Syracuse has been somebody for the last two seasons, finishing 21-2-1, and the Orangemen won't slip far. Heavy backfield losses on both sides of the line should be offset by a solid line-backing corps, a veteran offensive line and a fine runner in Michael Owens, older brother of basketball whiz Billy Owens. The Orangemen have won 15 straight in the Carrier Dome, but the streak is in peril as both Florida State and Penn State (in its last Dome appearance after canceling the 67-year rivalry) will visit. Another Syracuse streak likely to fall, considering the ban on kicking tees, is its national record of 260 straight regular-season extra points, dating back to 1978.
While Syracuse is used to being among the nation's elite, the experience is new for Southern Mississippi, which had the quietest 10-2 record in the nation last season. With eight returning offensive starters, including quarterback Brett Favre and wide receiver Alfred Williams, the Golden Eagles may be ready to step up to a midlevel bowl, assuming they can handle the most challenging schedule (Florida State, Auburn, Alabama and Texas A & M, to name four opponents) in the school's history.