Two old rivals renew acquaintances to open the 2013 season when Penn State and Syracuse get together at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The two teams have met 70 times, but outside of a two game series in 2008 and 2009, their last meeting was in 1990.
Penn State is still under the yolk of NCAA sanctions, so a postseason berth is not at stake this season. The team is still fascinating despite the lack of stakes, though, and will break in a new quarterback in either true freshman Christian Hackenberg or juco transfer Tyler Ferguson. Yes, or, because Bill O'Brien still hasn't named a starter. The team exceeded expectations last year by going 8-4, and this game will give us a good idea of whether we can expect a repeat performance in 2013.
Syracuse is going through some changes of its own. The program is turning a very visible page without former head coach Doug Marrone and quarterback Ryan Nassib, and while the team is in much better shape than it was when Marrone arrived, there's still a lot of uncertainty as to where this team is headed. A good first impression against Penn State would go a long way toward calming some jangled nerves in Central New York.
Rankings and records: Both teams enter the 2013 season unranked. Penn State leads the all-time series 42-23-5, and has won four straight games against Syracuse.
Vegas: Penn State is an eight and a half point favorite, according to oddsshark.com, while the over/under sits at 51 1/2.
Weather: Mostly sunny with a high in the low 80s.
Three names to know
Scott Shafer. The Orange promoted from within when they hired Shafer to replace the NFL-bound Doug Marrone, and it's fair to say the man is not afraid of giving a memorable quote. He's endeared himself to the Syracuse fanbase, but that goodwill could go away quickly if he can't maintain the positive momentum the program built under Marrone.
Christian Hackenberg or Tyler Ferguson. O'Brien has been coy regarding whether he would name a starter before gameday, and he listed Hackenberg and Ferguson with an OR between them on the latest team depth chart on Monday. Hackenberg is one of the top quarterbacks from the 2013 recruiting class, but Ferguson could be the choice because he has a bit more experience under his belt.
Terrel Hunt or Drew Allen. Like at Penn State, Shafer will not be announcing a starting quarterback before game day, so people can feel free to let their imaginations run wild as to who will be running the SU offense. Allen transferred to Syracuse from Oklahoma, and has a more powerful arm than Hunt, but there has been zero information about who to expect coming out of the Orange camp. The lights will be bright for whoever does get the starting nod.
Two things at stake
A win for Penn State. Considering the program is effectively on ice for another three seasons, it's tough to come up with some real stakes for the Nittany Lions at the moment. It's cheesy to say that all they have to play for is pride, but that's not far off. Wins could become a relatively scarce commodity in the coming seasons, so it's best to pick them up whenever possible and enjoy them. Bill O'Brien doesn't strike me as the kind of coach that takes any game lightly, so expect Penn State to come out and bust it for the win.
Program momentum for Syracuse. A loss in this game would not be the end of the world for the Orange. They're the underdogs, and it's a non-conference game. The risk is relatively low. However, the gains they could make from a win would be enormous. It would be a huge affirmation that things are still trending in the right direction, and that a return to the GERG era probably isn't in the cards.
How to witness
TV: The game can be seen nationally at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC or ESPN2.
Online streaming: Online streaming is available through WatchESPN, if supported by your cable/satellite provider.
For more on the Nittany Lions, check out Black Shoe Diaries.
For more on the Orange, head over to Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician.