Ed. Note - 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.
Hey, you guys remember this series for the last two years, right? TNIAAM's football staff is going to toss out a bunch of scenarios for you. You might agree with some. You'll probably disagree with some too. Today's my day and I'm going with the insanely negative 5-7. Might as well start yelling at me now before reading the rest of this piece...
Week-by-Week: Where I tell you what Syracuse does each week in order to get themselves a 5-7 record, therefore messing up a third straight trip to a bowl.
Villanova Wildcats: Syracuse comes out with minimal energy and finds themselves down 14-13 at the half. Following a spirited lecture by Scott Shafer at halftime, the team puts it together for the final 30 minutes and grabs a 30-21 win. Trying not to get antsy about what a close score like that could mean, Orange chalk it up to summer rust... W (1-0) (0-0)
at Central Michigan Chippewas: After a season in which CMU quarterback Cooper Rush took a ton of sacks, he begins 2014 as well-equipped as any player to deal with Syracuse's blitzing defense. Early on, he burns the Orange defense for a couple touchdown passes, putting SU on its heels and out of its element. Syracuse's Terrel Hunt is able to rally the team for a 34-20 lead, but a late run by the Chippewas almost ties things up. SU gets out 34-27. Worry is ratcheted up a notch. W (2-0) (0-0)
Maryland Terrapins: Finally able to stay healthy, Maryland starts 3-0 for the second straight season, and comes into the Carrier Dome looking to extend that record to 4-0. They mange to do it with ease, unfortunately. With Stefon Diggs and Deon Long actually on the field, the team's speed takes advantage of the Dome's artificial turf and SU's questionable secondary, and the game is never in question. The Terps win, 48-20. Syracuse is finally a "very bad football team" against Maryland. L (2-1) (0-0)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Any thoughts about Notre Dame missing its suspended players are dashed quickly. The pro-Irish crowd at MetLife Stadium powers ND to a resounding victory over Syracuse, 37-21, and the Orange defense is officially under fire from the fan base... L (2-2) (0-0)
Louisville Cardinals: The narrative heading in continues to talk about Syracuse's recent history of Friday night upsets. The narrative heading out is all about how Syracuse was too busy talking about those games, instead of focusing on this one. Louisville's offense is in peak form with Bobby Petrino back on the sidelines, and the Cardinals blow through the Carrier Dome by a score of 42-24. TNIAAM is a VERY aggravated place to be, with daily articles questioning everything about the team... L (2-3) (0-1)
Florida State Seminoles: Do we even need to go over this? Things are even worse for the Orange this year, as the Seminoles pile up a 69-7 victory. Bored by playing hangman, FSU's players bust out charades on the sidelines. L (2-4) (0-2)
at Wake Forest Demon Deacons: Desperate for any sign of life from this team, fans welcome a manageable trip to Winston-Salem to help them shake a four-game losing streak. Luckily, the Demon Deacons oblige, albeit not by much. Like last year, both squads are locked into a slugest until the Orange find the end zone late to get ahead for good, 21-14. It's ugly, but there's hope this is the start of a turnaround. W (3-4) (1-2)
at Clemson Tigers: ... But it isn't. At all. Clemson's losses on offense are offset by who stayed on defense (hi, Vic Beasley), and the Tigers annihilate Syracuse for a second straight season. It's not as high-scoring an affair as last year's -- "just" 36-10 this time -- but the loss just looks so much worse for SU. L (3-5) (1-3)
NC State Wolfpack: Due to an easy non-conference schedule, State is in line to get back to the postseason, but Syracuse manages to play spoiler and hold them off for at least one more week. It's not a great victory, but where they lack in style points, they make up for it in solid play-calling and an offensive resurgence. The Orange take care of business, 38-27, and murmurs about the postseason creep back into SU sports conversations... W (4-5) (2-3)
Duke Blue Devils: Looking to stay in the Coastal Division race, Duke needs a win over Syracuse. And they get it... easily. What the Blue Devils lack in defensive prowess, they make up for in offensive firepower, and QB Anthony Boone leads Duke to a big 45-24 win. SU, on the other hand, is dejected, and must win out to make a bowl. L (4-6) (2-4)
at Pittsburgh Panthers: Two straight games on the road, both must-wins... or at least they are, until Syracuse loses to Pitt for the ninth time in 10 meetings, and guarantees themselves a trip home for the postseason. Pitt's Tyler Boyd is too much for Orange corners, and a bevy of mistakes wade down the Orange offense too much for them to recover. The 28-20 final score is as depressing an outcome as Syracuse fans have seen since 2011 (another loss to the Panthers to clinch a lack of bowl eligibility for SU). L (4-7) (2-5)
at Boston College Eagles: Nothing on the line for Syracuse but #OrangeEagle points... yet, they deliver the year's best victory, even if it manages to ring a bit hollow for most fans. The Orange saved their best game for last, and defeat their arch rivals, 33-30. Once again, it's some last-minute heroics by Hunt that give SU the win. The season wraps up in disappointment overall, but at least there are some smiles at the end... for a few minutes anyway. W (5-7) (3-5)
Too real? Too believable? Too much like 2011? Yes to all three! I was shocked by how easy it was to put this together, and now... I'm much more terrified for this fall than I was before. Luckily, there are much more positive outlooks for the rest of the week. But whenever we get too confident, perhaps we take a look at this to keep us grounded (or just take a glance at every prediction that calls this the "most likely" result instead).