Ed. Note - This week, TNIAAM writers are taking a stab at telling you why this football team will finish with a specific record, so don't get all huffy about this prediction. Yet.
Monday: 3-9 (Suxa)
Tuesday: 4-8 (James Szuba)
Wednesday: 5-7 (Ari Gilberg)
Thursday: 6-6 (John)
Friday: 7-5 (Sean)
". . . and the comments section burned that day. The takes -- they were destructive. Everywhere you looked there were commenters -- good, decent commenters that had families and ate balanced diets -- engulfed in suffocating rage, suffering white-hot takes from all angles. The site was never the same after that; the scars of The Great Disloyal Idiot Persecution were impossible to hide as the takes cut far too deep."
- An excerpt from my future eulogy of Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician, recalling the day that I wrote a piece that made a case for Syracuse football to go 3-9 in 2016.
STEP ONE: COUNT THE BODY BAGS
September 2, 2016: Colgate (Syracuse, NY)
Colgate's last win against Syracuse on the football field came in 1950, a 19-14 squeaker over the Orange. The Raiders put arsenic in Syracuse's water jugs that day and the result remains in dispute and tied up in the New York court system. Colgate coined the term "HOODOO" after the win, but all nonpartisan witnesses have a different term for the Raiders' nail-biting victory -- Attempted Manslaughter.
Aside: A Syracuse triumph in the opener will even its series record against Colgate to 31-31-5. What a time to be alive!
STEP TWO: COUNT THE NOPES
September 9, 2016: Louisville (Syracuse, NY)
Louisville's offense, returning Lamar Jackson, its top three backs, almost all of its receiving corps, and enough capable lineman to pull a 747 down a runway, lights up the Carrier Dome against a defense trying to adopt the Tampa-2 scheme. Returning 77% of a defense that did a good enough job in 2015, the Cardinals beat around an Orange offense that is only starting to understand Dino Babers' vision.
October 1, 2016: Notre Dame (East Rutherford, NJ)
Brian Kelly's face turns red and his head explodes. The Irish still easily cover the spread as every dope from Long Island that owns a Notre Dame t-shirt and hasn't traveled further west than the Whitestone Bridge roars in appreciation for a school that they totally could have gone to if Adelphi didn't offer them a lacrosse scholarship.
November 5, 2016: Clemson (Clemson, SC)
Deshaun Watson is a bone saw and Syracuse is strapped to an operation table without the provision of anesthesia, holding on to the grim hope that it can survive without a leg, hand, and most of its torso.
November 19, 2016: Florida State (Syracuse, NY)
Florida State is ranked third in two- and five-year recruiting rankings according to SB Nation's recruiting geniuses. While the Seminoles are inexperienced relative to Syracuse, Florida State's raw talent is enough to bag a victory in the Dome. DeMarcus Walker sacks Eric Dungey, if he isn't permanently encased in plastic wrap at this point, three times, and Dalvin Cook runs so much that he finishes with a 13.1 helmet sticker. Syracuse's front four is given medical treatment for bruised feelings.
November 26, 2016: Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA)
Pitt's offensive line mashes Syracuse's thinned defensive line into dust, nobody can get a hand on James Conner and the 75 other running backs that the Panthers have, and awful conditions at Heinz Field in front of 40 socially-awkward fans limit the power of Syracuse's offense.
STEP THREE: SIDEWAYS IN THE TOSS-UPS
This leaves six games for the Orange to collar only two wins. The issue here, when making a case for a 3-9 record, is that all of the remaining opponents -- South Florida, Connecticut, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Boston College, and North Carolina State -- are in the toss-up zone. The strongest probability is that Syracuse splits these games, but there is a non-zero probability that the Orange only goes 2-4 in these games. Looking at the preseason projections from ESPN's FPI, the Massey Ratings, and SB Nation's S&P+, there is about 25% chance that the Orange only grab two wins in this six-game subset:
The most likely scenario in this 2-4 permutation is for Syracuse to beat South Florida and Connecticut and lose the rest. The second most likely is for the Orange to beat Connecticut and Wake Forest. Let's use the latter scenario as the Huskies and Deacons have the lowest preseason blended opponent rating (even though both games are on the road).
September 17, 2016: South Florida (Syracuse, NY)
Quinton Flowers was responsible for three touchdowns against Syracuse last season, throwing for 259 yards and rushing for 55 more. Marlon Mack accounted for 184 yards on the ground and found the end zone twice in the same game. It was one of the Bulls' best three performances in 2015 and a repeat effort against Syracuse in the Dome -- even with the Orange potentially having more offensive thrust -- yields a similar marker in the loss column.
People start calling into Brent Axe's show asking whether Babers is the right guy. Bud Poliquin starts to publish reader letters that say that they're canceling the season tickets they've had in the Dome for 67 years.
