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Which bowl games does Syracuse have a realistic shot at in 2018?

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“Bowl games? What are those?”

NCAA Football: Clemson at Syracuse Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

As you’re acutely aware, the Syracuse Orange football program hasn’t been a postseason fixture of late.

The Orange have made just three bowl games since 2005 (though admittedly, they’ve also won them all), and their last trip was in 2013. To say we’re not used to participating in bowl games would be a reasonable assumption. There are kids entering kindergarten this fall that have never seen us in one.

Still, that doesn’t erase our previous bowl history, or for the purposes of this article, the future bowls we’ll be participating in. That future starts with 2018, when it would be REALLY awesome if SU could find their way to a bowl game.

Early projections on that front say that perhaps they can.

A new Vegas over/under win total of 5.5 for Syracuse gives Jason Kirk enough confidence to round up and place us in the Quick Lane Bowl against Purdue.

ESPN’s David Hale makes some early picks and pegs the Orange at 6-6, going to bowl TBD.

If you’ve picked up a copy of Lindy’s preview at the airport, they think SU has a decent chance to go bowling as long as Eric Dungey stays healthy. Athlon says we go 6-6 but miss a bowl (seems farfetched, but it is possible).

NCAA Football: Clemson at Syracuse Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

If we’re assuming 6-6 for our purposes here, though, then we’ll assume Syracuse gets a bowl game. If that’s the case, which are the most realistic destinations for the Orange? A quick look at where we could be headed — limiting ourselves to ACC tie-ins (though we could fill a non-ACC game if all tie-ins are already accounted for).

Pinstripe Bowl (vs. Big Ten)

We’d probably need to win more than six games to make this happen, so don’t count on it. However, Syracuse draws well here and they’d be anxious to have a mostly full stadium for the contest, so we’re always on their radar even if we normally wouldn’t qualify for one of the better bowls (payout-wise) in the ACC’s lineup.

Independence Bowl (vs. SEC)

This is possible, but also doubtful due to Syracuse’s likely inability to get much of anyone to Shreveport, La. right after Christmas.

Military Bowl (vs. AAC)

Syracuse’s chances of getting picked for this game likely rely on a few additional factors. They’re sort of close to the bowl’s location in Annapolis, Md. and would draw well given the school’s sizeable alumni base in the DMV area. Still, it’s also dependent on how well Pitt, Virginia and Virginia Tech perform — and maybe you even extend that list out to the North Carolina schools as well. Despite your enthusiasm for probably playing Navy, we’re not the game’s first choice.

Quick Lane Bowl (vs. Big Ten)

This feels like the most likely option. Syracuse is one of the closest ACC teams to Detroit, and really, we want to play indoors anyway given how our offense operates. Pitt could cut us in line, but that’s really it. Bowl organizers are probably pretty anxious to put us and Maryland/Rutgers here if given the opportunity since it would probably create a decent draw.

BAD BOY MOWERS GASPARILLA BOWL (conditional vs. C-USA/AAC)

You don’t want to be in Tampa, Fla. around Christmas, and Tampa doesn’t really want you there either. But if there’s a long list of bowl-eligible ACC teams this year, perhaps the Orange get shifted down to Central Florida. The Quest for Beef would finally be realized, albeit in a different city. Beating like Tulsa or Cincinnati in this game wouldn’t feel that awesome, but we’d be crowned Gasparilla Kings or something and probably get a photo of Dino Babers with a ride-on mower trophy. Seems worth it.

Birmingham Bowl, sponsored by Pitt Football (conditional vs. AAC/SEC)

Assuming Pitt doesn’t fill this spot, per tradition, it’s an option for Syracuse. Unlike the Gasparilla Bowl, we would not get Florida wackiness here, though, so it just ends up being a poorly attended game against Tulsa, SMU or Vanderbilt. Still, bowls are bowls and we’ll take the extra practices.

NCAA Football: Gasparilla Bowl-Temple vs Florida International Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

I’d be shocked if we had to go past these games given the number of tie-ins the ACC has available at this point. But if you want to start looking at late December travel now, here are your best bets. If you’re like me and try to book on Southwest (no change fees!), you could potentially hedge and hope for the best.

Which game would you prefer out of these, though? Share your own bowl prayers/Gasparilla aspirations below.