On Wednesday, ESPN’s ACC Blog ran down all 14 teams and told us why they wouldn’t win the conference. Now, they could’ve been mean to about nine or 10 of those schools. But instead, they chose to be inclusive, even entertaining the hopes and dreams of schools like Virginia, Boston College and Syracuse.
So before you go ahead and say “because we’re Syracuse,” at least read the reasoning they laid out for the Orange:
“No, Syracuse isn’t ready to contend yet. The Orange still need to develop a running game, still need to bring along a young defense, still need to get more talent on the roster. But here’s something of a silver lining: Syracuse may well be the reason why one of the other contenders doesn’t win the ACC this year. The Orange are going to be frisky enough to win a few games no one is predicting today (see: last year’s upset of Virginia Tech), which might get them to a bowl and keep one of the big boys from winning a title.”
All pretty fair, honestly. The Orange run game was one of the worst in the country in 2016, and the defense set a school record for points allowed.
But if we’re digging a little bit deeper on those (and other) points, what are the big reasons why the Syracuse Orange aren’t taking home the 2017 ACC Championship?
SU potentially faces more ranked teams (five) than anyone else in the country in 2017. So that’s not a great start. More than that, most of the difficult games are on the road. The Orange visit LSU, Miami, Florida State and Louisville, which certainly hampers their chances at an upset right off the bat. Even if Syracuse had the talent to compete right now, this schedule would still prohibit them from doing so.
Defensive line depth
In a pass-happy league (which the ACC’s largely become outside of Georgia Tech), you need to be able to get after the passer. As we’ve discussed, the Orange don’t have enough help along the defensive line to get that job done right now. Building depth is tough at any position, but especially at end and nose tackle if you’re not in a talent-rich area. There’s more work to do here.
Between injuries and a scheme adjustment, last year’s secondary was a disaster. This year’s could show improvement, but that’s also not hard to do when you were among the worst passing defenses in the country last season. Another year under everyone’s belt will yield some progress in the Tampa-2. But the offensive scheme also tends to create more work for the defense. Even if successful, the DBs will still be run ragged. Dino Babers is building depth here to counteract that. We’ll see how much of that is usable this season.
Obviously the underlying point of all of the above is talent. If SU was more talented, the schedule wouldn’t matter. The defensive line could use more talent to help its depth. And the secondary Babers inherited had some talent but not enough depth. He’s been bringing talent into the program to try to speed up those changes.
But what else would you list as a reason for SU’s lack of contention? Could be large or small. Program culture or roster critique. Really, anything could quality.
Share your thoughts below.