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Syracuse Football: How Scheduling Could've Altered the Last Decade for the Orange

Remember those 2012 Orange Bowl champs? Me neither. That sucks.

Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Back on Monday, we took a look at one way Syracuse football could get back to some sort of prominence: by emulating the ways of the Baylor Bears. Some of the details are admittedly hard to replicate (like being in Texas, most notably), but one particular one was pretty clear (and attainable):


Monday's post focused in on what the Bears did right, while touching briefly on what we could do better to produce similar success. Unfortunately, the comments berthed a brutal line of thinking that informed us just how different Syracuse football's outlook would be with just a few scheduling tweaks per season. We expand, while you scream "NOOOO" over and over...


These teams weren't making bowl games because GERG. Not even worth diving in, since any result that yielded a winning season could mean an extension and your worst nightmares coming true.


In real life, Doug Marrone's first season resulted in a more competitive product and a promising 4-8 finish -- all this despite a former Duke guard (Greg Paulus) at the quarterback position and three Big Ten teams to start the schedule. But, if we used common sense and subbed those three B1G squads for some cupcakes... the Orange finish Saint Doug's first year at 6-6 and get an invite to the International Bowl. They face Western Michigan, which featured a TON of familiar faces for Orange fans, winning a close one to go 7-6 on the year. Instead of the real-life moral victory, we'll take the actual victories of this fictional campaign, thanks.


In real-life, Syracuse played "7-5 or bust" by scheduling two FCS squads in 2010, but pulled it off and still won eight games and a Pinstripe Bowl. But that was with a road game at Washington and a home game vs. Boston College to close things out. You don't schedule two FCS teams unless you're positive you have enough wins on the schedule to get to seven without issue. So, by removing UW and BC, and replacing them for lesser squads, it's reasonable to think that the 2010 group ACTUALLY goes 10-3, including a win in the Florida Citrus Bowl. This Orange team would have the Big East's best overall record, but a head-to-head loss to UConn eliminates them from contending for the conference crown. Still, several weeks as a ranked program, 10 wins and a second straight bowl victory will suffice.


USC was the only tough team on the non-conference slate, but replacing them turns this season around from 5-7 to 6-6 and yet another bowl game under Marrone. The Orange get their first Pinstripe Bowl bid in this reality, and their first win too -- a strong romp over an underwhelming Iowa State squad. The season will still reek of what could've been following that West Virginia demolition derby and a top-25 ranking (which would've been the case here as SU would've been 6-1 afterward). But at least it ended in the postseason instead of at home.


The best Syracuse team in a decade suffers from a tough schedule and a new offense in real-life, but here, Ryan Nassib & Co. catch on early and never take their feet off the gas. Subbing tough games like USC, Northwestern and Minnesota for mid-major scrubs means the Orange finish the regular season at 10-2, winning the Big East title (as they actually did) and grabbing the conference's Orange Bowl berth over Louisville. SU spends the majority of the year hanging around the top 20, and an Orange Bowl victory -- its first BCS win since the 1993 Fiesta Bowl (which was not a BCS game at the time) -- lands them just outside the top-10 to end the season. Doug's 11-2 mark is a phenomenal way to cap off his four-year tenure, and he's hailed as a hero when he leaves for the NFL.


Switch out Penn State and Northwestern to start the year and a 6-6 regular season turns into 8-4 without much effort. The Orange start off their ACC tenure with a bang, and get themselves to the Music City Bowl, where they grab win no. 9. No, it's not the 2012 season, but it doesn't have to be. Syracuse had already shown themselves well-deserving of the ACC call-up after four straight winning seasons, and this just solidifies things even further. SU is a force to be reckoned with in the Atlantic going forward, and a rising program nationally.


Early games against tough opponents like Notre Dame and Maryland leave the real-life Orange battered and bruised after the season's first month. But in the alt-timeline, the team's 4-0 going into October and knocking on the door of the top 25 yet again. Assuming nothing else changes but those two games, Syracuse ultimately falls to 5-7, but that would be its first season without a bowl game since 2008 (!!!) Instead of a fan base in crisis mode, it's one that's somber but hopeful about the ability to rebound next year.


See?! That's it. That's all it would've taken to reestablish Syracuse football in the national consciousness. No, we're not going undefeated every year. But we matter in this alternate reality, all by scheduling some crappier teams and racking up wins instead of #BRAND points. And that's before we even consider that the uptick in wins would've resulted in better recruiting over this timeframe too. It's simple and it's worked elsewhere. And based on the above, it's pretty clear it would've worked here too. A summary of the results (vs. actual) below for you to get one more good cry in...

2014: 5-7 (No Postseason) | 3-9 (No Postseason)

2013: 9-4 (Music City Bowl) | 7-6 (Texas Bowl)

2012: 11-2 (Orange Bowl); Top 25 team | 8-5 (Pinstripe Bowl)

2011: 6-7 (Pinstripe Bowl) | 5-7 (No Postseason)

2010: 10-3 (Florida Citrus Bowl); Top 25 Team | 8-5 (Pinstripe Bowl)

2009: 7-6 (International Bowl) | 4-8 (No Postseason)