Ed. Note - This week TNIAAM writers are taking a stab at telling you at 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 Casillo)
- Friday: 7-5 (Sean Keeley)
Despite all the gloom and doom you've seen around the web and on newstands, the Syracuse Orange CAN go 6-6 and make a bowl this season. And it wouldn't even take a stretch of the imagination. With Terrel Hunt healthy once again, the offense possessing a clear definition for once, and a coaching staff looking to make a good first impression on a new athletic director, the pieces are there.
Now let me, your unlikeliest of heroes, show you exactly how that transpires:
Rhode Island Rams: At home against an FCS squad for the second straight opener, the Orange have learned their lesson from last year. They won't be looking past the Rams. Despite a new offensive attack, SU looks surprisingly in-sync, jumping out to a 27-0 lead in the first half and never looking back. URI's able to get on the board late, but it's far from enough as SU rolls by a final score of 40-7. John enjoys watching the game a second time, even if inconveniently from a laptop. W (1-0, 0-0)
Wake Forest Demon Deacons: After a Syracuse team with its backup QB beat Wake Forest by 23 in 2014, why would this year be any different, especially when the Deacs lost their two best players to the NFL Draft? The Deacons are still plenty tough on defense, but the offense continues to struggle amid a constant blitz from the Orange. They're in the game for a half, but Syracuse still pulls away by the fourth quarter to secure a 24-10 victory, featuring (encouragingly) a lot of mistake-free play. W (2-0, 1-0)
Central Michigan Chippewas: The Orange, with a head of steam building, start to look past CMU a bit. But not enough to put the outcome of this one in any real doubt. With SU's foot off the gas in the second half, the Chippewas tack on a few points. But the defense helps close out the team's third straight victory, a 30-10 triumph that could've been a whole lot more lopsided (something Scott Shafer takes the team to task on after the game). W (3-0, 1-0)
LSU Tigers: Dammit. Some of the previous week's lapses carry over... against a ranked LSU squad that won't let the Orange get away with it at all. Syracuse stays within a touchdown a little past halftime, but that's when the Tigers' secondary takes over and picks off Hunt three times in the final 30 minutes. It's a tough pill to swallow for this 'Cuse squad that was gaining confidence earlier in the season. But LSU was the better team and it showed in the final score, a 33-13 loss that featured four Orange turnovers. John sobs on the second watch, begging to go back to better times. L (3-1, 1-0)
at USF Bulls: After a week off, Syracuse appears recharged to do battle with the Florida heat and the Bulls too, forcing a young USF squad into mistakes and frantic play during a chaotic first half. USF comes back in the second a little bit, but the onus is put on SU's running backs to deliver the game, and they do. The Orange force three turnovers and control the ball for 40 minutes in the encouraging 31-17 victory. W (4-1, 1-0)
at Virginia: Perhaps at the start of the season, this one goes in the Hoos' favor. But after dates with UCLA, Notre Dame, Boise State and Pitt, respectively, Virginia's already too banged up to give this one their best fight. The defense is still solid, mind you, and safety Quin Blanding does stifle the Orange passing attack. It's just that the offense simply can't get things rolling and ultimately hurts itself even more than SU does. The Orange walk away with an ugly 17-10 victory on the road, and are now just one win away from bowl eligibility (and even receive some votes in the polls). W (5-1, 2-0)
Pittsburgh Panthers: With a frenzied (for Syracuse) crowd on hand, there's a buzz around the matchup between long-time opponents Pitt and SU. But like these games have gone so many times recently (10 of the last 11...), the Panthers do find a way to come out on top. James Conner is unleashed with reckless abandon against the young Orange line, and when 'Cuse finally adjusts, Tyler Boyd simply shreds them on the outside. Syracuse gets themselves on the board a few times. It's just not enough against PItt's two stars in this 30-21 defeat. L (5-2, 2-1)
at Florida State Seminoles: Already beaten up a little from the Pitt game, Syracuse isn't really at 100-percent for its matchup with Florida State down in Tallahassee. The 'Noles couldn't care less. Everett Golson exposes the Orange secondary for the second straight season, this time without the accompanying turnovers, and FSU pulls off yet another win over Syracuse. The 45-16 mark is painful for fans and players to digest after a season full of feelings around a "comeback." John's getting that sinking feeling while re-watching these games again. L (5-3, 2-2)
at Louisville Cardinals: The last time Syracuse visited a ranked Louisville squad, they left with a stunning 38-35 upset (over a Cards team that would end up finishing 7-6). Unfortunately for SU, this would not go the same way for them. Similar to LSU, Virginia and Pitt, 'Ville was able to get after Hunt and rattle a tired O-line. When the Orange leaned on the run, the front-seven seemed to have an answer everywhere. The Cardinals offense isn't stellar, but that's more than enough in a 20-10 slugfest that witnesses would rather avoid seeing again. L (5-4, 2-3)
Clemson Tigers: A healthy Deshaun Watson was all Clemson needs to run through Syracuse just like it did back in 2013. While the Tigers' defense certainly takes a step back from last season, the offense returns to its former efficiency in a torrid 45-27 victory that looks closer than it actually is. Watson, here a Heisman Trophy candidate, throws for 320 yards and runs for another 60 (plus five total scores) as Clemson marches forward toward bigger and better things. Obligatory. L (5-5, 2-4)
at NC State Wolfpack: Crisis mode has set in for Syracuse as the season appears to be hanging in the balance. But after a slew of difficult games from late-October on, the Orange have a difficult time really getting things going against NC State. The teams go back and forth just as they did in 2014, and it's still a tie game in the fourth. However, a costly mistake bites SU for the second straight season and the Pack reap the reward: a 23-20 victory. The Orange are on the brink. "Why do I do this to myself?" - John, both in-person at the game and later on at home, while watching again. L (5-6, 2-5)
Boston College Eagles: With more than just the #OrangeEagle on the line for the second time in three seasons, Syracuse answers the bell in resounding fashion. Boston College, playing out the string of a four-win campaign, just can't seem to get up for the rivalry game and the Orange take advantage early. They don't make it easy with a third quarter to forget. But ultimately, Hunt finds a way to seal the deal for SU by a score of 26-19, getting them back to the postseason in his final home game. "THIS IS THE ONLY REASON I PAID EXTRA FOR NESN, EAT IT BAWSTAN CAWLEGGE!!!!" - John, twice, much to his neighbors' dismay. W (6-6, 3-5)
Crisis barely averted above, but enough so that the team goes on to beat Houston in Birmingham, Ala. and secure its fourth winning record in six years (a fact no one cares about but this community). Scott Shafer and staff are back for 2016 and with a top-45 recruiting class ready to sign come February, there's a renewed hope for the future.
... Seem far-fetched? Not good enough? Just right for your living-on-the-edge Orange sensibilities? Share your thoughts in the comments below.