The Orange were on the cusp of bowling last season before a five-game, season-ending losing streak kept them home for the winter. Can they rebound in Year 4 under Doug Marrone?
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Three reasons why Syracuse will win the Big East
1. Ryan Nassib: The senior quarterback has talked extensively about playing more within himself this season. His numbers are up there with the best the school has ever seen, and the addition of zone-reads to the offense this season could see him improvise a bit more with his legs. Limiting mistakes will be key, and his comfort within the system should lead to more good decisions, fewer mistakes and more production for the offense as a whole.
2. Talented skill players: What will help the offense's production is all of the skill players it will have at its disposal, taking lots of the pressure off Nassib. Freshman Ashton Broyld can line up virtually anywhere, the backfield -- despite losing Antwon Bailey -- is deep and top receivers Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales are back as well.
3. Offseason makeover: A five-game losing streak to end 2011 led to a self-evaluation, leading to several internal changes. Spring practice was closed to eliminate distractions, and the Orange took camp last week to Fort Drum, about 90 minutes north of campus, spending some time with the Army and each other, away from the comforts of home. The staff hoped this would lead to a fresh start upon its return to the familiarity of campus.
Three reasons why Syracuse won't win the Big East
1. Difficult schedule: Forget the nonconference slate, which features four BCS-conference opponents and may just be the toughest of any BCS-conference school, Syracuse's Big East schedule is hardly a reprieve. The Orange get just three conference home games, have to travel to two of the top-three preseason conference teams and play four of their last five games on the road.
2. Defensive line questions: The Orange lost a pair of defensive ends -- led by first-round pick Chandler Jones -- and have moved Deon Goggins to one of the spots from the middle. Jay Bromley returns in the middle and there are some talented pieces on the second unit, but production as a whole needs to rise after last season's line accounted for just 11 sacks.
3. Health up front: Syracuse has good players on the offensive line -- namely, Justin Pugh, Mackey MacPherson and Zack Chibane. But as Pugh has stated before, one player doing his job isn't really going to make a difference if the line can't come together as a whole. And in order to do that, it needs to stay healthy. Whether or not the five starters can jell and stick together for a full season -- and whether or not the depth behind it can step up -- remains to be seen.