The Syracuse Orange’s football schedule is an ongoing topic here, and with good reason. On top of the increasingly difficult ACC slate, the program also fails to help itself by scheduling difficult opponents in non-conference play as well.
For 2017, the narrative is no different, either. ESPN’s way-too-early top 25 features six Orange opponents:
2. Florida State Seminoles
5. Clemson Tigers
15. LSU Tigers
16. Miami Hurricanes
18. Louisville Cardinals
22. Pittsburgh Panthers
If last year’s “way-too-early rankings” right after the National Championship were any indication, there’s a 50-50 chance those teams are actually top-25 caliber. The 2016 edition pegged 13 of the 25 correctly, and swung and missed pretty hard on a bunch (TCU, Oregon, Ole Miss, UCLA).
That could happen again this year, potentially. FSU and Clemson will be around the top 10 in some form, but there’s reasons to see some flux in the other squads listed. LSU loses a bunch, including Leonard Fournette, but obviously reloads with elite talent. Miami loses Brad Kaaya, which should mean early questions for the offense. Louisville still has Lamar Jackson, but did fall apart as the year wore on. Pitt loses James Conner and Nathan Peterman.
Still, four (FSU, LSU, Miami, Louisville) of those six games are on the road, and anyone telling themselves Syracuse has a shot to knock off Clemson -- even without most of their primary offensive weapons from this year — is probably getting ahead of themselves. Pitt’s our best hope for a win in that group, and all we’ve only beaten the Panthers once in our last 11 tries.
We’ve long preached a better scheduling philosophy here, and it rings true now more than ever. The ACC just capped off perhaps its best season ever, and the Orange were barely a blip on that narrative:
The ACC finishes with the best overall nonconference record (51-17), vs. ranked opponents (7-5), vs. Power 5 (17-9), and in bowls (9-3).— George Lane (@GMLane) January 10, 2017
On top of the ranked teams above, Syracuse faces NC State (25th in the season-ending S&P+ rankings), an improved Wake Forest program, a Boston College team that won its bowl game, and a Middle Tennessee team that runs at a very similar pace to SU and won’t be intimidated by the speed Dino Babers tosses at them in the fall.
Even a better Syracuse team could be looking at seven losses or more once again.
Ending on a positive note, however, recruiting is looking positive right now and by the end of 2016, Babers thought the Orange might be ahead of schedule. He’s still eyeing games four to six as when it all clicks for the team, which could mean LSU (SU’s week four opponent), or one of the opponents directly after the trip down to Baton Rouge.
Syracuse will be improved, but also in for a challenge. If this season taught us anything, though, it’s that Babers is not one to back down from some tall odds stacked against him and his team.