ESPN's Ed Cunningham will be in the booth at MetLife Stadium on Saturday to serve as the color analyst for Penn State's first game of the 2013 season. Cunningham was nice enough to chat with BSD and answer some questions about Saturday's contest.
Which Penn State players who Syracuse fans may not be familiar with could have a big impact on Saturday?
Running back Bill Belton. Even with Zach Zwinak returning, from what I saw early last year, Belton has some nice open field ability and can catch. I think he could factor in a lot.
Unlike last season, Bill O'Brien had the luxury of a full offseason as head coach. Do you expect to see some new wrinkles on offense, or do you think it will be very similar to what we saw last season?
I doubt anyone will see much difference except for opposing defensive coaches, who notice a six-inch split difference between offensive lineman. I'd be shocked if PSU looks much different than '12, with the usual off-season tinkering, and, most importantly, the emphasis will be placed on this year's players, not last.
What are the keys for the Penn State offense to come away with a victory on Saturday?
I think this first game is very simple - just be efficient. There are so many ways PSU can exploit a defense, but the offensive line and running backs give them time to grind a little a bit. I think Syracuse is a real test, but looking at just the PSU offense vs. Syracuse defense, I think PSU has the upper-hand.
What are the keys for the Penn State defense to come away with a victory on Saturday?
I think Syracuse will run the ball well, as I don't think the defensive line for PSU is quite where it was at this time last year. So, the defense needs to have 4-6 series where they force Syracuse to punt quickly...3-5 play drives...will really play into PSU's team strength - an offense that has the ability to not only score a lot, but to control tempo when necessary.
What do you see as Syracuse's strengths coming into the season?
Continuity is a big one. This team was terrific at the end of last season, and the returners have not likely felt much of a transition. Having a solid offensive line and two top level runners is a huge plus, as well. That can cover up many things, including a defense that may not be great early.
Since BSD often transforms into a quasi-food blog- where is your favorite place to eat when you visit State College?
I doubt I'll be labeled a foodie with this one, but we only really get to enjoy a night out after the game, and being able to see a bunch of the games while we eat is key...and proximity to our hotel. On my last two trips to State College, we've spent our Saturday nights at the Home Delivery Pizza Pub on Atherton. Great TV set up, terrific service and the food is great.
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