, Syracuse 20
While Syracuse has a much better defense than Cal, I still think Northwestern puts enough points on the board to come away with a comfortable victory, especially if Venric Mark plays.
On the other hand, I could still see the Orange scoring a bit more than they did against Penn State, given Cal racked up 30 points and 548 total yards of offense in Week 1 against the Wildcats.
Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett of ESPN.com tweeted on Tuesday:
Fitz says Northwestern will have to "tweak" its practice plan this week. Will backload work week. Expects another physical game vs. Syracuse— Rittenberg/Bennett (@ESPN_BigTen) September 3, 2013
This should be an entertaining game, but Northwestern will eventually emerge victorious and remain in the top 25.