The Syracuse Orange football team will be up against one of the toughest schedules in the nation this fall -- a fact that's bolstered by the appearance of four ranked teams in ESPN's latest way-too-early Top 25.
Those teams, as you probably assumed: Clemson (No. 2), Florida State (No. 4), Notre Dame (No. 9) and Louisville (No. 25). Syracuse is one of just two teams in the nation slated to face that many teams in the current projected top 10. Fellow Atlantic Division foe NC State is the other, against the same list of three squads.
On the bright side, none of these listed games are against non-conference teams (Notre Dame's appearance is part of a scheduling agreement with the ACC, even though the matchup was scheduled before that agreement). Syracuse's positioning would be much worse next year, should all of these teams stay similarly strong. Miami (No. 24) and LSU (No. 6) would be added, while Notre Dame would be subtracted. Still, that would make three of the country's top six.
Contrary to outside beliefs, the ACC is getting much better as a group, even if it's still very top-heavy with FSU and Clemson. With the hire of Dino Babers, Syracuse is in prime position to be part of that tide to lift all boats in the conference, even if it's still a step below the league's elite programs.