Syracuse played Penn State close last weekend but was not able to pull out a victory. Now it faces a trip to Northwestern, and an 0-2 start to the Scott Schafer era looks a lot more likely. The Orange are going to need to show a significant amount of improvement offensively in order to avoid another defeat.
Northwestern survived Cal's fast-paced offense as well as injuries at quarterback and running back to start the season with a win. The Wildcats lost Kain Colter to a concussion early against the Bears, but Trevor Siemian did a nice job in his stead, so the Orange probably aren't getting much of a break if Colter can't go. Running back Venric Mark also is banged up.
Rankings and records: These teams have met 10 times, and they've split those meetings. Northwestern topped the Orange 42-41 in the Carrier Dome to open last season. The Wildcats began 2013 in the top 25 of both major polls, and they'll need a win Saturday to stay there.
Vegas: Northwestern opened as a 12-point favorite, and the over-under was set at 57.
Weather: The high will be in the mid-80s, with a slight chance of rain.
Three names to know
Drew Allen -- Syracuse averaged just 3.5 yards per play against Penn State. Part of the problem was its lack of success on first down, which put it behind schedule too often. The other part: Drew Allen's inefficiency. Granted, going up against the Nittany Lions in your first career start is no easy task, but Allen did little to ease concerns about this offense in the post-Ryan Nassib era.
Kain Colter/Trevor Siemian -- As noted above, Colter is working his way back from a concussion. He is one of the better signal-callers in the Big Ten when healthy, and he also gives Northwestern a more dynamic offense than Siemian does.
Venric Mark -- Mark finished last season third in the Big Ten in rushing yards with 1,366 last season. He was hampered against Cal by a leg injury, which limited his impact, and he wasn't fully healthy coming out of fall camp. Mark was an important part of the Wildcats' win at Syracuse last season, -- he ran for 82 yards and returned a punt for a score.
Two things at stake
If Syracuse can't avoid an 0-2 hole, its season could start to unravel in a hurry. The Orange are on the road in four of their first six ACC games, including trips to Florida State and Georgia Tech. An upset over Northwestern would provide a big jolt for the program, and set it up to be a healthy 3-1 heading into that ACC schedule.
The Wildcats probably finish September 4-0 if they clear Syracuse, setting up a showdown of ranked teams when Ohio State comes to town Oct. 5. Losing to the Orange would not be devastating, but it would put a damper on a team that has designs on competing for a Big Ten title this season.
How to witness
TV: Big Ten Network (6 p.m ET)
Online streaming: BTN2Go