We still have roughly a month until Syracuse kicks off its 2015 season by welcoming Rhode Island to the Carrier Dome. But screw waiting, let's find out right now how the Orange will fare this season.
To do that, we turn to NCAA Football 2014 -- the latest and final installation in the NCAA Football series. I spent some time yesterday using the game to simulate through SU's entire 2015 season. Before we begin, let's cover a few things:
- NCAA '14 was made in 2013, so as you can imagine, the rosters were outdated. Fortunately, I found a roster update for the 2015 season. Thank you, Internet.
- As our friends at Good Bull Hunting found out, you can't edit conference schedules in the game's Dynasty mode. So before I began my dynasty, I broke up the ACC and made Syracuse and its eight conference opponents independents. I did the same with Central Michigan, USF and LSU.
- There are no FCS schools in NCAA '14. There are only teams called things like "FCS East," "FCS Southwest" and "FCS West." So instead of playing Rhode Island, I had Syracuse open the season with FCS East.
Week 1: Syracuse 44, FCS East 28
This one wasn't quite as scary as SU's double overtime affair with Villanova last August, but it also wasn't a cakewalk. The "Howlers" jumped out to an early 7-0 lead and led 21-17 with under a minute remaining in the first half. But beginning with a 56-yard touchdown run by Terrel Hunt just before halftime, the Orange strung together 20 unanswered points to pull away.
Stat of the game: In stark contrast to what we saw all of last season, Syracuse was solid in the red zone, scoring four touchdowns in six trips.
Player of the game: Josh Parris. The tight end had four receptions for 110 yards, 63 more than Syracuse's second-leading receiver. In real life, Parris has only 139 receiving yards in his career. Glad we're off to a realistic start!
Syracuse's win-loss record: 1-0 (0-0 ACC)
Week 2: Syracuse 35, Wake Forest 14
For a second consecutive week, Syracuse started slowly. The Orange actually trailed at the half, 14-13, before ripping off 22 unanswered points in the third and fourth quarters. Ervin Philips iced the game with a 28-yard touchdown reception on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Stat of the game: SU held Wake to just 3-of-14 on third down.
Player of the game: Parris Bennett, who registered two sacks and three tackles for loss.
Syracuse's win-loss record: 2-0 (1-0)
Week 3: Syracuse 28, Central Michigan 25
It wasn't pretty, but Syracuse improved to 3-0 -- something Orange fans would gladly accept in any fashion they can get it. With SU leading 21-18 late in the third quarter, Devante McFarlane galloped away for an 81-yard touchdown run, putting his team ahead by two scores. That was enough for Syracuse.
Stat of the game: Syracuse wasn't just good in the red zone, it was perfect. The Orange had three trips and scored a touchdown on each. If any of those drives ends in a field goal, Central Michigan wins.
Player of the game: Devante McFarlane. He finished with 150 yards rushing, most of which came on his 81-yard score. And he still averaged more than five yards per carry on his other 13 attempts.
Syracuse record: 3-0 (1-0)
Week 4: LSU 20, Syracuse 17
That isn't a typo. NCAA '14 thinks the 2015 Syracuse Orange can stay within three points of the 2015 LSU Tigers. SEE, JOHN, CLEARLY IT MADE SENSE TO SCHEDULE THIS HOME-AND-HOME!
Anyway, as you can see above, this one was tied after three quarters. But six minutes into the fourth quarter, the Tigers opened up a 20-10 lead. With just under two minutes to play, Hunt tossed a 21-yard touchdown pass to Brisly Estime, but that wasn't enough.
Stat of the game: Syracuse committed zero turnovers, something Scott Shafer's crew should try its very best to replicate in real life. If it does, an upset would become a little less unlikely.
Player of the game: Terrel Hunt. The quarterback threw for 179 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for a team-high 77 yards.
Syracuse's win-loss record: 3-1 (1-0)
Week 6: Syracuse 31, USF 10
This game marked the closest Syracuse would come all season to a wire-to-wire victory. After a scoreless first quarter, the Orange jumped out to a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter and didn't look back.
