Pipe down, pro-tough schedule folks. The Syracuse Orange's 10-point loss to LSU wasn't necessarily a victory for you, nor me and the rest of my pro-cupcake crowd. Rather it was one game, in a bubble, that was still a loss on paper.
Moving away from that, Syracuse still has a bunch of spaces to fill on upcoming schedules, most importantly, for 2017 through 2020. For those that need a refresher, here's what is confirmed so far:
2017: vs. Central Michigan, at LSU
2018: at Notre Dame, Connecticut
2019: Holy Cross, at Maryland
2020: at Wisconsin
So here's what we need (all home, in an ideal world we don't actually live in):
|Home G5||Home G5||Home G5||Home G5|
|FCS||FCS||Home G5||Home G5|
... That's still a lot of spots to fill. And with the Big Ten just making things up as they go in terms of who counts as a Power Five team and who doesn't, the scramble for future schedules is only going to get more and more difficult. Luckily, I spend a lot of time on this topic, and created my own scheduling grid for all 128 current FBS schools, plus UAB (back in 2017) and Coastal Carolina (Sun Belt in 2017). Newsflash: There are already a minimal number of teams left to schedule in 2017 and 2018, and the 2019-2020 "Group of Five" teams are bound to be scooped up quickly too.
If we're assuming Syracuse sticks to the grid above, and looks for Group of Five teams to fill all of the non-FCS empty spaces, the breakdown of available options is below. Keep in mind this does not take current set game dates into account, since those can be (and are) shifted rather easily.
Army, Buffalo, Coastal Carolina, UAB, Tulane. Maybe Temple* (they've typically scheduled two P5 schools and currently only have one)
That's it. Obviously, for winnability's sake, you want Coastal Carolina or UAB, since both will be on the figurative ground floor from a program talent standpoint, but will still count as FBS wins. Army is appealing since it's a New York state game that we can easily accept a road return for, and the Cadets always draw well (same as the other academies). Buffalo is also close by, but it's a no-win situation since Syracuse is supposed to beat the Bulls and if they lose, it only serves as a negative.
We've done the Tulane thing and it's best we pass (especially since we're already down at LSU that year too). Temple's a possibility, though based on the way that program's trending, probably best for us to avoid. If we're ranking things in order or preference:
1. Coastal Carolina, 2. Army, 3. Buffalo, 4. UAB... N/A on the other two.
Here are your choices. Figured it's easier to digest in grid form:
|Buffalo||Southern Miss||UL-Lafayette||Western Kentucky|
|Coastal Carolina||Temple||UL-Monroe||Western Michigan|
|San Jose State||UCF||Utah State|
Some redundancy right off the bat, which could make for easy home-and-home setups if called upon. Once again, Coastal Carolina and UAB jump out as easy options. Buffalo continues to be a viable yet pointless option. Temple, as mentioned, doesn't provide the upside we're looking for (in terms of sure win, etc).
The key names above, outside of those? UMass and Old Dominion. The Minutemen are in a tenuous spot, leaving the MAC for independence while still looking for a new league. Since that other shoe can drop whenever (plus we already play in Massachusetts every other year anyway), it may not be the best choice for SU. ODU, on the other hand, provides a nice pipeline to talent-rich Virginia and gets us in there more often than the ACC schedule's current setup does too.
Shooting holes in other options: No to the West Coast teams, and remote locales (Southern Miss, Texas State, the Louisiana schools). Due to this staff's MAC ties (and most importantly, Western Michigan ties), WMU is probably on the board whether we like it or not. And UCF is too, though that trip's looking less daunting now that the Knights seem to have fallen pretty flat this season. Once again ranking by way of preference (and in some ways, likelihood):
1. Old Dominion, 2. Coastal Carolina, 3. Buffalo, 4. UCF, 5. UMass, 6. UAB, 7. Western Michigan, 8. Ohio
Again, in grid form, since it's easier to digest:
|Air Force||Colorado State||New Mexico State||Southern Miss||UCF||Western Michigan|
|Appalachian State||Kent State||Old Dominion||Texas State||UMass|
|Buffalo||Marshall||San Diego State||Toledo||UNLV|
|Coastal Carolina||Middle Tennessee||SMU||UAB||Utah State|
Same as 2018, eliminate the Western teams (Air Force, Colorado State, New Mexico State, San Diego State UNLV, Utah State, Wyoming) because they provide little from a recruiting standpoint for us AND they create a long road trip. Then remove the remote schools in non-key recruiting areas (Marshall, Middle Tennessee, Southern Miss, Texas State, UL-Lafayette).
This time around, though, that actually leaves a nice collection of schools -- and even some new targets. On top of repeat options Buffalo, Coastal Carolina, Old Dominion Temple, UCF, UAB, UMass and Western Michigan, the state of Ohio opens up a little bit more by way of Akron, Kent State and Toledo (to go along with Ohio U.). The Rockets aren't scheduling us because of 2011's extra point fiasco. And I'm still scarred from the 2008 Akron game, but the others present some possibilities.
You've also got another North Carolina option in Appalachian State above, along with FIU to give that Florida pipeline a boost. SMU's out there if you want to go to a Texas recruiting hotbed. Once again, in order of preference (and if common sense prevails, likelihood):
1. Florida International, 2. Old Dominion, 3. Coastal Carolina, 4. Appalachian State, 5. Buffalo, 6. UMass, 7. UAB, 8. Western Michigan, 9. UCF, 10. Kent State (avoiding SMU because Chad Morris will have them playing much better by then)
*The above removes the possibility SU schedules a P5 team by the way. That list of available teams, for 2019, currently includes Alabama, Baylor, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. Let's avoid this at all costs.
Grid, for you, removing the larger glut of P5 teams that Syracuse could schedule if it wants to kill me:
|Akron||Colorado State||Kent State||SMU||UAB||UTSA|
|Appalachian State||FIU||Middle Tennessee||Southern Miss||UCF||Western Michigan|
|Bowling Green||Fresno State||Nevada||Temple||UL-Lafayette||Wyoming|
|Buffalo||Georgia Southern||Rice||Texas State||UL-Monroe|
|Central Michigan||Houston||San Diego State||Toledo||UMass|
|Coastal Carolina||Idaho||San Jose State||Tulane||Utah State|
We've already gone over why certain teams are eliminated (distance, remote-ness, recent games, too good) or preferred (recruiting, proximity), so skipping all that, the 10 teams we'd probably want to face most out of this group:
1. Florida International, 2. Coastal Carolina, 3. Appalachian State, 4. Buffalo, 5. UMass, 6. UAB, 7. Western Michigan, 8. UTSA, 9. UCF, 10. Kent State
So 2017-2020 are set now, right? You've all sent this to the power that be at Syracuse athletics and they have any number of beatable opponents on the phone right now (preferably Coastal Carolina and FIU, most importantly). Looking forward to the press release tomorrow. Thanks.