Analyzing the 2014 Syracuse Orange Football Schedule

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

As you already know, the 2014 Syracuse Orange football schedule has been released. Now it's time to start obsessing over it.

(H/T to Brian over at BC Interruption for doing this first)

Syracuse's 2014 slate is better than 2013's in some ways, while worse (or more difficult) in others. Now that we have a year under our belts with this whole ACC thing, the opponents look familiar. And because we decided we liked winning football games, the non-conference teams you see below are decidedly less challenging (collectively). This is all good.

Home Games: Villanova, Maryland, Louisville, Florida State, NC State, Duke

"Home" Games: Notre Dame

Road Games: Central Michigan, Wake Forest, Clemson, Pittsburgh, Boston College

Other interesting facts to note:

- Five of SU's first six games are in either New York or New Jersey

- Conference play alternates two home and two away for all eight games

- Syracuse's first scheduled Friday night game since 2012 (W over UConn)

Saturday, August 30: vs. Villanova Wildcats

Villanova (6-5) (5-3) had a bit of a down year last season, needing to win its final two games to get above .500 and they missed the FCS playoffs entirely. While Syracuse and 'Nova have a pretty well-documented history on the basketball court, their football history is not all that illustrious (though remember that time the Big East invited them up and then reconsidered?). The Wildcats last faced the Orange in 1975, a 24-17 victory for SU. All-time, Syracuse is 2-1 against Villanova, with the lone loss coming in 1953 (in Philadelphia).

Timing Impact: None. 'Nova is here for Syracuse to tee off on. They won't, because that's how these things work. But we can hope for a Wagner repeat (not happening).

Saturday, September 6: BYE

Stupid.

Timing Impact: Pointless.

Saturday, September 13: at Central Michigan Chippewas

Central Michigan (6-6) (5-3) won its final three games of 2013 to become bowl eligible, only to watch a school like Syracuse (damn those assholes) snatch a spot in the Texas Bowl and leave them on the sidelines for the holiday season. Chances are the Chippewas aren't using that as bulletin board material, but you never know. The Orange have been recruiting well in MAC territory, which is nice, and I guess this is part of that strategy. DOC Gross complains about playing in Winston-Salem and Chestnut Hill, but signs off on a trip to Mount Pleasant, Mich? Okay.

Timing Impact: If Syracuse suffered any injuries in week one (please, no), hopefully the early bye week gave those players some time to rest up. Other than that, will be a nice and easy two-game start to the year.

Saturday, September 20: vs. Maryland Terrapins

So, Maryland, have you guys paid your exit fee yet? Because if you don't, I'm unsure if this will end up being a conference game or not (only sort of kidding). The Twerps (7-6) (3-5) will be bright-eyed and B1G-tailed, hoping to prove that they made the right move by leaving the ACC. They'll probably be less injured in 2014 than they were when SU paid them a visit in College Park, but who knows when Randy Edsall is in charge. If this fall is going to be a special one for Syracuse, this game is a must.

Timing Impact: Syracuse's third game of the year is very manageable, which is nice to see after season after season of tough slates. Maryland's likely to be healthy in this one, so it's hard to take a ton from last year's experience against them. At the same time, the offense should probably be in rhythm by this point, so... yeah, unsure there's any measurable effect here.

Saturday, September 27: vs. Notre Dame (at MetLife Stadium)

As part of their not-really marriage to the ACC, Notre Dame's forced to play five conference games each year. This one was already on the schedule so it made for an easy check mark on the Irish's list of regrets. Notre Dame (9-4) could very well be ranked when this one kicks off -- especially since Everett Golson is back -- and with an ND-partisan crowd behind them it's unlikely this feels like a home game for SU. Still, a win for the Orange at its "other" home field would be a nice change for this team and a great way to set the tone going into actual league play.

Timing Impact: Beating Notre Dame early is always good for a nice bump in the perception department (versus late, when they're already a non-factor in all but one of the last 25 years). This is the toughest non-conference game, but playing the Irish fourth should give SU a better opportunity to win than opening with them.

Friday, October 3: vs. Louisville Cardinals, ESPN/ESPN2

Louisville (12-1) (7-1) replaces its quarterback and head coach, plus they move to a new conference (ours). Syracuse could potentially be a ranked team (stay with me here), has a pretty solid history of performing well on Friday nights (HEYOOO), and has made a habit of beating well-regarded Louisville teams. Insanely, this would be the Cards' fourth ACC game and Syracuse's first of the year. A win for both programs is likely a must, but only one team can finish third in the Atlantic.

Timing Impact: We'll mark the halfway point for Louisville's schedule (weird) and could let them clinch a bowl bid if things fall correctly. Both teams will have plenty of game experience that this should be a great litmus test of what they really are. If I had to face any team on a Friday night, it's Louisville, so here we are.

Saturday, October 11: vs. Florida State Seminoles

Florida State (14-0) (8-0) visits the Carrier Dome early-ish in 2014, but that doesn't make them any less of a juggernaut. By this point, they'll already be in mid-jog toward a second straight BCS National Championship and it's unlikely Syracuse stands in their way all that much. Expect pain and suffering, but hopefully less than we experienced in 2013.

