Syracuse Football 2012: Hope Floats?

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 17: Quarterback Ryan Nassib #12 of the Syracuse Orangemen rolls out against the USC Trojans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 17, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. USC won 38-17. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Ah, spring time. The Re-birth Season. Flowers preparing for bloom, trees going from disgusting vomit colors to beautiful green ones, and Mets fans falling for the ole 'We're for real, baby! trick. It's a good time.

And not just because of botany and baseball. Spring is also made for college football. Spring practices start up, culminating with the annual Spring Game. It's a time where 'there's always next year' meets 'I can't wait for this year!' Hype and hope for just about every college football team.

@AthlonSteven - "Thinking right around 5-7 wins for SU in 2012. Some question marks, but overall uncertainty of Big East helps bowl chances." (Follow Steven for all things college football. Do it!)

@CapCareyWDT - "USC will pulverize them"

(It's a TweetBag!)

OK, so maybe hopes aren't exactly 'high' for Syracuse this spring. Fans were hoping for more out of SU in 2011, a season that saw the Orange men lose their last five games to finish below .500 for the season. From a football team claiming a bowl win on a baseball field in 2010 to a team back to outhouse in '11.

And now SU fans, heading into year four of Doug Marrone, there are more questions than answers.

@OrangeSkin - "How about the future of the QB position after Nassib? You really think Broyld is a full time QB?"

A great question. Ryan Nassib is a senior, yet word out of Orange spring camp is the incoming Ashton Broyld, amongst others, are taking some of his reps with the first team. Since splitting time with Greg Paulus three years ago (weird at the time, inexplicable now), Nassib has shown talent and leadership, but never really cemented his position. As he prepares to graduate, will Marrone look to the future this season? Especially if the team struggles to get wins?

@MatthewMcClusky - "Does Doug Marrone closing off practice concern you?"

So I cheated a little, but it's a question all Orange football fans have been asking or answering this spring. Marrone put the team on lock down. No media allowed in for practice. Honestly, it does strike me a little odd that Marrone would throw the locks on the doors, for two reasons.

No offense intended, but SU football isn't really worthy of going to that measure. I don't think anyone is going to confuse the Orange for the Tigers of LSU or the Trojans of USC. Who's pawing at the gates to see this team do drills, Stony Brook?

Secondly, going Def Con Mode seems a little like Marrone's feeling the heat. Shutting off the outside world implies an 'Us Against The World' mentality, which isn't the case. Marrone's not going anywhere anytime soon. The bowl win isn't forgotten by the fans and it should be remembered what Marrone started with after taking over for Greg Robinson. Turning nothing into something, quickly. Maybe too quickly. With four wins, then a bowl win, fans thought the program was back. Well, obviously, it's not back just yet and Marrone's here for the long haul (unless he bails for a better job).

@KPerry13 - "Nope I feel better this way. The team should be more focused and this is Doug doing it his way, which is what we need."

@NunesMagician - "My answer...I have zero problem with it. If Marrone thinks that's what he has to do to win in September and October, fine." (He just can't get enough of himself on this site, can he?) (Ed. Note: No.)

I think that's probably the prevailing thought from the fan base. Marrone's the coach and he can do what he sees fit as long as it's within the rules. I think we all know of another coach like that at Syracuse, right?

@MegV44 - "This. I kind of don't get why people are so up in arms about this. It's April...does it really matter?"

Exactly. Do you stay up late at night wondering what's going on in practice? In April? Basically, read this from Sean on Marrone and the direction of the program and thank me later.

And the biggest question/concern for fans looking ahead to 2012: The Schedule.

@OrangeSkin - "Unm yeah. Brutally tough. If SU wins 8 games, Marrone should be Big East COY. #Syracuse"

@Gooner_ - (Number of wins on paper) "5."

@SSMOROL - (Number of wins on paper) "7-8."

Only five home games await Syracuse next season. USC in Jersey and a trip to Missouri are included in the non-conference slate. Sounds like a brutal run, but is it really?

