Syracuse senior quarterback Terrel Hunt led two comeback victories to finish last season and second-year coach Scott Shafer is ready to see more when the Orange host Villanova on Friday. "The biggest thing I look forward to seeing is our offense clicking together," Shafer said in his weekly online preview. "They've had a good summer camp, now I want to see it happen on game day." Hunt, who threw for 1,638 yards and rushed for 500, returns with an experienced offense around him.
Villanova also has an experienced, dual-threat quarterback in junior John Robertson, who threw for 1,957 yards and 13 touchdowns and ran for 1,405 yards and 20 scores. The Wildcats, who had three starters injured in last year's season-opening loss to Boston College, head to Syracuse with an inexperienced and banged up offensive line. The Wildcats are 14-15 in season openers under coach Andy Talley, with 12 of those losses coming against FBS opponents.
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ABOUT VILLANOVA (2013: 6-5): The Wildcats return their top receiver in Poppy Livers (53 catches for 580 yards) and two senior running backs with Robertson, who was selected as the Colonial Athletic Association Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. "He can run and throw and he's looked fantastic (coming off offseason labrum surgery)," Talley told local media last week. "He is one of the best quarterbacks in the country and he is a guy that can really take us a long way." Linebackers Don Cherry (99 tackles) and Joey Harmon (81 tackles) and safety Cameron McCurry (four interceptions) are among eight returning starters on defense.
ABOUT SYRACUSE (2013: 7-6): Fifth-year senior Prince-Tyson Gulley (456 yards, four touchdowns last year) leads a deep group of running backs for the Orange. Syracuse also returns six of its top seven receivers from 2013, including junior Ashton Broyld (52 catches, 452 yards) and senior Jarrod West (26 catches, 397 yards, one touchdown). Sophomore Marqez Hodge, who had 23 tackles as the backup to departed Marquis Spruill, joins senior linebackers Dyshawn Davis and Cameron Lynch in the middle of an experienced defense that had 37 sacks and 24 takeaways last year.
1. Syracuse has 18 returning players who caught at least one pass in 2013, the most in FBS.
2. Hard-running Villanova RB Kevin Monangai led the CAA in rushing as a sophomore with 1,210 yards and had 643 yards last year while Austin Medley (310 yards) gives the Wildcats speed and agility in the backfield.
3. Syracuse will be without TE Josh Parris (out 2-to-4 weeks following knee surgery) and G Nick Robinson (foot).
PREDICTION: Syracuse 38, Villanova 20