Syracuse Football: Why The Orange Will Finish...9-3

CINCINNATI - OCTOBER 30: D J Woods #3 of the Cincinnati Bearcats is tackled by Phillip Thomas #1 of the Syracuse Orange during the Big East Conference game at Nippert Stadium on October 30 2010 in Cincinnati Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Ed. Note - This week, the TNIAAM writers are taking a stab at telling you why this football team will finish with a specific record. Some are out of the norm, some are right in the norm's wheelhouse. We can't truly predict what's going to happen but we can at least try to cover our bases and understand how each record will be possible.

  • Monday: 3-9 (Chris)
  • Tuesday: 9-3 (Sean)
  • Wednesday: 5-7 (Dan)
  • Thursday: 7-5 (John)
  • Friday: 6-6 (Matt M.)

If you put a gun to my head and ask me if I expect the 2012 Syracuse Orange to win nine games this season, I would say no. I would also tell you to please put the gun down and that it was an extreme over-reaction on your part to put a gun to my head because I would have answered the questions honestly even without it. Then, I'd ask you where you got the gun from and we'd probably squabble over the original intentions of the 2nd Amendment for an hour.

ANYWAY, if you ask me if I think the 2012 Syracuse Orange football team is capable of winning nine games, I will say yes.

You heard read me. Yes.

Here are the preconceived notions running through your head right now:

  • We're not a congealed team yet and even if we were we lack the talent to compete.
  • Every team we're playing is ahead of us in planning, conditioning and teamwork.
  • Our schedule is too brutal for even a solid team to win more than six, maybe seven games.

You're a Syracuse fan so of course that's what you're thinking. I forgive you just as I must forgive myself for thinking those things as well.

But like everything in the college football preseason, they are preconceived. They are, by definition, opinions based on assumed information that lack verifiable proof. Everyone else thinks we're going 5-7 because of this, this and this so I better step in line and think that as well. And if I want to think the team will do worse than that, no harm there. I just can't think the team will do any better.

And yet...

Anyone who has watched college football for more than five years has realized a very simple, very obvious pattern in the preseason predictions. There's always a top ten team that loses 4-6 games. There's always a team that no one ranked in the Top 25 that ends up in the Top Ten. There is always a team in each conference that disappoints and falls short of expectations a.k.a. The Pitt Panther Effect. There is always a team in each conference that shocks everyone and wins 8-9 games even though everyone was sure they'd only win 4-5.

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Forget about the injuries and all those OR spots on the depth chart. Look at this team. You've got a three-year starting quarterback who knows this offense better than anyone. That QB has the most complete set of weapons he's ever had (a possession guy, a big play guy, a burner, a solid-handed tight end, multiple RBs out of the backfield and "Slash" Broyld.

On the defensive side, look how big that Meat is on the line? Marquis Spruill is probably our best linebacker and Siriki Diabate did such a good job at MLB that Scott Shafer decided to move Spruill to the outside, not to mention that Dyshawn Davis and Dan Vaughan are solid. And yeah, the secondary is a scary proposition but #SHAMARKO is the anchor and hell hath no fury like a #SHAMARKO scorned.

Something I think we're all taking for granted is special teams. We have Das Boot Ross Krautman holding it down on field goals while Ryan Norton gives us the ever-important-and-under-appreciated touchback leg on kickoffs.

Throw in the fact that you've got guys who have played for and buy in to Scott Shafer and Doug Marrone for four years now, that the team has actual depth is spots for the first time and you've got a team sick and tired of hearing about how they're an afterthought...you've got a deadly combo.

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Yes, the non-conference schedule is absolutely brutal. Not just for who we play but where we play them. But the one thing few people seem to be doing is looking past the non-conference schedule and looking at the Big East Conference schedule, where we have seven games staring back at us. I know this is a ballsy thing for a team that went 1-6 to think but do any of those games seem un-winnable to you? Without West Virginia (the only team we beat last year, go figure) gone, there is no behemoth left. Louisville is the anointed team but that makes it all the more likely they'll fail. South Florida, Cincy, Rutgers and Pitt will be tough but the idea of beating any of them doesn't seem strange. As far as I'm concerned, we should beat UConn and Temple. So when I look at the Big East, I see at least three wins and as many as six.

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Remember 2010? Syracuse was picked to finish seventh in the conference. And that's barely seventh, just one point ahead of last-place Louisville. That team won four Big East games, seven regular season games and eight altogether. Expectations were even lower than they are this season. And I'm pretty sure that every Syracuse fan would have gladly taken a 5-7 record and been happy with that. But...it happened because, well, that's what happens.

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So how does Syracuse get to 9-3? Let me show you...

Northwestern: 27-24 W

USC: 38-21 L

Stony Brook: 28-20 W

@ Minnesota: 35-27 W

Pittsburgh: 17-14 W

@ Rutgers: 27-23 W

UConn: 30-14 W

@ USF:28-14 L

@ Cincy: 16-13 W

Louisville: 24-21 W

@ Missouri:30-20 L

@ Temple: 38-28 W

Sound crazy? Maybe. So did winning eight games in 2010. So did the idea of winning 10 games in 2001. Crazier things have happened and in the face of greater preconceived notions.

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