The 2015 Syracuse Orange football schedule has been released! And despite last season's struggles, this is big news for the SU faithful -- including yours truly. The coming fall slate is a perfect opportunity to start fresh and permanently erase the atrocities of last season... we hope.
Both Scott Shafer and DOCTOR Gross have weighed in on this year's schedule already, calling it "one of the best schedules." I'd tend to agree -- especially compared to some our rivals (hi, Boston College!), who have a much tougher road ahead. My additional takeaways, followed by some thoughts on wins and losses:
- There's no double-byes this season, which hurts every school similarly. For Syracuse, that means eight straight games yet again -- though at least they'll be able to get a breather immediately following LSU.
- As Orangeman: Fighter of the Nightman pointed out in the earlier comment section, the non-conference slate should be a very clear hint to the athletic department that good things can happen if we get those games locked in sooner (see this year) vs. later (see Boston College's situation, many of our previous situations).
- No Pittsburgh-BC close to the season is a thankful respite from what was quickly becoming a tiring ritual for the Orange. Home-home sounds great to end a season... except when it's followed by road-road against the same teams the following fall.
- This probably isn't the "best" year to face Florida State, Louisville and Clemson in three consecutive weeks... (also may not be the worst year for it either, however)
- That four-of-five-on-the-road stretch from week six through week 10 should determine the outcome of the season. On the bright side, the first two (USF, Virginia) are at least a bit more manageable.
- Speaking of UVa on the road: I've heard some great things about that campus (as I'm sure you have too) -- could be a fun trip for Orange fans in the D.C.-area or other surrounding spots.
- Another note on road trips: I hadn't planned on getting to see Syracuse this season, BUT the timing of the NC State game in Raleigh works out perfectly with my own Thanksgiving plans in North Carolina... stay tuned.
And now, for the win-loss projections. These are going to be inexact, and we'll attached a percentage chance to each, to help guide us to the final win total for 2015. Again, very early, so take all of these with a grain of salt:
Week 1: vs. Rhode Island
We all know Syracuse shouldn't look PAST FCS games (especially after last season), but Rhode Island did go 1-11 last year. Not to tempt the football gods, but I like our chances here, without much issue. Win Likelihood: 98%
Week 2: vs. Wake Forest
Wake didn't look all-too-great in 2014, but you also saw some steady improvement through the year. At the same time, a banged-up Syracuse squad was able to beat them at their place without much issue at all. In week two, as this young team still works out some issues, the Orange should have the advantage at home (as long as the offense shows up). Win Likelihood: 70%
Week 3: vs. Central Michigan
Syracuse faced a depleted CMU team in week three last year, and those two key absentees (Titus Davis and Thomas Rawls) will once again be gone from this matchup -- this time due to graduation. That's a huge advantage for the Orange, who can keep the majority of the gameplan focused on QB Cooper Rush -- who improved as last season wore on. Still, should be another nice home victory for SU. Win Likelihood: 85%
Week 4: vs. LSU
The only benefit -- for Syracuse -- to scheduling this game is the 2017 trip down to Baton Rouge, La. And even then, that's all for the fans who decide to make that pilgrimage, rather than the SU team that will lose by a lot. This year, even in our own house, there's little shot at an upset. LSU is littered with NFL talent at most positions and that only spells terrible things for the Orange. Win Likelihood: 5%
Week 6: at USF
The Bulls are showing improvement from the depths they fell to in recent years, but still, I think the Orange can best them at full strength. What makes this one so difficult is that it's on the road. What makes it easier is that SU has a bye immediately preceding it. It won't be a simple win by any means, but I think the odds are slightly with us vs. USF to pull off a victory. Win Likelihood: 60%
Week 7: at Virginia
Virginia's strong start last year was followed up by a terrible finish. So the biggest question for Syracuse is which version of the Hoos they'll see down in Charlottesville. UVa gets the home bump in terms of win likelihood, but then gets knocked down a bit when you see the talent they lose. Their 10 returning starters is even lower than the Orange's number (11), plus they're still pining for talent at most skill positions. Slight edge to SU. Win Likelihood: 55%
Week 8: vs. Pittsburgh
Ugh... these guys. We all dislike Pitt quite a lot -- yes, despite the welcome return of "Pitt script" -- and that suckers us into thinking we can beat them every season. We haven't done that much of late, and I don't think it happens in 2015 either, despite being at home. With another year under their respective belts, James Conner and Tyler Boyd will be even more lethal playmakers. This will not end well. Sorry. Win Likelihood: 30%
Week 9: at Florida State
"Hey, maybe they'll be in for a down year without Jameis Winston," you tell yourself, foolishly. No, they will not be in for a down year. We're going to get bludgeoned to death down in Tallahassee. Just accept it. Win Likelihood: 5%
Week 10: at Louisville
Louisville was pretty good AND pretty young last year. Now? They should be pretty great and a little more experienced. That should terrify you, especially on the road. Plus, as the fourth road game in five weeks, you have to think the Orange would be at least a bit run-down. Unfortunate, because a win would've been nice here... Win Likelihood: 20%
Week 11: Clemson
Yet another solid recruiting class, plus a glut of talent, has Clemson looking even better than last season -- though yes, we did test them pretty well on the road. I expect an exhausted Orange squad to look a bit flat, while Clemson should too, due to an even earlier bye. This one will end in the Tigers' favor, but fatigue could play a part. Win Likelihood: 10%
Week 12: at NC State
I wasn't all that sold on State last year, and the same will be said for this season
as they break in a new quarterback (Update: looks like Jacoby Brissett has another year of eligibility left... lame) given the departures on the defensive end. If Syracuse is healthy, this should be a close victory. If not, then it's obviously a loss. This could be the sixth win for the Orange -- which would be a welcome sight compared to a do-or-die week 13 game. Let's call this one a toss-up. Win Likelihood: 50%
Week 13: vs. Boston College
Rivalry game, so right away, toss assumptions out the window. Some factors to consider, however, include: new QB for BC, how both teams will be holding up at this point in the year, and the additional bad blood generated in the 2014 game. The Eagles are bringing talent in the door, but this could be a year where they drop back slightly. The home field advantage gives this to SU -- albeit barely. Win Likelihood: 55%
Adding it up: .98 + .7 + .85 + .05 + .6 + .55 + .3 + .05 + .2 + .1 + .5 + .55 = 5.43
So despite the perception of a much easier start -- and indeed, we could very well begin the year at 5-1 if we gel early -- it's going to be a fight for that sixth victory all season. The above isn't a foolproof way to project wins this fall, but it's A way. And I think that 5.48 number correctly has us teetering on the edge of bowl eligibility. Beating one of Pitt/NC State/Boston College obviously bumps that likelihood up quite a bit (provided we take care of business elsewhere, of course).
What about you, though? Five or six wins seem fair? Or are we overlooking something? Weigh in below.