Ed. Note - If you've followed college football long enough, you know how preseason expectations work. Enough people say that a team is going to finish with a certain record and then it's just taken as gospel. The Syracuse Orange seem to live in the 5-7 range for most people, 6-6 for the positive ones out there. But I wondered why we need to limit ourselves? College football is a such a fluid, unpredictable beast. Who's to say we won't finish 9-3? Or, conversely, 3-9?
So 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.
Monday: 3-9 (Chris)
- Tuesday: 9-3 (Sean)
- Wednesday: 5-7 (Dan)
- Thursday: 7-5 (John)
- Friday: 6-6 (Matt M.)
Let's kick things off with the version of the 2012 season we're all dreading...the 3-9 one by Chris a.k.a. Felonious Phunk.
That was Syracuse’s record after the Orange trounced West Virginia in 2011, a win that many thought would be a turning point for a program mired in mediocrity for the better part of a decade. The offense was clicking, defensive stud and future first round draft pick Chandler Jones was back and the Orange had a legitimate shot to with the Big East and the BCS bowl berth that goes with it.
Instead, they fell flat.
It would be a different case if the wins were close. If Marrone’s squad was a missed two-point conversion from a win, that’s fine. If they were dropping games on last second opponent's field goals, that’s just the breaks. But none of those final five losses were closer than a touchdown. The USF Bulls smacked the Orange by 20. In the final game of the season, the Orange had a chance to salvage a .500 record and a .com bowl berth against a struggling Pitt team that was missing conference-leading rusher Ray Graham. Instead, they got down early and never able to make it a game, losing by 13.
It’s 2012 now, though, right? Fresh season, fresh start. Last year’s results have no bearing on this year’s outcome. A particular former coach might say, "Not so fast." Of course, the team is a year older. Another year of maturity certainly helps. Yes, but only to a point. Chandler Jones may have been the only first round draft pick, but the Orange lost a lot more than that. Nick Provo, gone. Phillip Thomas, gone. Andrew Tiller, gone. Antwan Bailey, gone. Van Chew, gone. Mikhail Marinovich, gone. Dorian Graham, gone.
The cupboard isn’t exactly bare. Ryan Nassib is a fifth-year senior and will be the undisputed leader. Alec Lemon is coming off a fantastic season. Justin Pugh, though injured, is a rising star. On defense, Dan Vaughan is a senior and Shamarko Thomas postponed his NFL career to come back to Syracuse. After those five, though, the squad is young, untested and inexperienced. Combine that with a hard bite from the pre-season injury bug and a 2012 schedule with no soft spots to be seen, and its hard to see anything more than a lackluster result.
It’s also important to remember that although the Orange finished 5-7 last season, they easily could have been 2-10. They barely squeaked by Wake Forest, Toledo and Tulane, none of which are exactly powerhouse programs. Syracuse fans all know that the win over the Rockets was helped along by a botched PAT call. So, a 5-7 team that was one win from bowl eligibility was really 4-8.
There are no Tulanes on the 2012 schedule. There are no Rhode Islands. The one FCS school on the docket, Stony Brook, is the three-time defending Big South champion. There are no "should wins" in 2012. In truth, the "could wins" are outnumbered. Is it really a stretch to think that an Orange team that lost so much after barely scrapping its way to 5-7 could drop two extra games? That’s little more than a bad bounce, a tipped ball or a key fumble.
Coach Doug Marrone has done a tremendous job of turning Syracuse football around from a culture standpoint. They players believe that they have a chance to win any game in which they play their best. Still, this season their best might not be enough. They’re going to need a little luck too. As the 2011 season showed, luck is good for a couple wins. 2012, though, will show that the Orange are only good enough for three wins.