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Syracuse football: Why the Orange will finish 3-9 in 2018

Disloyalty is a skill, and sometimes we use it for evil.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Miami Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Ed. Note -- As has become tradition, TNIAAM writers will spend the week telling you why this year’s Syracuse football team will finish with a specific record. With that in mind, don’t get all huffy about this prediction just yet — it improves as we go.

Monday: 3-9 (John)

Tuesday: 4-8 (Kevin)

Wednesday: 5-7 (Brandon)

Thursday: 6-6 (Andy)

Friday: 7-5 (This guy Sean)

The Syracuse Orange finished 4-8 for the third straight season last year. And while everyone’s sold on the program improving in the two years since Dino Babers took over, we’re still waiting for the results in the win column (that has something to do with injuries, though it’s tough to quantify how much in terms of record).

While we’re choosing to be optimistic, there’s a reasonable road to seeing how all of this gets blown up, even for a good SU team. Bill Connelly has Syracuse favored in just three games this year, and one of those is the WMU game, where the Orange are getting just 52 percent odds according to S&P+. In this piece, we look at the worst-case scenario where nothing really goes right.

NCAA Football: Western Michigan at Southern California Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

at Western Michigan Broncos: This is a concerning game right off the bat, because Tim Lester and his staff are familiar with many of Syracuse’s top playmakers, including Eric Dungey. WMU may not have all of the talent that got them to a Cotton Bowl a couple years back, but there’s enough there to pull an upset on a sleeping Orange squad. Ends up SU’s inexperience at key positions appears at the least opportune times, leading to the early (albeit very realistic) upset. L, (0-1) (0-0)

Wagner Seahawks: Whatever went horribly wrong in week one gets put to bed in week two. Dungey throws for 450 yards before leaving in the third quarter, making way for our first look at Tommy DeVito. The defense holds up and creates a couple turnovers. Ravian Pierce just rampages over Wagner’s small front-seven for the entire afternoon. W, (1-1) (0-0)

Florida State Seminoles: Given the fact that they’re still installing a new offense, there are some circling this as a potential upset special for the Orange over FSU. Those people will be wrong. Willie Taggart’s team rolls into the Dome and just lets Cam Akers run all over an overmatched Syracuse defensive front. We will not enjoy this game. L, (1-2) (0-1)

Connecticut Huskies: Was the Florida State beatdown a fluke, or par for the course this season? Unfortunately a game against UConn doesn’t really help us figure out anything. At least for now, it’s a win to gain some confidence back. The Orange offense pushes past the Huskies while the defense does enough to keep Connecticut from really moving the ball much. W, (2-2) (0-1)

NCAA Football: Clemson at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

at Clemson Tigers: Tough to put a number on just how pissed Clemson and their fans are, and how hell-bent on revenge they will be this time around. The Tigers’ defensive front gets after Dungey early and often. After the big win, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney yucks about system players and how classy he is, as does the media. We keep riding last year’s upset, just to piss them off again. I miss this one, which is fine, due to #disloyalinfant’s arrival. L, (2-3) (0-2)

at Pittsburgh Panthers: Syracuse hasn’t won at Pitt since 2001, and unfortunately that doesn’t change now. Pat Narduzzi’s secondary is still terrible for some odd reason (since it’s his specialty), but SU’s does no better. It’s another high-scoring affair at Heinz Field, but one that again ends with the Orange on the losing end. Narduzzi sends Scott Shafer a crate of kiwis, despite him having nothing to do with this game. L, (2-4) (0-3)

North Carolina Tar Heels: Badly in need of a win, Dino delivers against a UNC team that actually looks a whole lot better than last year’s edition. Engaged in another track meet, the SU offense looks resurgent through the air, and our defense proves to be the better 4-2-5 scheme on the field that day. Hope restored, even if just for the afternoon. Yes, I’m happy about this result. W, (3-4) (1-3)

N.C. State Wolfpack: Despite losing most of the key pieces on the defense, State still has a highly potent offense with Ryan Finaley at QB. After a strong week against the Heels, the Orange secondary reverts back to its previous form and unfortunately gets torched by NC State. Afterward, there are a bunch of #STATEment billboards and rambling about how the Wolfpack beat us but UNC didn’t. The rest of the conference completely ignores it. L, (3-5) (1-4)

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

at Wake Forest Demon Deacons: At one point, SU won four straight games in this rivalry, but the Deacons have won the last two — make it three in a row after 2018’s result. In weather nearly as bad as the Winston-Salem game two years ago, the Syracuse offense is slowed to a crawl and the Deacs edge out a win. Like the last road game against Wake, we never speak of this again. L, (3-6) (1-5)

Louisville Cardinals: Louisville may not have Lamar Jackson anymore, but it won’t matter much for its collection of quality receivers and Jawon Pass just completing throws at will. Bobby Petrino starts complaining about the pace of play immediately. An exhausted Dino makes a joke about Louisville being just fine with things going off in 15 seconds or less. Despite the loss, we start building a statue for Babers outside of the Dome for that comment alone. L, (3-7) (1-6)

Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Notre Dame deserves punishment for these uniforms, and Syracuse almost provides it. Even with some cold weather in the Bronx, the snow holds off enough to let the Orange keep moving the ball. Irish QB Brandon Wimbush runs amok, as most mobile passers do against SU, and a late scamper into the end zone puts the game away for ND. On the bright side: Dungey takes full ownership of most of Syracuse’s career passing records by this point — and stayed healthy! L, (3-8) (1-6)

at Boston College Eagles: We’re already very familiar with AJ Dillon, as well as the general profile of all over-worked BC backs. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help a beleaguered Orange run game put a stop to him in late November. The “Dudes” take home a post-Thanksgiving win though they’re not the top 25 team some are hoping for (oddly) in some early preseason voting. L, (3-9) (1-7)


Believe me, I don’t want this to happen and I don’t think it actually will. But it’s not as hard as you’d think to see how this comes to pass, even with a healthy Dungey all season (as noted above). Should 3-9 come to pass, Dino’s certainly sticking around, though there will certainly be a lot of questions heading into year four with an inexperienced QB at the helm.