The Orange Zone - Niko Tamurian predicts 2013 Syracuse Football season

Scott Shafer has done just about everything possible, just by being himself, to energize the Syracuse community for the 2013 football season.

8 months ago, did you ever think the word "hardnosed" would be a household term in Central New York?

Alas, Shafer has stormed the town heâ??s called home since 2009, just like he plans to do to the ACC in 2013.

It could be the perfect recipe as this season, that kicks off on Saturday, is unprecedented - New coach, new quarterback, new conference. And in my opinion, Shafer has Syracuse ready.

Hereâ??s why:

I must admit, Iâ??m usually on the optimistic side of things for Syracuse football just about every season recently. I was spot on in predicting 7-5 records for SU with bowl berths in 2010 and 2012 (correctly picked Pinstripe Bowl in 2010) and Iâ??m optimistic for 2013 as well.

The one thing that Iâ??m having a hard time understanding is, when Iâ??m out around in town or at our CNY Central booth at the New York State Fair, Central New Yorkers tend to think that this will be a down year.

Maybe itâ??s the new level of play in the ACC, maybe itâ??s having to replace Ryan Nassib, Alec Lemon, Justin Pugh, Shamarko Thomas and others. And maybe those people are on to something.

To those people though, I respectfully disagree.

Iâ??m more excited about the incredible running game Syracuse has coming back. Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley combined for 2,001 yards in 2012 and both return this season. (Hereâ??s hoping for a surprise #44 entrance by Jerome at Met Life Stadium on Saturday, blowing the lid off the place!)

Yes, I know that Pugh and Zach Chibane are gone and those guys are not easily replaced. But there are still veterans on the left side of that line and Gulley and Smith are more than capable of helping to offset, to a degree, any issues that could arise on the offensive line.

Itâ??s so hard to gage exactly how the team will look on either side of the ball when all we have to go on are 2012 games and limited practices for the past four weeks. I guess I could say I feel the defense will be ahead of the offense, but you just donâ??t know what George McDonald may have cooking.

That said, it is slightly concerning that solid linemen, solid receivers, and the record setting quarterback are all gone. Whether itâ??s Drew Allen or Terrel Hunt (my gut says Allen, but weâ??ll see on Saturday) that starter will have Smith and Gulley to help lessen the load, at least initially while the new starters and leaders are able to grow into their roles.

On defense, on paper, there are far less holes to fill. Syracuse instantly has a top notch ACC secondary and linebacker corps.

Need proof? Lyn, Anderson, Reddish, Morgan, Wilkes, Eskridge, and Desir.

All names we saw contribute in solid fashion in 2012, and theyâ??re all back. One year older, one year stronger.

That doesnâ??t even include guys like Julian Whigham, whom Shafer praised at times during training camp.

Itâ??s the same story at linebacker.

Marquis Spruill has been a starter since day one in 2010. That year he learned under Derrell Smith and Doug Hogue. Now, heâ??s the senior leader, but he absolutely has veteran help flanking him.

Dyshawn Davis has unlimited potential. He was a wide receiver in prep school and still has that kind of speed. If you caught the 2011 Rutgers game, you know he can lower the boom. Cam Lynch will earn an even bigger stage to shine as we enter his first year as a full time starter.

Thereâ??s some concern (at least from a loyal fan I met at the Notah Begay III Foundation Challenge at Turning Stone) about the play of Syracuseâ??s defensive line.

I replied with Jay Bromley, a senior captain thatâ??s sure to anchor the d-line. Yes, the two ends (Welsh and Robinson) are first time full-time starters. Weâ??ll see how it all pans out. But I like the depth here too, with John Raymon and others ready to contribute.

So I guess this is the part where I look at each game and give a prediction. Mind you, this is August, and itâ??s nearly impossible to give you an exact score for the November 30th game against Boston College.

Nevertheless, letâ??s give it a shot.

Syracuse 24, Penn State 14- With each team breaking in new quarterbacks and other spots on offense I expect the defenses to reign on Saturday. To me, the difference is Syracuse has a senior center in Macky MacPherson that is extremely intelligent and can read blitzes. Penn State is breaking in a brand new center. Donâ??t underestimate how important that will be.

Northwestern 30, Syracuse 14- Northwestern is good. Very good. And this game is there. It doesnâ??t mean Syracuse canâ??t win, I just see those 19 returning starters from last year and wonder just how far Northwestern can go this year.

Syracuse 38, Wagner 7- Do I need an explanation on this one? In case I do, I see this one as a real chance for all the aforementioned newcomers to work out any kinks they may have.

Syracuse 34, Tulane 17- A game Syracuse should, and will win. But as we saw in 2011, Tulane will make sure SU needs to stay focused to win. Is it bad that I learned on NCAA Football 2014 that the Green Wave has Joe Montanaâ??s son at quarterback?

Clemson 28, Syracuse 21- This game has all the makings of West Virginia in 2011 or Louisville in 2012. In those games though, I predicted SU losses in August, so hereâ??s hoping it works again. Clemson is absolutely loaded in talent, but as we know, the Carrier Dome can be a great equalizer when itâ??s packed.

Syracuse 17, NC State 13- The Wolfpack has a lot of holes to fill too. Youâ??d think by October 12th those guys will be in stride. But so will Smith and Gulley and the Orange Crush defense.

Georgia Tech 35, Syracuse 24- This game will be a tough one in Atlanta. Iâ??m very eager to watch the Shafer/Bullough defense tangle with Paul Johnsonâ??s option attack.

Wake Forest 24, Syracuse 23- Syracuse can and very much could win this game. I picked Wake for two reasons- #1 I didnâ??t want to sound too much like a homer picking four wins out of five in November. #2 I remember sitting there at ACC Media Day in Greensboro saying to myself "That guyâ??s back too?!" Tanner Price and Michael Campanaro lead the Demon Deacon attack, but the Deacs have been known to fizzle out later on in the season. In a lot of ways I do think SU will win this one.

Syracuse 27, Maryland 16- Randy Edsall does have the Terps on the right track. But that track will be completely thrown away when they join the Big 10. SUâ??s experienced and deep secondary helps contain Stefon Diggs and the Orange wins in comfortable fashion.

Florida State 35, Syracuse 14- My co-host for the Orange Zone Damien Rhodes says the Florida State Doak Walker Stadium atmosphere was incredible when he played there as a senior in 2005. The Seminoles obviously, are always among the most athletic teams in America.

Syracuse 17, Pittsburgh 9- Itâ??s about time Syracuse beat these guys twice in a row. Pitt starting quarterback Tom Savage was absolutely lit up by Shaferâ??s defense as a true freshman in 2009. That day he was Rutgersâ?? quarterback and sacked 10.5 times. Ouch.

Syracuse 43, Boston College 17- Die-Hard Orange fans may realize Iâ??m paying a bit of homage to that wonderful (for SU fans) game in 2004 when SU denied BC access to the BCS in their final Big East campaign. On this day though, I donâ??t think the Orange will need another iron-man Diamond Ferri to beat the Eagles.

MILITARY BOWL: Syracuse 21, Marshall 13

Am I getting way ahead of myself? Maybe. But this bowl is a likely fit for a 7-5 Orange team. Marshall, geographically speaking makes sense and could be eligible out of Conference USA. Donâ??t rule out the ADVOCARE100 Bowl (Formerly the Independence Bowl) for SU either.

Final numbers: Syracuse: 8-5, 4-4 in ACC

Watch CNY Centralâ??s preseason football special â??The Orange Zone: Countdown to Kickoff 2013â?? on Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. on NBC3 as you gear up for Syracuse University Football to kick off its first game in the ACC.

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