Syracuse Football: Why The Orange Will Go...6-6

College football doesn't award mediocrity, but it sure does celebrate average. Can SU be rewarded again this year? (Photo by Chris McGrath/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.

Wow, I get last ups! The final prediction on what record the Syracuse Orange football team will have at the conclusion of 2012. Sitting roughly 24 hours from opening kick, we could be on the cusp of something special that will take the team all the way deep in December and beyond, or, well, who knows?

We've read about the potential for good this coming season and we've read about the potential for bad just the same. Now, you get my take.

Fittingly enough, mine is SU being both good and bad - right in the middle; average. Six up and six down, the very definition of .500. But, as we all know too well, SU finishing with the same amount of losses as wins would, in all reality, be a huge win for everyone associated with the program.

Six wins means the chance for a bowl game, it means the team will have been competitive in the Big East, and, hell, it means that the Orange would have been, at the very least, entertaining to watch. So as I prepare to show you the path to Syracuse's six wins and six losses, let's all realize that that .500 is the least of the best case scenario.

With that said, let's also acknowledge what we're dealing with here; questionable depth, key players battling or coming back from injury, and what looks to be a brutal schedule. For Syracuse to finish .500 it will need unheralded or inexperienced, or both, players to step up. Doug Marrone's team will also have to, finally, get healthy and STAY healthy. And lastly, the Orange will need some luck - a ball to bounce the right way, a team to not show up, blind officials and replay officials, whatever, just things to break Orange rather than the other way around.

And in all reality Syracuse will need all of those factors in the very first game, tomorrow, because if the Orange drop game one, winning six of the next 11 may be all but impossible. How's that for hyperbole?

If Syracuse loses game one, it would then have to win at some difficult, hostile environments. I mean, have you really looked at the final month of the season? It's not a murderer's row of college football elite, but Syracuse does play at South Florida, at Cincinnati, at Missouri, and at Temple, with a home date against Louisville sandwiched in there. Yikes!

I'm not saying the Orange couldn't beat any one of those teams, especially if things break right, but I think it would be in everyone's best interest if the Orange load up on wins early before the final stretch run.

So, the following is a composite of Syracuse's 2012 wins - which will bring a .500 record, a bowl game, and renewed hope in college football in Central and Northern New York:

Northwestern (Tomorrow - Carrier Dome) - W 1-0 - This is really the most important, "swing" game of the season in my opinion. At least on paper, which, as we all know, games are played on paper. What? They're not? Oh, never mind then!

  • SU Could Lose Because - Syracuse's depth chart shows what everyone has thought all August, Marrone still doesn't know who is going to do what for his team. What we see tomorrow at noon in terms of starters will likely look very different next Saturday at 3:30 in the Meadowlands. So, things could get messy in game No. 1 as Marrone figures out his team.
  • SU Won't Lose Because - If this game were in Chicago, or even played in October or November, I would feel differently. But Orange v. Wildcats is tomorrow and at the Dome. As I wrote about SU figuring things out, Northwestern will be doing the same. The difference? SU will be doing it at home in it's own sweaty fan box of a stadium.

Stony Brook (September 8 - Carrier Dome) - W- 2-1

  • SU Could Lose Because -The Seawolves may not be your ordinary FCS team. At running back Stony Brook has Miguel Maysonet, who rushed for over 1,600 yards in 2011. His "backup" is Marcus Coker. The same Marcus Coker who scored 15 touchdowns for Iowa when last we saw him! Coker's a Seawolf(?) after transferring out of Iowa and the Big 10, giving Stony Brook two big threats in the back field.
  • SU Won't Lose Because - It just won't. (No jinx)

Minnesota ( September 22 - TCF Bank Stadium) - W - 3-1

  • SU Could Lose Because - It's hard not to be a little worried that this game is being played under the lights at Minnesota's beautiful TCF Bank Stadium. (A stadium that should be built right here for SU - I smell a future blog post about this subject!) We've seen SU go on the road in the non-conference over the last decade and lose this game.
  • SU Won't Lose Because - The Golden Gophers had a horrible 2011. 3 wins total. Plus, head coach Jerry Kill suffered a scary seizure. It was a mess on and off the field. And although Minnesota will likely have two and maybe even three wins by the time this game kicks off, it will have played UNLV, New Hampshire, and Western Michigan. Meaning, SU could be a big taste of reality for a bad team.

Pittsburgh - (October 5 - Carrier Dome) W - 4-1

  • SU Could Lose Because - An Orange football team hasn't beat the Panthers since 2004. Read that again. That doesn't seem possible does it? This Panthers team could have enough talent to back into the BCS as Big East champs, especially if running back Ray Graham is fully recovered from his knee injury and the program gets used to its fourth head coach in the last two years.
  • SU Won't Lose Because - Well, Graham's recovery and the team understanding Paul Chryst's playbook will certainly help. Plus, the game is on a Friday night at the Dome, with the Orange having a shot at getting win No. 4 in the first week of October.

Connecticut - (October 19 - Carrier Dome) W - 5-2

  • SU Could Lose Because - Defense wins championships and Connecticut's D may be good enough to take the Big East title. The Huskies will have seven seniors playing significant roles, with five possibly starting. With that type of experience, and talent, seeing the end zone in this game could be a difficult proposition.
  • SU Won't Lose Because - The thing is, for all their prowess defensively, the unit on the other side of the ball for Paul Pasqualoni could be one of the worst offenses in the Big East. A shaky offensive line could be protecting a junior-college transfer (Jimmy Bennett), which could cause this game to come down to special teams. And if that happens, Syracuse has the advantage. (Plus - Pasqualoni can't win in his first-ever return to the Dome as the opposition!)

Temple - (November 23 Lincoln Financial Field) W 6-6 - Yes, I foresee another late season swoon, but that could all be forgotten with a road season finale, and conference finale, at Temple.

  • SU Could Lose Because - This isn't the same Owl program that got booted out of the Big East like a floater shunned from the Big Brother house (yes, I watch Big Brother). From 1991 to 2004 Temple won a total of 30 games. In just the last two seasons the Owls have won 17 games, including a bowl victory just last year. While there's a new coach in Steve Addazio and a loss of key players from last season's Gildan New Mexico Bowl champs, there is still plenty of talent to go around, including running backs Montel Harris and Matt Brown. Temple will be looking to close out 2012 with a win and be the team helping kick a team in the butt on its way out of the Big East.
  • Why SU Won't Lose - With a bowl berth on the line, and a reputation of tanking in November to over come, I'm betting that SU can walk into the half-empty Linc and go toe-to-toe with the Owls. Here's also betting that by game 12, Marrone will have found a line up on both offense and defense that he feels comfortable with and that is talented enough to win road games.

So there you have it, 6-6 in '12! In all reality, SU could lose one of those games and find a win or two somewhere else on the schedule to get to its sixth win. I remain dubious, however, that Syracuse could get to six wins if it doesn't win tomorrow.

The game will be there for the taking and after that, if things break right, at least five more wins will be out there, too. We're within in hours of opening kick off and finding answers to some of our questions about how 2012 will go. Here's hoping that come kickoff against Temple, we'll have the same amount of excitement as we have right now.

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