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Just how tough is Syracuse football’s 2017 non-conference schedule?

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One outlet doesn’t think it’s difficult at all...

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

You know the Syracuse Orange’s upcoming football schedule is pretty difficult. But there’s certainly some weight attached to the ACC part of the schedule when making that argument. In league play, SU visits NC State, Louisville, Florida State and Miami, while also hosting Clemson and Pitt. It’s a gauntlet, to say the least.

The non-conference schedule does the Orange no favors either, however, with a road trip to LSU. That would automatically make SU’s non-conference slate detrimental to starting 4-0, before you even consider Central Michigan and Middle Tennessee being pretty pesky opponents as well.

Athlon Sports doesn’t seem to agree.

When ranking the difficulty of the ACC’s non-conference schedules today, Athlon put Syracuse dead-last. The reasoning:

“You have to praise Syracuse for traveling to Death Valley, but the other three games are so underwhelming that the LSU trip just isn’t enough to push the Orange out of the bottom spot here.”

A quick glance at Bill Connelly’s S&P+ projections show LSU all the way up at No. 4, while Middle Tennessee is 89th and Central Michigan is 97th. CMU replaces a bunch this year, so may be down compared to previous seasons. But the Blue Raiders have one of the sport’s top passers in Brent Stockstill.

Sure, both games are at home, but neither’s really a gimme, especially when considering Syracuse’s defense.

LSU on the road is also a scheduled loss, more or less. Not a whole lot of other ACC teams doing that.

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

When you look at the rest of the teams ahead of us (all of them), it’s tough to see the logic here. Louisville’s only non true non-conference road game is at in-state rival Kentucky. Their Indianapolis contest vs. Purdue will probably be a partisan crowd for the Cardinals.

North Carolina’s lone road game is at Old Dominion. Cal’s rebuilding, while Notre Dame should be formidable. Duke may have one on us with Northwestern AND Baylor on the schedule. Virginia has Indiana and Boise State.

Boston College’s lone true road game is at Northern Illinois. Home games vs. the same CMU and Notre Dame, plus a Fenway game vs. UConn doesn’t really add up to a “tougher” schedule than Syracuse’s by any means.

Virginia Tech faces West Virginia in Maryland, while also playing Delaware, at East Carolina and Old Dominion.

I could go on...

Still, lists like these are all pretty subjective, and based on little more than conjecture. The same goes for our rebuttal, too. I see Syracuse’s schedule as more difficult than other teams’ because I want to, but Athlon tries to make the case that it’s a false premise.

Where do you stand, though? Think I’m imagining how difficult this schedule is for Syracuse? Or is Athlon completely discounting the difficulty of LSU compared to the non-conference opponents of the other ACC teams?