Stat of the game: Syracuse registered six sacks and 14 tackles for loss.
Player of the game: Ron Thompson. Of those six sacks, he had three, and of those 14 tackles for loss, he had six.
Syracuse's win-loss record: 4-1 (1-0)
Week 8*: Virginia 33, Syracuse 30
*To have SU face all of its 2015 opponents in the correct order, I had to schedule in some bye weeks that the team doesn't actually have. I hope you'll forgive me.
Syracuse had a nice second half comeback to force overtime, but it also left several points on the board. SU saw two red-zone drives in the game's final six minutes end in only field goals. And in overtime, Virginia kicker Ian Frye knocked home a 43-yard field goal to give the Orange its first loss in conference play.
Stat of the game: Virginia was 3-of-3 on fourth-down conversions.
Player of the game: Ian Frye. He connected on all four of his field goal attempts, the last of which was the game-winner.
Syracuse's win-loss record: 4-2 (1-1)
Week 9: Syracuse 31, Pittsburgh 25
Syracuse, though it failed to ever really pull away, led almost the whole way in this one. AJ Long saw his first action of the season and took advantage, delivering a 75-yard touchdown pass to Estime in the third quarter.
Stat of the game: Syracuse came out on top despite committing 12 penalties for 161 yards.
Player of the game: James Conner. He stood out even in a loss, rushing for 89 yards and a touchdown on only 14 carries.
Syracuse's win-loss record: 5-2 (2-1)
Week 11: Florida State 37, Syracuse 7
37-7? That's not too bad.
Stat of the game: Syracuse committed four turnovers, three of which were interceptions thrown by Hunt.
Player of the game: Dalvin Cook, who finished with two rushing touchdowns and 106 combined rushing and receiving yards.
Syracuse's win-loss record: 5-3 (2-2)
Week 12: Louisville 35, Syracuse 16
As expected, Syracuse suffered another blowout loss in the midst of the gauntlet of its schedule.
Stat of the game: The Orange finished with just 94 total passing yards.
Player of the game: L.J. Scott. Scott ran for 154 yards and two scores.
Syracuse's win-loss record: 5-4 (2-3)
Week 13: Syracuse 35, Clemson 13
First thought: HAHAHAHAHA WHAT?!?!?!?!?
Second thought: This would be SO Clemson. The Tigers entered the game ranked No. 7 in the country with an outside chance at winning a national championship. And then they promptly fell on their faces.
With the dominant win, Syracuse secured itself bowl eligibility. But don't get too excited, because Hunt suffered a high ankle sprain, which would result in him missing the final two regular season games.
Stat of the game: SU ran the ball 53 times for 234 yards, a season-high.
Player of the game: Devante McFarlane. He ran for 110 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.
Syracuse's record: 6-4 (3-3)
Week 14: NC State 31, Syracuse 21
Syracuse fell behind early but rallied in the second half to tie the score at 21. It stayed that way for much of the fourth quarter, until NC State scored 10 points in a 49-second span late in the quarter.
Stat of the game: SU turned the ball over three times, while the Wolfpack didn't turn the ball over even once.
Player of the game: Jacoby Brissett was pretty flawless. He threw for 208 yards, tossing three touchdowns to go along with 64 yards rushing.
Syracuse's win-loss record: 6-5 (3-4)
Week 15: Boston College 31, Syracuse 9
Let's just hope this doesn't count toward the Orange Eagle Trophy.
Stat of the game: The Orange had four red-zone trips and scored touchdowns on none. That's the Syracuse we know!
Player of the game: Jon Hilliman ran for a game-high 148 yards.
Syracuse's record: 6-6 (3-5)
Despite finishing 6-6 and, obviously, being bowl eligible, Syracuse wasn't invited to play in a bowl, which was pretty anticlimactic. Oh well. I'll leave you with some of the team's statistical leaders for the season: