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Syracuse Football: What's the Orange's Ideal 2016 Schedule Look Like?

Today's the day. What's an ideal schedule look like.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, the ACC announced that the full 2016 football schedule would be announced today, January 26 at 3 p.m. ET. Those of us on the West Coast much appreciate a shift from last year's 10 a.m. ET release, so thanks for that, ACC.

The Syracuse Orange already know all 12 opponents for 2016, but we only have dates locked in for the non-conference opponents. A refresher on the information we've been given to this point:

Saturday, Sept. 3: Colgate Raiders

Saturday, Sept. 17: USF Bulls

Saturday, Sept. 24: at UConn Huskies

Saturday, Oct. 1: Notre Dame Fighting Irish (at MetLife Stadium)

TBD Home: Florida State, Louisville, NC State, Virginia Tech

TBD Away: Boston College, Clemson, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest

Bright side: At least three of the first five games will be at "home" (including the Notre Dame matchup). And two of SU's easier opponents (Boston College, Wake Forest) are road games -- which you can try to skew positively if you so choose. Negatively, see the previous point, plus three of the team's most difficult opponents (Florida State, Louisville, Virginia Tech) all come to the Dome. The Orange are also visiting its most enigmatic opponent, UConn, which should provide some extra questions and uncertainty.

With all of that in mind, though, what would Syracuse's IDEAL schedule look like this season? We can't switch out opponents at all, so which weekends are the ones we'd really prefer? Note that we have to function within our confirmed reality, so need to rely on others' open dates too.

Saturday, Sept. 3: Colgate

Locked in. Let's kill off hoodoo again.

Saturday, Sept. 10: at Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Syracuse hasn't lost to Wake since joining the ACC (and not since 2006, overall). Despite the Orange's struggles in recent seasons, the Deacs have been the only team they can consistently beat -- and they're also the only school on our schedule that left this date open. We're focused on "ideal" here. Because if not for Wake in week two again (we did the same thing last year), we're getting a week two bye. Just like we did in 2014. Which sucked.

Saturday, Sept. 17: USF Bulls

Locked. Last year's date with USF was not fun. Perhaps this one, at home, improves.

Saturday, Sept. 24: at UConn Huskies

This one could get... interesting. If Syracuse is already up to speed on offense, it'll be a real clash of styles between SU's speed and the Huskies' defense-focused, slugfest approach.

Saturday, Oct.1: Notre Dame Fighting Irish (MetLife Stadium)

The last locked date, but the toughest opponent to-date too. ND is very likely to outdraw Syracuse at "home" again, plus they'll probably be a top-five squad. Lame.

Saturday, Oct. 8: Bye Week

Necessary, regardless of the outcome of the first five weeks. Especially following the Irish, it's for the best that the team gets to regroup here at about the mid-way point.

Saturday, Oct. 15: Louisville Cardinals

The Cards have two locked November dates (like others on the SU schedule do too), meaning they're a prime candidate here. The Orange wouldn't have played in the Dome in a month too, which makes a true home game the best option.

Saturday, Oct. 22 : at Pittsburgh Panthers

This is part how the schedule makes sense to fall, and part giving Syracuse a "break" before what promises to be a rough stretch to end it. Pitt's good, and a "rival" of sorts, so you can only get so much of a respite. But when you see a lot of the other names below, you'll be glad this Panthers game interfered.

Saturday, Oct. 29: Virginia Tech Hokies

We had to schedule the Hokies eventually, and... this seemed like the least painful time to do so based on our options. Tech has a new coaching staff, which would have been more helpful to us earlier in the season (potentially). But that defense could also harm a young Syracuse offense's confidence. At least by late October, with a new staff on each sideline, the war-up stage is over with (for us and them).

Saturday, Nov. 5: at Clemson Tigers

Sorry. It was either here or after games against Notre Dame and Louisville, respectively (or later, which would've also been unfortunate). This will be skewed as #disrespeckful in any case.

Saturday, Nov. 12: NC State Wolfpack

State should be in their usual seven-win wheelhouse, so they're neither classified as a "tough" opponent or an "easy" one, either. But your choices were switch them and Virginia Tech's dates. setting up a brutal Clemson-Tech-FSU stretch. Or flip them and FSU, which just seemed boring since we just did the NCSU-BC thing to close 2015. Still wouldn't put it past the ACC, however.

Saturday, Nov. 19: Florida State Seminoles

You look at the schedule above, and where can you really slot the 'Noles in without making it difficult for SU? Too early and it stacks the deck against them. Too late, and it could potentially be the road block that keeps them from six wins (we can dream).

Saturday, Nov. 26: at Boston College Eagles

This one's locked, for all intents and purposes. Things were rough for the Eagles last season, but that's no guarantee it continues in that direction. But it also COULD continue trending downward for BC, which could be advantageous for a Syracuse team either looking for a bowl bid or just looking to end the season on a high note.


So, there you have it. Not the guaranteed schedule by any means, but a good look at a best-case scenario for Syracuse. And by best... we mean not worst. Because as mentioned before, this was going to be a very difficult 2016 season, no matter who was coaching the team. No matter where the games fall, six wins are out there. It's just going to take some creativity to find them.