ACC Realignment What-If: 2007 Syracuse Football Season

Otto Greule Jr

Syracuse didn't make it to the ACC when the league expanded back in 2004; but what if the Orange had been added originally, instead of Virginia Tech?

*Perhaps you remember these from March? We're jumping back in to finish up the hypothetical look at SU's first decade of ACC play.

Nearly every Syracuse Orange fan remembers the shenanigans of 2003 when the Orange, bags packed for the ACC, were replaced at the last minute by Virginia Tech, courtesy of then-Va. governor Mark Warner's insistence. The move would result in a decade-long run of success for the Hokies in their new home, while SU spent nearly 10 years struggling in the Big East.

But what if things had happened the other way? What if Jim Boeheim's complaints about the switch fell on deaf ears, and what if Warner's efforts to upgrade the Hokies were undone before he could extract them from the Big East? Would things have gone dramatically different for Syracuse in the ACC all this time?

With some help from sports simulation site WhatIfSports.com, we can take at least a speculative look at what might've been for Syracuse on a season-by-season basis. While these simulations won't build new recruiting classes or anything like that, we can take a look at where the Orange would've fallen overall, had they made the ACC switch earlier.

Please note that for our purposes here, SU's most lopsided non-conference losses each season have been dropped in favor of one or more in-conference game (depending on necessity). Additionally, each year will simply use Virginia Tech's in-conference slate, so as not to create a brand new scheduling matrix. SU will also compete in football's Coastal division (rather than the Atlantic division they've been placed in in real life), just as Virginia Tech did starting in their second ACC season (2005).

***

Game 1: Washington 42, Syracuse 12

You remember this one. It was this game. Sophomore me left after three quarters that Friday night because I couldn't stand watching my team get bludgeoned anymore. In real life, this was a terrible omen for what was to come. (0-1) (0-0)

Game 2: Illinois 41, Syracuse 20

Another very real, very ugly result. Here, SU fans were re-introduced to Juice Williams and Rashard Mendenhall and the results were not at all as they were the previous season (a 31-21 Orange win). After 508 total yards of offense, 'Cuse was battered and bruised, with a season already in doubt. (0-2) (0-0)

Game 3: Miami (OH) 17, Syracuse 14

We've reached the part of the Greg Gerg Robinson era when we started losing to MAC teams. Try and pretend this didn't happen. (0-3) (0-0)

Game 4: Syracuse 20, Buffalo 12

This game was almost tied at the half. The Bulls actually looked as if they were going to mount a serious comeback in the fourth quarter. For most Syracuse fans, this one was/is the stuff of nightmares. (1-3) (0-0)

Game 5: Syracuse 41, North Carolina 31

Finally, a simulated result, and boy was it an enjoyable one. SU, forgetting all of its offensive struggles during the first four games, scores 34 points in the first half while holding off the Heels. Orange safety A.J. Brown picked off UNC's T.J. Yates three times as the defense put in its best performance of the year -- points aside -- with five total interceptions. Syracuse QB Andrew Robinson also shined, with 311 passing yards and five touchdowns. (2-3) (1-0)

Game 6: #22 Clemson 21, Syracuse 14

For a while, it looks like Syracuse might just walk into Death Valley and steal a win from the ranked Tigers, but a late Cullen Harper touchdown pass foils the upset bid. The Orange led at the half, but unfortunately, the passing game couldn't get anything going in the second against a tough Clemson D. (2-4) (1-1)

Game 7: Syracuse 26, Duke 23

A tense Duke crowd groans at the end of this one, as a Thaddeus Lewis pass to the back of the end zone is batted out of bounds. Syracuse trails for most of the contest, inexplicably unable to move the ball through the air until the third quarter. Still, they've surpassed their real-life 2007 win total already, just seven games in. (3-4) (2-1)

Game 8: #2 Boston College 23, Syracuse 16

Under the bright lights on a Thursday night, Syracuse believes it has a chance against another ranked team -- this one, long-time rival and second-ranked Boston College. Eagles QB Matt Ryan is effective, but takes a backseat to halfback Andre Callendar, who racks up 144 yards and a late score to grab the victory. (3-5) (2-2)

Game 9: Georgia Tech 24, Syracuse 10

With a 10 days in between games, SU is supposed to look rested against the Jackets, but instead, appear completely wiped out, shut out entirely until late in the third quarter. Tech QB Taylor Bennett tears up the SU defense for 311 yards and three scores, while the Orange turn the ball over in the red zone twice. (3-6) (2-3)

Game 10: Florida State 20, Syracuse 10

Different game, same scoring troubles. Though the Orange get off to a fast start in the first (a 10-0 lead), they would not put up another point in the contest. Andrew Robinson would throw for 257 yards, but two interceptions would once again prove costly. (3-7) (2-4)

Game 11: Miami (FL) 28, Syracuse 23

The score makes it look close, but SU was never really in the game against the Hurricanes, who had sprinted to a 28-13 lead by the start of the fourth. The Syracuse defense continued to force turnovers (two in each of the last three games), but again, it was their own mistakes that caused the most problems and sullied Andrew Robinson's solid performance otherwise. (3-8) (2-5)

Game 12: #16 Virginia 42, Syracuse 27

Syracuse caps its season on a miserable five-game losing streak, with this drubbing serving as the exclamation point. The Orange trailed 42-13 in the third, before the Hoos ceased making an effort while coasting to victory. Curtis Brinkley put a bow on a 1,000-yard season with 91 yards and a score -- the lone highlight for SU. (3-9) (2-6)

***

Updated ACC Football Standings, 2007

Atlantic Division

1. Boston College (12-2) (6-2)

2. Clemson (10-3) (6-2)

3. Wake Forest (9-4) (5-3)

4. Florida State (8-5) (5-3)

5. Maryland (6-7) (3-5)

6. NC State (5-7) (3-5)

Coastal Division

1. Virginia (10-3) (7-1)

2. Georgia Tech (8-5) (5-3)

3. Miami (6-6) (3-5)

4. North Carolina (4-8) (3-5)

5. Syracuse (3-9) (2-6)

6. Duke (1-11) (0-8)

This was arguably the worst team put on the field during the Robinson era, so it's little surprise to see the Orange struggle this much. What is a bit surprising, however, is how competitive they were against tough competition (not a hallmark of those teams at all). The real-life version of this Syracuse squad lost all but two Big East games by 20 or more points. They were an embarrassment. This version, on the other hand, would've played a fun, watchable brand of football at times, despite the lack of wins. Though the team did fall on its face in this iteration of 2007, they did make a bowl in the fake 2006, so Robinson's seat is only starting to get a little warm.

Next week: The "Dynasty" comes to the ACC, hoping to live up to its promise a bit better than what actually panned out during the 2007-08 basketball season.

John Cassillo authors Atlantic Coast Convos, covering every aspect of ACC football, on and off the field. Check out the blog, and follow him on Twitter: @JohnCassillo

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