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Syracuse football’s non-conference schedule may soon be more manageable

At least, if John Wildhack’s to be believed.

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse Orange athletic director John Wildhack shared a bunch of interesting tidbits while chatting with Brent Axe yesterday. The biggest news was the ACC Network discussion, which we covered. But as Chris Carlson covered, Wildhack also had plenty to say around the Carrier Dome renovations, Allen Griffin and of course, FOOTBALL SCHEDULING.

Since this is first and foremost a blog about Syracuse’s football schedule, we’ll focus there. Want to read about the brief Dome updates? Head to the link above.

Wildhack seems to get the scheduling argument we’ve long made around here. He says:

“Dino and I, we're in lock step on this. You start with your conference schedule and we have eight challenging games each year. Arguably, the division we play in is the best in college football. Then you've got the crossover game. Then some years, as in 2018, you've got a ninth game against Notre Dame. I think knowing what we have in terms of quality and depth is we want to build an attractive non-conference schedule that, at the same time, frankly, we want to give our coaching staff and our team an opportunity to have success and to win games.”

This is not like the days of the old Big East. ACC Football in 2017 is night and day from where we were four or five years ago. We all need to understand that and schedule in a way that, yeah, we want to schedule good teams. We're playing high-quality, nationally-ranked teams each year. I think your non-conference needs to be reflective and take into account the annual challenges you have within the conference.”

The emphasis on that one part is mine, and with good reason.

When Syracuse was in the Big East (version 1.0), we had annual dates with Miami, Virginia Tech, Boston College, West Virginia and others. We’d add a tougher non-conference game here and there, but the program was also in better shape overall. Eight- and nine-win seasons were the rule, so we could test ourselves outside of league play without harming the program’s development.

Syracuse v Miami Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

In Big East version 2.0, things were different. There were only eight teams, so we had seven conference games (meaning one extra non-league contest to schedule). Some years (like 2006), that Big East was pretty tough. In others, it wasn’t, and the intrigue around the conference schedule waned accordingly. The Orange were also bad for much of that stretch, which also didn’t help.

Despite being bad (SU won just 41 games from 2004-2012), we annually scheduled tougher teams. The idea was to create a more appealing slate. Meanwhile, the MOST appealing slate would’ve been one that helped Syracuse win more games...

Wildhack does seem to get all of this, however. Last year’s lineup of Colgate, USF, UConn and Notre Dame wasn’t ideal. This year, Central Connecticut, Central Michigan and Middle Tennessee are all probably fine. But the trip at LSU? Why’d we have to go and schedule a loss? When was the last time the Orange could afford to lose a game during a college football season?

Reading what he’s saying, he’s on board with all of that, which is good. Now he just needs to press whoever’s in charge of scheduling (is it still Herm Frazier?) to get moving. Back in February, the options were already pretty limited for 2018, and they’ve gotten more so since.

As always, I’d love to offer my services to Syracuse here, as a way to put my money where my mouth is. Creating a manageable schedule shouldn’t be the uphill battle we’re making it. So let me in there, and I’ll have us lined up vs. the dregs of the Sun Belt and C-USA in no time.