Just seconds after Alabama's victory over the perpetually-disrespected Clemson Tigers last night, college football pundits were already tossing out their "way too early" top 25 polls for the 2016 season.
ESPN's was up before I even reached the parking lot leaving University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. yesterday evening. Fox Sports, CBS Sports and USA Today (among many others) would also follow suit in the late hours of the night. The one common theme?
The Syracuse Orange are facing four ranked teams (as of these very early writings) in 2016.
All four polls give Clemson the nod at number one, while the spots for the other three opponents vary. Florida State is ranked anywhere from second overall to 12th, though three of the four cited above have them among the top six. Notre Dame comes in as a top 10 team in all but one poll (Fox's), where they're 16th. And Louisville comes in at 23rd or 24th in all four.
Yes, polls can be dumb -- especially this early (we're over 230 days from the first game). But they do possess some glimmers of truth. Here, it's the fact that Syracuse seems likely to lose at least four games (these four) this fall.
Again: WHY WOULD YOU SCHEDULE TOUGHER RIGHT NOW?
Look at the rest of the teams on those lists. You're seeing ACC squads starting to creep up. And not just any ACC squads... it's the rotating crossovers coming up on the next few future schedules. No Virginia Tech in the polls, which is a relief for the time being (though I'll go on the record early that the Hokies will be a top-25 caliber squad under new coach Justin Fuente). But the next two Coastal foes, North Carolina and Miami, both come up in these rankings multiple times.
So with a nearly-guaranteed four ranked teams on the slate (Florida State, Clemson and Louisville, plus rotating fourth opponent), things are only getting harder outside of Central New York. The Orange can get better, of course. And should, under Dino Babers. But these baseline schedules already make it tough... and that's before adding another tough team to the mix like LSU or Wisconsin.
If Syracuse starts appearing on these "way too early" lists, then obviously the conversation's different. Until then, this does paint a rough road ahead for SU as they try to march back toward success once again.