It wasn’t long ago that the Syracuse Orange capped off a magical 10-3 football season that restored faith for much of the fan base. But with the full 2019 ACC schedule released yesterday, we already get to test that optimism — as rationally or irrationally as we so choose.
With a pretty reasonable schedule in front of SU, we’re looking at week-by-week win probabilities from zero to 100 percent, and seeing where we net out. It’s worked before, so don’t yell at us if things fall below the 15-0 fever dream you’re already decided upon.
Week 1: at Liberty Flames
Liberty’s not to be overlooked, but also isn’t anywhere near what Syracuse is. The road game probably bumps this a few percentage points in the Flames’ favor. Let’s not overreact to this one, however. Win likelihood: 92%
Week 2: at Maryland Terrapins
The Terps bring in Mike Locksley, but don’t manage to land Jalen Hurts. Despite the losses in recent years, Maryland does have a lot of top-40 talent on the roster so there’s definitely an ability to pull an upset. I’d just be more worried if they had a healthy starting QB and this one was later in the season after this team had more time to gel. Win likelihood: 68%
Week 3: Clemson Tigers
Can Syracuse do it again? Even with Clemson hitting reset on defense, this offense showed how good it can potentially be when it stomped Alabama in the title game. Syracuse can probably put together a respectable showing in a loss, especially if College Gameday is in town. Win likelihood: 13%
Week 4: Western Michigan Broncos
WMU’s offense could look as explosive as it did when healthy this year. But another season removed from the level of talent PJ Fleck brought in probably means a little more regression — especially at the Dome. Win likelihood: 83%
Week 5: Holy Cross Crusaders
Holy Cross is a middle-of-the-road FCS squad coming to visit Syracuse once the Orange already get rolling on the season. Win likelihood: 99%
Week 6: Bye Week Fightin’ Byes
Week 7: at N.C. State Wolfpack (Thurs.)
Getting a bye before this game is huge, and no Ryan Finley (QB) or Reggie Gallaspy II (RB) means a less experienced NCSU team at key spots. The receivers are good, as is the defense, however. This one’s a toss-up, though as others have mentioned, it’s also a gauge of how this season could play out going forward. Win likelihood: 50%
Week 8: Pittsburgh Panthers (Fri.)
Pitt’s probably going to look like what we saw last year, except this time, Syracuse is at home, there’s no lightning delay and the Orange get eight days’ rest. No matter the talent levels, though, this game’s always stupid in some way. Win likelihood: 55%
Week 9: at Florida State Seminoles
There’s little chance that Florida State is going to be as bad as they were last year on the offensive line. And the defense seems likely to improve to. But there’s also the chance that it’s just not working out for Willie Taggart, and things completely fall apart by this point in the season. Regardless, SU stands a good chance to snag a win down in Tallahassee. Win likelihood: 45%
Week 10: Boston College Eagles
Boston College kept Steve Addazio around after he avoided going 7-6 this past season (7-5 after a bowl cancellation, ftw!). But no matter what he does to his staff, this team isn’t going to look much different than what we’ve seen for his entire tenure. Syracuse won without issue at BC in 2018. Expect something along similar lines this time at home. Win likelihood: 65%
Week 11: at Bye Week Fightin’ Byes
Week 12: at Duke Blue Devils
Duke loses Daniel Jones at quarterback, but they looked alright without him this past year, and always seem pretty capable under David Cutcliffe. They’ve also been recruiting around a top-40ish level for a few years, so there’s a good chance this is a battle in Durham. A highly motivated Syracuse team goes down there and takes care of business. One that’s already taken a few lumps probably drops this one. Win likelihood: 50%
Week 13: at Louisville Cardinals
Getting rid of Bobby Petrino was good, but this Louisville team is still aimless in many respects, and hasn’t been able to develop a ton of high-level defensive talent right out of high school. They’ll get back to respectability. It just may take a couple years. Win likelihood: 70%
Week 14: Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Losing Greg Dortch really hurts this offense, and they have a lot to replace on the line, too. They’re well-coached, so it’s plenty conceivable they’re a .500 squad. That said, they probably take a step back from 2018’s step back, before they move forward. Win likelihood: 65%
For the math-impaired, that’s .92 + .68 + .13 + .83 + .99 + .50 + .55 + .45 + .65 + .50 + .70 + .55 = 7.45
Now, before you get all pissed off about how this is a “step back,” keep in mind that Syracuse went 3-1 in the traditional toss-ups (BC, NCSU, Pitt, Wake) last year. It’s no sure thing they do that again, plus add two more toss-up level opponents to the mix in Duke and FSU. There’s a reality where even a Syracuse team on the level of the 2018 edition ends up 4-2 or 3-3 in that stretch.
When you think about how much this exercise struggled to get us to even six wins in recent years, though, this is a pretty positive outcome. Obviously they could just surpass expectations like they did this past year. If not, hey, 7-5 or 8-4 could still end up being a better regular season than just about any we’ve seen over the last two decades.
Am I too pessimistic above? Too pessimistic? Weigh in below.