08/25/2001 12:00AM

Yellow Jackets should sting Syracuse


Kickoff Classic at E. Rutherford, N.J.

Georgia Tech (-7) vs. Syracuse

Georgia Tech was perhaps the best team in the country throughout the second half of the 2000 season as they rolled to seven straight wins and nine covers in their last 10 regular-season games including a 12-point destruction at Georgia and road wins and covers at N. Carolina, Clemson, and Maryland. The wheels then came off in the Peach Bowl after the team was left high-and-dry by the pre-bowl departure of offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen. The Yellow Jackets have had the entire off season to learn their new offense, and should be a powerhouse on that side of the ball with quarterback George Godsey (3,083 yards, 23 TDs last year) and every other significant skill-position player returning along with two starting linemen. On defense, the Jackets improved throughout last season and have nine starters returning on that side of the ball including their top nine tacklers, and all of their top interception and sack artists.

Syracuse is considered by many to be the "home" team here because of this game's proximity to New York. However, the Orangemen play their home games indoors on artificial turf, and this game is being played outside on grass, a surface Syracuse has not covered a single game on since 1998. The Orangemen were not a bowl team last year, and now must replace both their leading rusher and receiver who have both departed.

Play: Georgia Tech (-7) for 2 units

Jim Thorpe Classic

Fresno St. (+9 1/2) at Colorado

Colorado suffered through a rebuilding year last year, but now all of the guys who were freshmen and sophomores last season are now a year older and should vault the Buffaloes to a much improved season. That being said, the Buffs have the look of a team that should improve steadily throughout the season and probably be a much better squad in November than they are in August. For now the defense could be a problem and that will hurt them in their effort to cover almost 10 points here against a talented and experienced Fresno St. team. The Bulldogs return 15 starters from last year's Silicon Valley Bowl team including quarterback David Carr (2729 yards, 23 TDs last year) and all of his key weapons. Fresno State's Achilles heel is playing on artificial turf, but they will not have to worry about that here on Colorado's cushy grass surface.

Play: Fresno St. (+9 1/2) for 1 unit