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Syracuse football faces nation’s toughest schedule in 2017


NCAA Football: Syracuse at Clemson Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, we tried to project early wins and losses for Syracuse Orange football based on the 2017 schedule release. We came in at around five, which makes sense given the difficulty of the schedule.

While we’d belabored the fact that SU faces Clemson, Florida State, Louisville, LSU and Miami (among others), we’d yet to really put some numbers to just how tough that slate is. “Lucky” us, someone else did.


Now granted, four of the five games listed above are part of the ACC schedule anyway, so we’d play them no matter what. But the fact that one of them — LSU — is not an ACC opponent is the point we (I) have been making for years now.

The ACC schedule is already tough enough that we’re looking at annual games against the best of college football every year. Plenty of teams make bowl games against tough schedules, but a lot of those are teams that have the talent to compete against tough schedules.

At this juncture, that’s not Syracuse.

That’s no knock on the job Dino Babers is doing, or the progress of the program’s rebuild. We see the pieces in place for improvement, and the team will look better in 2017 than it did in 2016.

But this schedule won’t allow us to see those results mean as much as they could. And that’s the problem.

Join me in the Wayback Machine to 2010, the year of our Lord, Saint Douglas Marrone.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl - Kansas State v Syracuse Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Marrone had just taken over the SU job a year before, and though he’d definitely improved the team in that first season, it was tough to see due to the difficult schedule laid out for him. So in 2010, the Orange took things easier than they had in some time: Akron, Maine and Colgate were all on the slate. BUT SU still had to play Boston College and Washington in non-conference play.

They may have lost to the Eagles and Huskies, but they beat the other three, and after a serviceable run through the Big East schedule, they finished the regular season at 7-5, then 8-5 after a bowl win over Kansas State.

That team wasn’t as talented as most eight-win teams, yet no one cares about that fact. They (fans, players, recruits, media) care that they won eight games. Because in college football, perception is always reality.

Dino Babers can continue to improve recruiting and on-field quality, but if SU is still struggling to get to six wins, then perception is he’s not doing well. We know otherwise, of course, but it doesn’t change the fact that the Orange still wouldn’t be going to bowl games or improving in the wins column.

So for the last time, stop scheduling these bodybag games where we serve as the body.

The USC series, pre-ACC Notre Dame, Washington, LSU, the upcoming Wisconsin series — all of these were put together specifically to put Syracuse on national TV. To lose, which they did every single time. Who is this helping?

The goal of college football is to avoid losing. We’ve never received the memo, obviously, since Syracuse has been scheduling losses for well over a decade. Sure, if you’re a College Football Playoff contender, there’s a reason to challenge yourself outside of league play. Looking at the top teams from Smith’s list above, Florida State should stand to gain something from playing a tougher slate when they obviously have title aspirations.

Syracuse is not a playoff contender. And we’re not going to be if we don’t start scheduling in a way to help create tangible results in the form of wins.

The fans of this program need it. The players need it. And Dino Babers needs this too. He’s a good coach, with a good system and a real path forward for this program to find success once again.

He can find it if SU lets him. They just need to stop forcing him to take such a difficult road to get there. We may be scheduled with Power 5 opponents through 2021 already, but with so many gaps left on the Orange’s upcoming schedules, there are plenty of chances to line up three easy wins to balance the LSUs and Wisconsins.