Syracuse is not quick to schedule future football opponents. This has been true for over a decade, and remains true today even amidst a changing landscape where teams are getting out further and further ahead of their upcoming schedules -- especially in the power conferences. In the past week or so alone, Cal added UC-Davis and Cal Poly for its 2019 and 2020 non-conference slates, respectively. Texas A&M and Colorado scheduled games for 2020 and 2021. TCU made its own deals with the Buffaloes, as well as Stanford. And even Vanderbilt got four games on the schedule with Stanford, to take place between 2021 and 2027.
There are plenty of other examples of other teams in the process of locking things down too -- all of which you can and should read about over on FBSchdedules.com. One of the teams missing from those conversations, though? Syracuse.
Looking at future schedules, we're obviously set for 2015 (thankfully), and 2016 already has three opponents set with Colgate, USF and Notre Dame. The 2017 season has LSU and Central Michigan, but after that, just one opponent confirmed per year through 2022, and then a date with the Fighting Irish in 2025. This is progress from what is used to be, sure. But given the changing scheduling landscape of college football, with three major conferences (Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12) having nine conference games, and another (SEC) mandating that teams play at least one more power conference school -- the ACC has the same rule -- there are suddenly few selections available for the Orange going forward. No, it shouldn't be too hard to make good on the ACC mandate (we're all set there through 2022 already), but what about the other opponents? Y'know... the ones that we should be scheduling a bit easier in order to pick up much-needed wins?
Inspired by Orangeman: Fighter of the Nightman's FanPost back in February, a look at 2016 first, keeping in mind that week 1 (Colgate) and week 3 (USF) are already accounted for...
AAC: Houston (week 2), SMU (week 2), Tulane (week 2), UCF (week 4), UConn (week 4)
Big 12: Kansas State (week 4), Texas Tech (week 4)
Big Ten: None
C-USA: Florida Atlantic (week 2), Florida International (week 4), Louisiana Tech (week 4), Marshall (week 2), Middle Tennessee (week 4), Old Dominion (week 4), UTEP (week 4), UTSA (week 4)
Independent: Army (week 4), UMass (week 4)
MAC: Buffalo (week 2 & 4), Ohio (week 4), Toledo (week 2 & 4), Western Michigan (week 2)
MWC: Hawaii (week 2), San Jose State (week 2), Utah State (week 4)
Pac-12: Arizona (week 2 & 4), Stanford (week 2 & 4)
SEC: Arkansas (week 2 & 4), Florida (week 4), Kentucky (week 2 & 4), Missouri (week 4), South Carolina (week 2 & 4), Texas A&M (week 4)
Sun Belt: Georgia State (week 4), UL-Monroe (week 4)
That's 34 programs -- a lot, right? Well, not so much.
- You can cross off the SEC teams right away, save Kentucky who only has one game booked (Louisville) though I wouldn't consider them the most likely team to double-dip into the ACC.
- I'll cross Hawaii off as well, due to the fact that SU has games on either end of that date, and the six-time zone travel would be brutal on shorter rest like that.
- San Jose State and Utah State are "probably" out because they both have three FBS games already and most MWC teams try to get an FCS opponent in there.
- Toledo hates us. They're not going to schedule us.
- FIU already has three non-conference home games (how?!) and since we're looking for the road date in a home-and-home, that's not going to work.
- UTEP is unlikely because they have two home dates and are likely looking for a road payday from a power conference team instead (maybe they reference a few of the ones listed above?).
- I'll give a blanket "NO" to playing UConn at all since we already get all the state's best recruits without playing them, and since they have two non-conference home games already, they probably need to go on the road for another one.
So that's 12 teams off the list already, leaving us 22 to go. Given the fact that we already have Notre Dame. it would be great to avoid a P5 school if we can. With that in mind, let's tentatively cross those (five) off to get us down to 17. Houston, SMU and UTSA are too far for a non-P5 road game AND the fact that we don't recruit much of Texas gives even less reason to go there (14). Louisiana Tech, Marshall and UL-Monroe are all in small markets and provide no recruiting benefit on the road for us (11). We already face Boston College on the road in 2016, so there goes UMass (10). UCF is very likely to beat us (nine), and playing Buffalo is a no-win proposition because we're supposed to beat them but losing to them would be a disaster (eight). Little reason for us to go to Tulane since we'll be playing LSU in 2015 and 2017, and we don't need two straight years of trips to Louisiana (seven).
Who's left now? FAU, Middle Tennessee, Old Dominion, Army, Ohio, Western Michigan, Georgia State. And honestly, I'd take any of them -- though MTSU, Ohio and WMU road dates are a bit less appealing than the rest. If we want to fortify our recruiting in areas we already do well, like Georgia and Florida, then there are two easier choices here. Army would be less of a "road game" but would be a fun atmosphere and a good decision to play at West Point.
Obviously the point here was not to try and schedule our final opponent for 2016, but rather point out how few options are available to us already at 18 months out from the start of the 2016 season. And because of Syracuse's typical delays in scheduling, the same will just repeat itself for 2017 and 2018 and so on...
I'm all for scheduling games to get wins, plain and simple. Hopefully the new athletic director agrees and we migrate away from the tough slates for a few years and into more winnable contests. Sure, we still have to face one P5 school per year out-of-conference, but we're already covered off there. Now worry about the rest, keeping an eye on where SU can strengthen existing recruiting ties or grow new ones. If every other school can take care of schedules (with varying ranges of difficulty) for at least two and three years out at at a time, why can't Syracuse? I don't ask for much as an Orange football fan. Can I at least have this?