LOS ANGELES - SEPTEMBER 17: Wide receiver Alec Lemon #15 of the Syracuse Orangemen hangs on to a 15 yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter against cornerback Anthony Brown #16 of 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)
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.)
It is a cruel trick that in what is probably Doug Marrone's most important season to date, he stares at one of the toughest out-of-conference schedules in the nation. While I fully expect this year's Syracuse football team to be superior to last year's 5-7 squad, at the end of the day "you are what your record says you are", and there is a legitimate chance that our record will say that 2012 was a repeat of 2011.
Few games on the schedule this season seem like sure things. I assume that the Orange will not pull a miraculous upset against USC at Metlife Stadium on September 8th, and on the flip side, I refuse to believe that Marrone will allow the team to look past Stony Brook. You can also probably pencil in Missouri as a loss, although I think they're being a tad overrated by Syracuse fans based on the conference they find themselves in. However, the other nine games on the schedule can go either way.
As I wrote a few days ago, Northwestern seems like a very even match-up with Syracuse, as they were a few years back when Ryan Lichtenstein's last second field goal against the Wildcats gave Marrone his first win as a head coach.
However, this season Northwestern brings a player who possess similar skills to a number of those who torched the Orange defense last year - Kain Colter. Colter is a dual threat quarterback in the vain of B.J. Daniels, Munchie Legaux, and Scott McCummings who all had success on the ground against Shafer's defense in 2011. If Northwestern steals Syracuse's home opener, he'll likely be the reason.
Minnesota, on the other hand, may be a road game for Syracuse, but they are further behind in their rebuilding than SU is. While Northwestern might avenge their last loss at the Dome, the Orange should be able to do the same to Minnesota. Eric Decker isn't walking through that door.
That leaves the Big East schedule which, as always, is very hairy.
Marrone-led teams have had success against Rutgers; if not for a Philip Thomas-dropped interception, they would probably be 3-0 against the Scarlet Knights. While Rutgers has one of the more talented teams in the conference, a team that routinely underachieves now has a first year head coach at the helm. I expect Syracuse to right the ship against Rutgers.
Temple is just rejoining the football conference this season, and while they found more success as a member of the MAC than they did in their last go around in the Big East, they never defeated a MAC team with a winning record (and only one with a .500 mark, 2011 Ball State). Temple is on the rise, but the step up to the Big East will be too much for them. SU should roll in the final game.
I believe that Marrone will pick up a third conference win in Paul Pasqualoni's return to the Carrier Dome. This game should have a decent, loud crowd, and UConn has major question marks this season. If there's a team that Marrone can get off the schneid this season, it is UConn.
However, the rest of the schedule will be very difficult for SU. Pittsburgh, South Florida, Cincinnati, Louisville all have had a ton of success against Syracuse recently, and while none of those games are unwinnable, and each should be a close contest, but this won't be the year for the Orange.
Last season's 5-7 record was a bit misleading. While SU stunned West Virginia at the Dome and played fairly well against USC, that was a team that barely edged out a win against Wake Forest, struggled against weak Rhode Island and Tulane teams, and was given a major gift which helped them defeat Toledo. While the Rutgers and UConn games could have gone either way as well, the team was dangerously close to being 2-10.
A bowl may not be in the cards for SU this year, but each game will be hard fought, and at the end of the year, despite what the hordes on Syracuse.com might say, most will know that the team continues to make improvement, and is poised to contend in the ACC in 2013.