There are only a few days left until the first Saturday of the college football season and SportsPickle is counting down the top stories of 2009. Today: No. 10, Greg Paulus.
This time last year Greg Paulus was a senior at Duke and about to lose his job as the team's starting point guard a job he had held since he was a freshman. Now he is set to open this season as the starting quarterback at Syracuse in a sport he hasn't played since his senior year in high school.
How will he fare? I have no idea. But we'll find out right away.
Syracause opens at home on September 5th at Noon against a major conference opponent: Minnesota. Then it's off to State College for a daunting challenge against the No. 8 Nittany Lions. There, before 110,000 drunk Pennsylvanians, Paulus will have more gay slurs directed at him by the end of the first quarter than he ever got in an entire ACC basketball season. He'll need to stand strong against the Penn State defense and the frat boy, Axe body spray-infused homophobia of the Beaver Stadium crowd to prevent a major embarrassment. On the positive side, the Penn State crowd's "white out" should make Paulus feel comfortable, as though he's back on Duke's campus.
If Paulus is able to survive those opening games, things get easier. A stretch of six consecutive home games that takes Syracuse into early November opens with a visit by Northwestern on September 19th, a game that unfortunately may peak with the pregame packages prepared by each school's student newspaper. Then it's Maine, South Florida, West Virginia, Akron and Cincinnati before the Orangemen's second road game of the season a November 7th visit to preseason Big East favorite Pitt. The Panthers are quarterbacked by senior Bill Stull, who is to quarterbacking what Greg Paulus is to dunking. Yes, it's possible an unathletic point guard who hasn't played football in four years may be the best quarterback in the Big East this year. Jeez, Big East. That's no way to keep a BCS bowl.
Anyway, is it possible Paulus-led Syracuse could be 4-4 and playing for a bowl berth when they visit Pitt? Maybe even in contention in the Big East? No. No, it's not. It's not at all possible. That's crazy. Not Notre Dame undefeated crazy, but crazy still. Syracuse will be terrible.
And that's all the more reason to watch. It's a rare delight to see a Duke basketball player get humiliated (before he reaches the NBA).
It simply doesn't matter how many touchdown passes Paulus throws or how many crucial roughing the passer calls he draws by flopping, he is only a small part of a rebuilding program. He can only help the offense. Syracuse's defense is still a work in progress. And no amount of field slapping can prevent their opponents from running them over.