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Syracuse football’s final 2018 opponent will come from this short list

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“Another scheduling post?”

Syracuse v Cincinnati Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

We’re just dipping our toes into what the 2017 Syracuse Orange football season might bring, but we can still have an eye on 2018, too. Specifically, with regard to the schedule: we need to know who Syracuse’s final opponent will be.

SU’s only announced two so far — at Notre Dame and a home game against UConn. The third is a presumed date with Wagner (FCS) by way of a leak.

That leaves one more likely home date against a Group of Five (AAC, C-USA, MAC, MWC, Sun Belt, non-Notre Dame independents) left to schedule.

Who might that opponent be?

Utilizing the lifesaver that is FBSchedules.com, we’re able to narrow down the list to a handful of schools. There are 17 in all, sorted into categories based on their own scheduling needs in 2018:

(note, we’re talking about each in a bubble of one game, and not a home-and-home for the time being)

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Wisconsin vs Western Michigan Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Completely available

Cincinnati, Coastal Carolina, Florida International, Nevada, New Mexico State, Utah State, UTEP & Western Michigan

Each of these teams could add a road game against a Power Five opponent without any issue. Some already have one scheduled and some have none. But all could be squeezed onto the schedule without anything needing to get moved.

Ranked in order of who we’d like to play most:

  1. Coastal Carolina (new to FBS)
  2. Florida International (in Florida)
  3. Western Michigan (state we recruit in)
  4. New Mexico State (garbage)
  5. Cincinnati (challenging, but we recruit Ohio)
  6. UTEP (Texas could help recruiting?)
  7. Nevada/Utah State (zero value to these)

Any of the first four would be fine for a one-off game -- even WMU, who just played in the Cotton Bowl. The Broncos lost P.J. Fleck, and two of SU’s coaches used to be on staff there. This would seem like a likely pairing since the Central Michigan series ends this fall.

But really, CCU and FIU are what we want here. Coastal’s still in transition, while FIU never seems to have its act together. Even if we have to head down to FIU for another home game eventually, that’s fine. We don’t play in Florida in even years (FSU games are at the Carrier Dome).

Already have two Power Five opponents

It wouldn’t behoove these teams to add a third P5 opponent to the schedule, but with each already hosting one, it’s a little more feasible.

Colorado State already plays in-state rival Colorado and visits Florida (as a make-good for UF hiring Jim McElwain). They play three P5s in 2020 (Colorado, at Oregon State, at Vanderbilt), so it’s not a stretch that they’d entertain the idea.

UCF is already traveling to North Carolina and hosting Pittsburgh. If they want to just go ahead and put a rubber stamp on that ACC associate membership, adding Syracuse would do it.

Ideally, we don’t want either of these bowl-caliber teams on the 2018 slate. But if we had to pick one, CSU, being further from top-level recruiting talent, seems like the better bet.

UAB Blazers v Arkansas Razorbacks Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Already have two road games

New Mexico, Texas State, UAB & UNLV

These are all probably more challenging to schedule with due to the logistical nightmare of needing to play seven road games in a season (vs. five home games). It’s a budgetary problem to lose ticket revenue and it hurts fan support. Teams do it. But again, not preferrable for them. The payday is really the only draw.

Ranked, in order of preference:

  1. UAB (just getting back to FBS)
  2. Texas State (like UTEP, appeal to Texas recruits that run spread already?)
  3. New Mexico/UNLV (pointless)

Just one of these is really the name we want: UAB. After a couple seasons away, the Blazers are back in FBS, but won’t really have the type of roster that can compete right away.

Texas State’s stretch. And UNM and UNLV just don’t provide recruiting value at all (and they’re programs that seem to be improving quite a bit). Give me UAB, please.

Already have two road games AND two Power Five opponents

These three are pretty unlikely, but you can’t just ignore the openings on Akron, Kent State and Marshall’s respective schedules.

Either of the MAC teams would be fine from a competitive and recruiting standpoint given the effort this program has put into Ohio in the past (and the staff’s current Midwest ties). But scheduling Syracuse wouldn’t put either in a great spot to make a bowl. Chances are they wouldn’t jump at this opportunity.

Same goes for Marshall, and there’s little advantage to either scheduling the other. There are zero recruits in West Virginia. The Thundering Herd already play P5 teams in better recruiting areas: at South Carolina and NC State.

NCAA Football: Western Michigan at Akron Jason Mowry-USA TODAY Sports

So which school does Syracuse face?

The most preferable ones are largely in category A, but if some logistical hurdles are jumped, you could easily see teams like UAB, Kent State or Texas State end up on this schedule too.

Hopefully we get word soon that it’s just FIU, Coastal or WMU, so we can be done worrying (for now, until we look at the openings on the 2019 slate). But don’t be shocked if you hear one of the 17 names above announced at some point as a 2018 home opponent.

Which of these potential opponents would you prefer most?