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Syracuse Football 2012: What Non-Conference Horrors Await

The body of the 2011 Syracuse Orange football season is barely cold but we already need to take a brief look ahead to 2012, a critical year in the Doug Marrone Era.

If, like me, you count Year One as a write-off, then this is the third season that really counts for Doug. Year Two was a blessing and Year Three turned into a nightmare. What Year Four brings us will depend on the guys who put on the orange uniforms this season as well as the ones who put on the opposing jerseys.

So what's up with those guys and when do we play them?

Assuming we're still in the Big East, which is a foregone conclusion really, SU still has to fill two spaces on the schedule. With games against Minnesota, Northwestern and USC, the ideal new parties would be a FCS and a MAC/CUSA school (Dare we dream, Akron???). But we'll see.

(Oh and I would be remiss if I didn't mention the chance that we'll have to fill West Virginia's open slot if they somehow end up leaving. What a treat.)

Apparently we open the season hosting the Northwestern Wildcats on September 1st. The last two times we started the season against them, we finished 3-9 and 4-8, so, let's just move along...

The Wildcats went 6-7 this season, falling in the Texas Bowl to Texas A&M. Their most notable win of the year was a 28-25 upset of Nebraska and we all appreciate their 24-17 win over Boston College.

After the Cats, we head back East but not home...exactly. The USC Trojans will meet us in East Rutherford, NJ on September 8th for a rematch that has every Syracuse fans's pants soiled in anticipation.

Matt Barkley and Robert Woods had a field day with the SU secondary this season and, guess what? They're both back. Some are already picking them to play for the National Title and for Barkley to win the Heisman Trophy. So...thanks, DOC Gross.

Syracuse doesn't currently have anything scheduled for September 15th, so expect that to either be a Bye Week or a FCS opponent (VoodooFive compiled a list of FBS schools with availability this week and among them...Toledo...).

September 22nd, it's off to the Land of 1,000 lakes to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers. We owe them for the last two times we played, including a 23-20 loss in the Dome in 2009 (C'mon Paulus!).

The good news is that the Gophers are in a bit of disarray. They just completed their second-straight 3-9 season, one that included losses to New Mexico State and FCS school North Dakota State. Road games are never easy, especially this far away, but this feels a little better than traveling to Washington or USC.

I'll be reaching out to bloggers from all of those schools soon to see if we can get some perspective and how scared we should be of all of them heading into the 2012 season.