The degree of difficulty for any team, especially a potentially mediocre SU team, would be high looking at that line up of opponents. I don't see a lot of Sisters of The Poor types, but I do see potential wins.

Let's break down the sked into sections, going from the Winnable to the No Dice.

- Winnable - Northwestern, Minnesota, Stony Brook, Connecticut, Temple.

* Northwestern - The Wildcats are losing multiple key players from the program's winningest senior class ever (including their starting QB Dan Persa). Not an easy out of the gate game, but it's in the Dome and SU should have the advantage.

* Stony Brook - Listen, a Greg Robinson coached FBS coached team should beat an FCS school. Yes, upsets happen, but that better not be the case.

* @Minnesota - The game is at TCF Bank Stadium (the stadium that probably should be in Syracuse). Meaning, it's a long road trip against an opponent the Orange won't be familiar with. Still, the Gophers are coming off a three-win season in 2011. They return some key players, but key players from a three-win season.

* Connecticut - Paul Pasqualoni Bowl II comes to the Dome on a Friday night. I don't care who plays for UConn, that better be, at the very least, a close game.

* @Temple - The Owls are kind of a wild card. The program has been on the rise, but jumping from the MAC to the Big East, even a down Big East, isn't an easy move. Plus, this game comes at the end of the schedule. By then the Orange may be a win away from bowl eligibility.

- Toss Up - Rutgers and Cincinnati.

* @Rutgers - After winning two straight against the Scarlet Knights, Rutgers came to the Dome last season and won one of those 'How The Hell Did That Just Happen?' type of games against Syracuse. That team, however, is no more as Greg Schiano moved on to Tampa Bay and the NFL. Schiano's coaching, recruiting, and scheduling a bunch of easy games helped transform RU football from door mat to bowl-bound. Sure there's talent on the Rutgers' side, but Schiano's departure will affect the team throughout the season, and likely for seasons to come.

* @Cincinnati - Head man Butch Taylor will have to replace his starting QB (Zach Collaros) RB (Isaiah Pead), WR (DJ Woods), and a star DT (Derek Wolfe). If this game were set for the Dome, I would have put it up a category.

- Probably Not, But... - Pittsburgh, USF, Louisville.

* Pittsburgh - I'm not sure anyone knows what to expect from the Panthers. Senior Ray Graham is a legit talent, but he is coming off knee surgery that ended his 2011 season early. Plus, the Panthers will have played two FCS schools with Virginia Tech sandwiched in-between. They'll not likely have a good grasp on where they stand by the point they kickoff against the Orange.

* @USF - I actually think this could be a toss-up style game. Skip Holtz' Bulls finished last year losing seven of their last eight games and lost key players to graduation and the draft. Still, Holtz is a good coach and with a solid offensive line and with B.J. Daniels returning at QB, USF could sneak up on the Big East this coming season.

* Louisville - The Cardinals may have one of the best defenses in college football next year. Charlie Strong returns a ton of talent on that side of the ball, especially on the line. Sophomore QB Teddy Bridgewater will be improved and the offense will continue to adapt to Strong's coaching. Really, this game is close to being moved down a category. We should just move on.

- No Dice - USC and Missouri.

* USC - @SoCalOrangeIan - "I'm flying out from LA to NYC for the USC game, and I'm sure it'll be tough. Will tailgate aggressively."

That says it all, doesn't it?

* @Missouri - At this point that games seems like a big ole L, doesn't it? A last minute fill in for the schedule, I still think it's a misprint when I look at the schedule. The Tigers present a tough task for Marrone and the Orange. Especially in late November.

Overview - I think it's fair, given the big questions for Syracuse on both offense and defense, to be weary of that schedule. However, just about every Big East team has the same questions and that non-conference slate isn't as brutal as it sounds. Could SU finish with 3 or 4 wins? Sure, that's always a possibility for SU football. But, and I write this with all the cautious optimism in the world, there is potential for more numbers on the right side of the win-loss column.

9 or 10 wins? Who knows? It's only April, let's have some hope people!

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