You know you're getting close to the upcoming college football season when the #narrative becomes clear.
For the 2014 Syracuse Orange, that #narrative seems to revolve around their schedule. It's tough. Really tough. Debilitatingly tough. Toughest schedule in the ACC. One of the toughest schedules in America. It might just be the toughest schedule anyone has played since man crawled out of primordial ooze. Even Sisyphus is like, "bruh, thank God I don't have to do all of that..."
First things first...it's true. Syracuse's 2014 football schedule is daunting. It includes a defending National Champion who is expected to compete for another crown. It includes another team that might be in the playoff discussion come November. It includes four teams that won double-digit games last season. There's a reason it's considered the 8th-toughest schedule in the nation.
But here's the thing...when DOESN'T Syracuse play a tough schedule?
Syracuse's 2011 schedule was probably the weakest it's seen in the last five years. The Orange went 5-7 and missed the post-season.
SU played one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the nation in 2012. The eight-win season was the school's best in a decade.
Last season, Syracuse played a schedule that included eight bowl teams and featured games against National Champ Florida State, Clemson, Penn State and Georgia Tech. They still ended up in a bowl game, which they won.
As Steve N. pointed out on Twitter, Syracuse is trading Penn State, Northwestern and Georgia Tech for Notre Dame, Louisville and Duke. An upgrade, for sure, but not insanely so. Both Louisville and Duke are likely to fall off from last season and who knows what kind of Notre Dame we'll see. And besides, we're basing all of this on last year's results and the prognostications of people who don't really know any better than we do. Odds are that at least one team on SU's schedule expected to dominate will instead disappoint.
This isn't to say Syracuse should breeze their way to nine wins and a Chick-Fil-A Bowl berth. But when I see that the "smart bet" is to assume Syracuse will win less than six games "because the schedule," I just think it sells this team short. Not just because it's a good team (which, on paper, it is) but because recent history shows that schedule does not dictate success for this program.
Syracuse may still have a disappointing season and the road to a bowl game is tough, no doubt about it. But anyone looking ahead at the 2014 schedule and discounting SU Football based solely on that clearly hasn't been paying attention.