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Who are your ideal Syracuse football opponents?

What does your dream schedule look like? And which teams do we want to play more?

New Era Pinstripe Bowl - West Virginia v Syracuse Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

The Syracuse Orange football program has been fixing its non-conference scheduling practices of late. And that’s meant a renewed emphasis on winnable games (a welcome turn of events for everybody).

Despite getting out a little ahead of things by finalizing 2018 and 2019 schedules, however, there are still plenty more openings to look at down the road.

Inspired by Nate Mink’s piece on today, we take a look at potential opponents separated out into a few different buckets.


(all of these are largely against my typical mantra of scheduling easier, but if you’re going to schedule tougher, at least have some history with the opponent)

NCAA Football: Russell Athletic Bowl-West Virginia vs Miami Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

West Virginia Mountaineers

Despite our current #OrangeEagle rivalry, West Virginia might just be our longest, consistent football rivalry. Of course, they also have bigger fish to fry (Pitt, Virginia Tech), so it’s never had the sense of being THE RIVALRY game we’ve craved. There is a trophy and all, though. So replaying this one does have some stakes. SU stumbled for a bit here in the early 2000s, but has since won three straight (and the last two in resounding fashion).

Penn State Nittany Lions

I don’t want to play PSU, especially given the fact that they’re now fully “back” from the short-term penalties that being largely rescinded anyway. But if we’re going to challenge ourselves in non-conference play, the Nittany Lions just make more sense than Wisconsin or LSU any day.

Maryland Terrapins

We’re already playing this rival-that-never-was in 2018, so there’s recent precedent. Plus, if you’re going to play any of the three teams in this section, the Terps have the most potential for a) a win and b) recruiting gains. Maryland’s recent uptick is largely built on the back of prospects in the capitol area. Go down to College Park and beat them (like we did last time) and perhaps you chip away at the region a bit.

NCAA Football: Sun Bowl-Stanford vs North Carolina Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports

Peer Schools

Vanderbilt Commodores

Home-and-home in Nashville’s fun, and Vandy’s rarely been much of anything in football. We have to schedule a Power Five team each year, so why not this one? Private schools should probably help out private schools when they can. Both fan bases would tell themselves they’d win. And both would also get a nice (different) road trip out of it.

Northwestern Wildcats

We recruit Illinois pretty heavily (and have for awhile), so there’s a logistical reason for this one, even beyond the typical J-School crap that only people like myself care about. Recent games against the Wildcats have not been kind to us, but that’s even more fuel to get some payback. Chicago’s also a fun and easy road trip. And we’d be doing Sean a favor by coming to his turf.

Stanford Cardinal

Again, spits in the face of everything I stand for from a scheduling standpoint, but the Cardinal have a fun on-campus stadium, great tailgating and a reasonably entertaining (albeit expensive) road trip in it for fans. Battling it out for the block-S could be a fun follow-up to these schools’ nonsensical Twitter trade a few years back. I’d definitely make the trip up to Palo Alto for this one.

NCAA Football: Old Dominion at North Carolina State Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Winning and recruiting

(the only goals here are winning and getting in front of recruits in key talent areas)

Old Dominion Monarchs

Despite the Monarchs being better than Liberty, you probably want to play them instead of the Flames (for reasons I’m not going to dive into in this space). ODU’s an easy trip, gets us in front of DMV-area recruits and is the sort of opponent that plenty of other ACC teams already schedule regularly.

Georgia State Panthers

While we’re in the same conference with fellow Atlanta resident Georgia Tech, we rarely see the Yellow Jackets (and don’t want a repeat of the last trip down there). GSU’s still a relative start-up, but is in the heart of the city. From a recruiting standpoint, stomping the Panthers in what used to be Turner Field could be helpful.

Charlotte 49ers

This one’s less of a priority because we already get down to North Carolina every year (Wake Forest/NC State). But Charlotte’s an easier win than either of our conference-mates are, and actually gets us closer to the main hub of in-state talent. The 49ers are improving as a program, but they’re still a ways off from being much of a test. Playing them sooner rather than later is ideal.

FIU Panthers / Florida Atlantic Owls

The South Florida schools are interchangeable. They’re rarely good, but get you in front of all of the Miami-area kids you want to talk to. And most importantly, these are easy victories. We play in Florida every other year already (and twice this year). But another trip to hang 40 or more on the Panthers or Owls wouldn’t hurt us.


There are plenty of other teams you could conceivably schedule or sort into any of these buckets. So have at it. Which are the schools you’d like to face a little more often, and why?