Ed. Note - This week, TNIAAM writers are taking a stab at telling you why this football team will finish with a specific record.
- Monday: 3-9 (Brian Tahmosh)
- Tuesday: 4-8 (Michael Burke)
- Wednesday: 5-7 (James Szuba)
- Thursday: 6-6 (John Cassillo)
- Friday: 7-5 (Sean Keeley)
Let's get this out of the way up front before you all destroy me in the comments.
- I do not think this scenario will actually happen
- I do not HOPE this scenario happens, because it will be miserable for everyone, including me
- This is likely the worst-case scenario for SU football if everything goes wrong
Here's how it would likely transpire:
Rhode Island: The 2014 team took Villanova a little too lightly. It didn't help they lost their starting quarterback in the first half and struggled to implement a new offense with a backup signal caller. I doubt either of those things happen this time. The new offense will take a little time to get rolling, as Rhode Island jumps out to an eerie 3-0 lead, but Terrel Hunt and the offense get it together with long runs from Devante McFarlane and an Erv Philips receiving touchdown in the second quarter and never look back for the 34-10 win. (1-0, 0-0)
Wake Forest: Not to dwell on last year too much, but an undermanned Syracuse team went into Winston-Salem and pummeled the Demon Deacons 30-7 with a backup quarterback. Wake Forest lost two NFL draft picks at cornerback and goes on the road against SU's fifth-year senior under center. This time Hunt puts in work to the tune of 240 passing yards and another 65 on the ground, for three total touchdowns in the 31-17 victory that's not even as close as the score says. (2-0, 1-0)
Central Michigan: Another team SU beat the pulp out of (pun intended) on the road last season. Once again, Syracuse commits to the run and overpowers an inferior team. McFarlane breaks another 50-yard run in what's become his signature at this point in his career. George Morris and Erv Philips both get into the end zone on the ground as well. This time the margin is slightly closer than last year, 34-6, but the confidence is building in the locker room and the sky seems like the limit heading into the biggest test of the season. (3-0, 1-0)
LSU: It's amazing what confidence and a 3-0 start can do for a team. In a nearly sold-out Dome, the Orange hang with the Tigers for much longer than anyone expected. Thanks to a Rodney Williams interception on the Tigers' opening drive, and a quick-strike touchdown from Hunt to Ishmael, SU takes an early 10-0 lead in the first quarter and the Dome is rocking once again. The teams trade touchdowns a few times, but LSU takes a seven-point lead into the fourth quarter. That's when the injuries take their toll as the Orange give everything they have but backup corners and freshmen defensive linemen can't hang on and the Tigers pull away for the 41-24 victory. (3-1, 1-0)
at South Florida: Despite the bye week, the Orange look drained in the hot Florida sun in early October. Several players injured in the opening weeks of the season are still a week or two away, and a weakened Syracuse team drops a very winnable game on the road. With limited weapons on offense, Hunt tries to make more happen with his feet, and fumbles twice, giving the Bulls two easy scores in the first half. The offense picks it up in the second half, but the short-handed defensive line gets gashed as South Florida runs out the clock behind junior standout Marlon Mack, who puts up 170 yards on the ground. Several missed tackles lead to long Mack runs that break the Orange's back in the second half en route to a 34-20 loss. (3-2, 1-0)
at Virginia: While SU gets a few of its injured players back this week, a few more big names end up on the injury report and miss the trip to Charlottesville after the hot week in Tampa. Hunt looks out of sorts in a noon start against the Cavaliers and throws three first-half interceptions. Throw in a couple of fumbles in the second half by McFarlane and Morris, and the Orange literally hand the game to the Cavaliers, 27-10. (3-3, 1-1)
Pittsburgh: This was supposed to be the game the Orange used to get back on track, but once again the defense is gashed by the Pitt running game. Chris James was the star last season with 122 yards on the ground, and he combines with the team's real star running back, James Conner, for 212 yards this time. Meanwhile Chad Voytik carves up the defense with 160 yards in the air and another 75 on the ground, including a backbreaking 35-yard TD run in the 3rd quarter. The offense improves from last week, but playing from behind throughout leads to some forced throws and turnovers that they can't overcome in the 35-18 defeat. (3-4, 1-2)
at Florida State: It doesn't get any easier for Syracuse, as they head on the road to Tallahassee. Remember Everett Golson? He of the 32-of-39 passing for 362 yards and 25-straight completions last year for Notre Dame against the Orange? Yeah, he's back with Florida State and has even more weapons and faces an inferior defense. Despite starting the season behind Sean McGuire, he's firmly entrenched in the starting role by week eight, and ready to dominate SU again. This time it isn't even close, with Golson throwing for 250 yards in the first half and putting the game away early. Meanwhile, the Orange running game is nonexistent against the Seminole front, and Hunt is forced to throw far more than he should. That leads to sack after sack in the second half before he is mercifully pulled for his own safety. 45-6. Woof. (3-5, 1-3)
at Louisville: The Orange got lucky last year in facing a backup quarterback against the Cardinals in the previous meeting. This time SU faces another experienced quarterback in Will Gardner, and while it's not as bad as Florida State, Gardner tears up the Syracuse secondary once again. James Quick catches two TDs and Brandon Radcliff does what all teams seem to do now and carves up the Orange defensive front for 135 and another two scores. The silver lining is Hunt scores two rushing touchdowns and throws for a third, but it's too little, too late as Syracuse drops its sixth straight, 34-24. (3-6, 1-4)
Clemson: Now the wheels have really fallen off. Facing bowl elimination, the SU faithful are praying for a real Clemsoning, but it's just not in the cards. Hunt moves the ball well on the Clemson defense in the first half, driving the team to three red-zone opportunities. But lacking a red zone threat outside of Ishmael, the offense stalls each time and trails 13-9 at the half. Clemson opens the second half with a quick-strike three-play 75-yard drive that puts the Orange in a big hole, and Hunt follows it up with an immediate pick-6 to dash any hopes of a comeback. The boos are hard to escape as the team collapses down the stretch, 37-9. (3-7, 1-5)
at NC State: With nothing to play for, the Orange look like a team that's just playing out the string. Jacoby Brissett shows why he's one of the most underrated passers in the league, as he efficiently picks the SU defense apart, going 19-26 for 195 yards and two TDs. The Orange stay in the game throughout, never falling behind by more than 10, but they never really threaten to take the lead either. The lone bright spot is when Dontae Strickland comes in down the stretch and breaks a 55-yard touchdown run to pull the Orange within 3 with 25 seconds left, but the onside kick fails and Syracuse drops another, 24-21. (3-8, 1-6)
Boston College: In a game no one is watching, the 3-8 Orange play host to the 4-7 Eagles in a tilt that means absolutely nothing on senior day. It's ugly. Both coaches try to out-hardnose each other and run into brick walls as neither team can move the ball. Hunt breaks free for a 35-yard touchdown near the end of the first half to give SU the 7-3 lead, but Boston College answers with a kickoff return for a touchdown with just 20 seconds remaining before the break. No one scores in the second half, and these teams set the game of football back 75 years, as the Eagles prevail 10-7. (3-9, 1-7)
A lot would have to go wrong for Syracuse to fall this hard, but you have to admit it's not the craziest scenario ever. On to more positive outcomes for the rest of the week!