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Syracuse football: Fox’s Stewart Mandel picks Orange at 3-9

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We debate the merits of a low-ball prediction.

NCAA Football: Boston College at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

By now it’s probably expected that most outlets will be low on the Syracuse Orange once again this season. They’re optimistic for the future this time around, mind you. But at least in the present, still skeptical of what this team can do (especially give the schedule its up against).

Earlier this week, ESPN’s ACC blog pegged SU last in its initial power rankings. Today, Fox Sports’ Stewart Mandel picked the Orange to go 3-9, tied with Virginia for worst mark in the conference.

He has every right to given what we know about this team and its upcoming slate. Yes, Mandel was pretty low on Syracuse last year as well, but that rock bottom prediction has no impact on this one. We all have faith in Dino Babers’s system working and SU getting better. Mandel does too, as he indicates in the article:

“Dino Babers will eventually score points and win games with his Baylor-style offense but doesn’t yet have the necessary personnel.”

We can quibble about the reasoning for a low prediction. I’d disagree with Mandel that the losses will come because of personnel on offense. Defensive struggles and the schedule both seem like more likely than that. He walked into teams at Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green, and had both scoring points right away, with the previous regime’s personnel. He’ll be able to do it here too.

But overall, it’s just not worth getting riled up about the results of perception issues. Perception changes quickly once it has reason to. So the simple solution for Syracuse if they want to end the parade of low-ball picks from experts: just win. We’ve covered before, and it’s as true now as it was all of those times we’ve mentioned.

If you’re going to get riled up about anything here, maybe it’s worth wondering aloud about his overall ACC projections, however. Mandel picks four teams (Syracuse, NC State, Wake Forest, Boston College) in the Atlantic to finish under .500, plus two more (Virginia, Virginia Tech) in the Coastal -- meaning half of the league isn’t going bowling. Further, Miami, Georgia Tech and Duke are all pegged to finish with six or seven wins.

It’s certainly possible this could happen, sure. But probable? Hardly. The ACC’s been improving greatly as a conference of late, even more so with an offseason of strong coaching hires this past winter. For half of the league’s teams to have disappointing seasons, something(s) need to fall off a cliff in 2016. With some easier non-conference schedules by the likes of Boston College and Wake, at the very least, you’d think the ACC is closer to nine or 10 teams bowling.

Additionally, while there’s a clear top tier in the ACC, I’m not so sure it’s as black and white as Florida State, Clemson, Louisville, North Carolina and Pitt all being nine- or 10-win teams, while everyone else languishes in mediocrity. The Coastal has been a free-for-all for a few years, which should mean everyone takes a few lumps (and grabs a few wins in the process, too).

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Again, cry and moan here in the comments about Syracuse’s projected record if you’d like. But it’s not worth yelling at Mandel (or anyone else) for seeing the Orange as a bottom-dweller until they prove otherwise. That said, if you want to raise some issue with the overall low outlook on the ACC, I won’t blame you for doing so — nor will several other conference fan bases.