September 24, 2016: Connecticut (East Hartford, CT)
Connecticut can kiss my ass. I'm kicked out of Rentschler Field for wondering aloud whether Connecticut has a grass field so that the Huskies cheerleaders can graze. Victory and the feel of wind rushing past your face as I am literally tossed out of the front gate has never been so sweet.
Also: UConn composed a percentile performance (a single game, opponent adjusted measure of a team's peformance) north of 50% only twice against opponents ranked in the top 60 in F/+ last year (South Florida and Houston). In all other games against the top 50 in F/+ (Navy, BYU, Temple, and Marshall), Connecticut's percentile performance hovered around 21%. Syracuse should sit in that top 60 tier when the Orange meet the Huskies. UConn doesn't create enough offense to substantially take advantage of a meandering Orange defense and Syracuse gets sufficient production from Dungey & Co., Ltd. through the air to dent a modest Connecticut defense that's somewhat suspect in the passing game (especially, and oddly, on passing downs).
With the road victory, and with Syracuse sitting at 2-2, people call into Brent Axe's show to ask whether it's reasonable to think that the Orange have two Heisman Trophy winners on its roster. Bud Poliquin writes a column about the glory days of shoelaces.
October 8, 2016: Wake Forest (Winston-Salem, NC)
Wake Forest can kiss my ass. The Deacons return almost as much experience as Syracuse, but the team's ability to create more offense and keep opponents off the scoreboard is outpaced by the Orange's increased competence in both areas. A home 'dog, Wake Forest's stagnant offense -- led by a guy that's putting his name in the consulting firm draft after the season -- is the right package for Syracuse's in-progress defense, while a "meh" Demon Deacons defense that struggled to stop passing attacks a year ago is ripped to shreds by a progressing offense in its sixth effort of the season.
The Orange are now at 3-3 with a half-dozen games to go and people start calling Brent Axe's show to complain about Syracuse not firing Ben Schwartzwalder in 1961 so that the school could have hired Babers on his day of birth. Bud Poliquin nicknames Babers The Whiz-Bang Kid.
October 15, 2016: Virginia Tech (Syracuse, NY)
The spiral starts: With injuries mounting and a lack of depth to support the volume of broken humans, Syracuse spits the bit as a light home favorite against a Virginia Tech team in similar circumstances as Syracuse. Bud Foster's defense eats up a Syracuse offense that freaks out under pressure and Tech squeaks out enough offense to put three scores on the board behind a strong day from Travon McMillian. It's close -- say, 21-20 -- but Syracuse suffers its first Randy Marsh-uttered "Goddammit" of the year.
With the loss, people start calling into Brent Axe's show to question Dino Babers' in-game coaching acumen and whether the Orange should have hired a rad Jack Russell Terrier riding a skateboard while wearing sunglasses as its head coach. Bud Poliquin starts nicknaming Babers The Was-Bang Kid.
October 22, 2016: Boston College (Chestnut Hill, MA)
A 12:30 ACC Network delight -- a Tour d'Turd. BC's improved and experienced, but still pretty miserable, offense hangs some scores on Syracuse's in-flux defense; the Orange's improved, but still maturing offense, pops for a few big bangers and is able to crack the Eagles' regressed, but still stout, defense. In the end, two relatively square teams -- each hovering around .500, but for vastly different reasons -- fart their way to a result decided by less than a field goal. The story of the game is Boston College's secondary having a strong day against Syracuse's receivers due to BC's front seven pressuring Dungey all game (especially Harold Landry (and his hair) and Matt Milano on the edge). The feature of the day, though, is me getting kicked off the T after the game for demanding that the line take me straight to the bottom of Boston Harbor.
Following the defeat, people start calling into the Brent Axe's show asking whether Dino Babers should be fired or melted into liquid and flushed down the toilet. Bud Poliquin writes a long column about the Papa Gino's at the Charlton service plaza on the Mass Pike.
November 12, 2016: NC State (Syracuse, NY)
Nine games has taken its toll: Injuries are testing Syracuse's roster sustainability and the learning curve that Babers has been prophesying is as steep as expected. A pretty mediocre NC State team comes into the Carrier Dome with its eyes on a sixth win and takes care of business: Syracuse can't get its running game going against a solid Wolfpack front that has grown throughout the year, causing the Orange to revert to one-dimension; NC State is powered behind Eli Drinkwitz's Gus Malzahn-inspired offense, running tempo that absolutely assaults Syracuse's questionable secondary. Ryan Finley's (assuming he's named the starter at State) ability to pick Syracuse apart wins the day in a passing showcase from both teams. A 34-30 win shuts the door on the Orange getting past the three-win barrier.
Brent Axe cancels his show and becomes a CB radio enthusiast. Bud Poliquin can't find ink ribbons for his typewriter and retires to his camp in Northern New York where he builds a life-size model of Honus Wagner out of toothpicks.
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I don't actually think that Syracuse will go 3-9. All records deserve a vigorous defense, and even though 3-9 is guilty as sin of being overly pessimistic, it gets its day in the court of blogging opinion.