Timing Impact: The hype train could be going full-steam for Syracuse if it's still unbeaten, but that's about to be completely derailed when the 'Noles come to town. No matter where this game falls, it's brutal, though as the third of three straight tough games, this one could get extra ugly.

Saturday, October 18: at Wake Forest Demon Deacons

First conference road game in mid-October? Sure, why not?! Wake Forest (4-8) (2-6) will have a new coach, new quarterback and a new.. lots of other things too. Last year's game was a bit of a slugfest at the Dome, and they may be pissed at us for ending the career of best receiver ever Michael Campanaro (I'd be pissed if I were them). Like SU, the Deacs have a manageable early slate, which means they might be feeling pretty awesome about the rebuild at this point, regardless of how well it's actually going. The Orange can take this as an opportunity to course-correct.

Timing Impact: Being the first league road game for SU means there's three more after this, but at least they're easing into things. With a lot of new staff and personnel, this isn't the best time to catch the Deacs since they'll be settled in by this point in the year. Plus, Wake has a bye the week before this. As much as I hate to say it, this game is disconcerting.

Saturday, October 25: at Clemson Tigers

Second straight road game down in the Carolinas for Syracuse, this time with our favorite South Carolina residents. Death Valley's an imposing place to play and to be honest, I'm unsure if we've really been to a stadium like that in some time. Clemson (11-2) (7-1) will be sporting a new QB and No. 1 wideout, but beyond that, same old Dabo and Co. -- though maybe with a defensive emphasis this time around. Winning this one's a pipedream for Syracuse.

Timing Impact: It's always better to catch teams in transition early, while they're still figuring things out. That's not what happens here with Clemson, as we get them nearly two months into the season, when they've already adjusted to everything. Doubt anyone ever saw this as a win, but this late in the year, it's even more unlikely. Also wraps up a pretty rough October for SU though, thankfully.

Saturday, November 1: vs. NC State Wolfpack

State heads up to the Dome as Syracuse receives a welcome respite from the road for another two weeks. The Wolfpack (3-9) (0-8) would presumably have to be better than 2013's disaster, but we did beat that team down in Raleigh just the same. More than anything, I'm curious to see how the Pack respond to Dave Doeren in year two, and if the Pistol actually starts to take hold or not with this personnel.

Timing Impact: If the Orange haven't won six games yet, this is probably their best chance in the final four games of the year to do so. This is, however, game eight in a row. Even if the opponent isn't supposed to be a threat, that's an awful lot of time for Syracuse to play without rest or time to heal up injured players if need be.

Saturday, November 8: vs. Duke Blue Devils

Duke (10-4) (6-2) could be any number of things come this fall, with a new offensive coordinator and minimal roster turnover, perhaps we see more of the same. Or maybe luck flips back the other way. Duke did play in a few close games in 2013, and in many cases, came out on the right end of it all. Due to ACC scheduling quirks, the Blue Devils won't be back at the Dome for football until 2020. Time for this divisional alignment to die.

Timing Impact: It's Senior Day... which is one of several little things that really irk me about the way this schedule lays out. It's also the ninth game in a stretch of as many straight weeks without a bye. SU shouldn't be over-matched by Duke at all, but it could appear that way. There's no "good" time to face David Cutcliffe's team, though, so might not make a difference.

Saturday, November 15: BYE

Rest up, you brave souls.

Timing Impact: FINALLY!

Saturday, November 22: at Pittsburgh Panthers

Pittsburgh (7-6) (3-5) concerns me because this team could end up with some addition by subtraction on the offensive side of the ball. Defensively though, there's no Aaron Donald, which is a welcome sight. Syracuse hasn't fared all that well against Pitt in any sport over the last decade, and on the Orange side, we haven't forgotten last year's brutal loss to these same Panthers.

Timing Impact: I hate the fact that this game is the same weekend as last year, especially since it's on the road. One or both of these teams may need a win to make a bowl game, and I just hate that it's always ALWAYS Pitt. On the bright side, Syracuse is coming off a bye and hasn't played a game outside of the Carrier Dome since October. This might mean they're well-rested for the game.

Saturday, November 29: at Boston College Eagles

Boston College (7-6) (4-4) and Syracuse face off to close out the season once again (and as originally expected). We all remember Terrel Hunt's heroics in 2013, so what will he do for an encore later on this season? If this is to be the start of renewed bad blood between the programs, another last-second victory would certainly help matters. The Eagles certainly haven't forgotten what happened, but many of those key players are also gone. Will it carry over?

Timing Impact: BC and SU. Last game of the season. Just like it's supposed to be. Syracuse wraps up with two games on the road, which could be scary if they're not bowl eligible already before this stretch. The one issue I see with this late matchup is attendance, which should lag for both sides given typical Northeast weather and the Thanksgiving holiday.

***

So, what do you think? How much will timing factor into the 2014 Syracuse schedule? Any key narratives we should look out for? Share below.

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