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We're 103rd!

At least, according to the New York Times' The Quad.  They're doing their annual countdown of every Division 1-A team from worst to best.  I think we had all hoped to stay out of the triple-digits but, alas. 

For the record, we're not the first BCS team to show up.  That honor goes to Indiana (#105).

Last year the Orange were 98th before the season and they hit the direction of the year right on the head:

The schedule is a killer, essentially dooming Syracuse to a losing season no matter how improved the team may be. I think you can immediately pencil in losses to Penn State, West Virginia, South Florida and Cincinnati; it’s disheartening to enter a season knowing you have four automatic losses on your schedule. Syracuse also has to go to Notre Dame (I know, 3-9, but it is still a tough away game), Northwestern and Rutgers, and would be happy taking one of those three. Over all, it isn’t easy to muster optimism for Syracuse in 2008. It looks like another three-win season.

Almost nailed it.  As for this season, the gist of the piece is that while SU has some hope for the first time in years, we're still playing with the same lousy deck of cards we've been dealt.  It's gonna take some time before Marrone's Boys make good.

If Syracuse won three games last fall, shouldn’t it at least match that total in 2009? I’m willing to say yes –- even with a tough non-conference slate –- but I’d be shocked if the Orange won more than four games.

The piece does smack of some generality, which is to be expected.  Paul Myerberg says the Orange "lacks playmakers and any semblance of depth."  While he's right on the depth part, I disagree on the playmakers thought.  Assuming he's back to full strength, Mike Williams is a superstar in the making.  Antwon Bailey could be the next good SU running back and he's got Delone Carter and Averin Collier there to share the load.  And it's finally time for Marcus Sales and Donte Davis to breakout.  If there's a quarterback there that can make plays for them (which is the big question), they'll be fine.

Surely, the defense will be the biggest question mark for the Orange. The unit loses 7 starters...and that's 7 starters from a TURRABLE defense.

The Orange do lose The Greg Robinson Factor and replace it with The Doug Marrone Factor and that can't be glossed over.  That alone could be the difference-maker that gets the Orange 1-2 more wins than they should get on paper.  You cannot possibly overlook the value of good coaching, especially when compared to inept coaching.

Myerberg also mentions the tenacity of the schedule.  While the OOC schedule is indeed brutal, the Big East schedule is not the un-winnable battleground it's made out to be. Syracuse almost beat West Virginia last season in Morgantown and this year's Mountaineer team is assuredly worse.  Rutgers only looks good because their schedule is filled with kindergartens.  UConn hasn't improved drastically and neither has Pitt, whom the Orange led going into the 4th quarter last season.

Over at ESPN, Brian Bennett has been saying for a while now that he thinks Louisville is going to be worse than the Orange this year, regardless of how SU does or does not improve. Donnie agrees that 3-wins is a likely scenerio

I know I'm being disturbingly optimistic but I always come back to the same thing.  This was a 5-win team last season that was so poorly coached that it lost games it should not have because of it. This year, our talent-level says 2-3 wins but the ability of our coach and his "plan" says 4-5 wins.  At least that's what I'm banking on.