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A way-too-early look ahead at Syracuse football’s 2018 schedule

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We don’t know the full order of things yet, but that’s fine. There are far more pressing questions anyway.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Since the Syracuse Orange have actually been locking down football opponents out enough that I don’t have to complain as much, schedule discussion has slowed around here of late. But I’m not going to let that stop me from discussing the games we do know about -- like the entirety of the 2018 schedule.

Way-too-early projections are always a flawed endeavor, but look how poorly we did picking games right before the season started this fall. So why not make some (mostly) blind guesses about what SU and their opponents will look like based on this year’s results and limited depth chart knowledge?

I know you’re all trying to bury 2017, and that’s fine. I am too — this is just how I go through that process. Let’s look at 2018’s slate below, assess some win probabilities and wonder aloud how we’re getting ourselves a sweet invite to the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl.

NCAA Football: Western Michigan at Northern Illinois Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday, September 1: at Western Michigan Broncos

WMU will be just two years removed from a trip to the Cotton Bowl, but since PJ Fleck left, the results haven’t been nearly as impressive for the Broncos. That’s not to begrudge the job former Syracuse OC Tim Lester’s done. However, Fleck’s departure also coincided with some talent leaving Kalamazoo as well. Though Western Michigan went just 6-6 this year, the offense looked good in spots and even tested USC at one point. There’s familiarity with SU here too, between Lester, Tim Daoust and former defensive tackle Steven Clark. The road game makes it a bit tougher, but I’ll take the Orange just the same.

Premature odds of victory: 75 percent

Saturday, September 8: Wagner Seahawks

Last we faced Wagner, it launched the Terrel Hunt era. This time around, we might see former Orange quarterback AJ Long again (assuming he’s still at Wagner?) and then (Note: Ends up AJ’s at West Chester now, actually) hopefully we just grab another easy FCS victory. Recent FCS kickoffs have been poorly attended. So with luck, moving it ahead a week helps get more fans in the door.

Premature odds of victory: 98 percent

Saturday, September 29: Connecticut Huskies

Randy Edsall got UConn back to a slightly more competitive place after being rehired, even if they still went just 3-9. Last time around, the Huskies gave us some problems, but we’ll assume that was due to being on the road and them having a better defense than they do right now. I was never a fan of this game because it creates a slight sense of uncertainty. Still, Syracuse should be able to beat UConn without a whole lot of difficulty.

Premature odds of victory: 80 percent

NCAA Football: Notre Dame vs Syracuse Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday, November 17: at Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Notre Dame was pretty good this year, running the ball down everyone’s throats and punishing every less physical opponent pretty badly. We’re not a physical opponent, and that’s going to present some problems against the talented Irish. Last time we went to South Bend, GERG engineered an upset. That has no bearing on this outcome, however. Late in the year, I’ll unfortunately pencil in a loss to what should be a top-10 Notre Dame squad.

Premature odds of victory: 20 percent

ACC Schedule: at Boston College Eagles

Both fan bases always tell themselves they’re the better team. Even on the road, I feel far more confident in that assumption with a healthy Eric Dungey. AJ Dillon’s a monster, however. And we didn’t even have to see Anthony Brown this year.

Premature odds of victory: 55 percent

ACC schedule: at Clemson Tigers

Two straight Clemson upsets? Unlikely, especially down at their place. Next year’s Tigers offense will probably be much better than this year’s. The defense will be just as good as always.

Premature odds of victory: 15 percent

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Florida State Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

ACC schedule: Florida State Seminoles

This year’s result was probably an anomaly, and they’ll have a healthy Deondre Francois back for next year. As long as the offensive line finds some way to improve, I’d expect FSU to be back to something resembling its former self (yes, even if Jimbo decides to go to Texas A&M).

Premature odds of victory: 25 percent

ACC schedule: Louisville Cardinals

No Lamar Jackson is certainly a good thing for us, but there are plenty of other skill players on this team, and the Cards have torched us with a backup quarterback before. I think next year’s game can be closer than recent vintages, but a lot of that could depend on what point in the schedule the matchup appears.

Premature odds of victory: 38 percent

ACC schedule: NC State Wolfpack

Dave Doeren might cash in on a decent season in Raleigh, given the fact that most of his defense graduates and they seem likely to regress a bit come 2018. Whether that happens or not, we were pretty close to State this year and I’m betting on us being able to finish the job in 2018.

Premature odds of victory: 60 percent

ACC schedule: North Carolina Tar Heels

We’re in the same football conference? Thought that was just a basketball thing. The Heels bottomed out due to injury and a lot of roster turnover this year. So UNC isn’t as bad as the 3-9 record indicates — but who knows if they’ll be anywhere close to the nine- or 10-win teams Larry Fedora had previously either. I like our odds a bit since it’s at home.

Premature odds of victory: 60 percent

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

ACC schedule: at Pittsburgh Panthers

Pitt exposed themselves to being some hot garbage this season, but not without also upsetting Miami just for the hell of it. Unless weather becomes a factor in this road game, however, I’m going with the Syracuse win.

Premature odds of victory: 65 percent

ACC schedule: at Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Dave Clawson’s built a pretty solid team down at Wake. But John Wolford’s (finally) gone next year, as are several other major contributors on both sides of the ball. This could end up being a soft reset year. Let’s hope it is, anyway, for our sake...

Premature odds of victory: 60 percent

***

Adding up those odds, we end up at 6.41 wins. Last year when we did this, we netted out around five, and finished with four. And while there are a lot of games firmly in toss-up territory, the hope is that we fail to lose ALL of those for what feels like (and probably is) the fourth straight season.

Since it’s all pretty subjective right now, feel free to tell me how dumb some of these percentages are, and why we’re going 8-4 (or 4-8 again) instead.