We’re sitting here with temperatures expected to be below zero, with snow anticipated to fall in potentially record amounts in the coming days, and I’m writing about football?
(Allen Iverson voice)
It’s clearly basketball weather here!
Come on, the Syracuse Orange basketball team just went to Durham, N.C. and beat the No. 1 team in the land and I’m going to make you read about football?
Am I serious?!
In a word: yes.
In more than one word: with the release of the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule, it’s almost difficult to not get lost in thoughts of fall, of football. We already knew the non-conference slate, but with the ACC finalizing its dates, now everyone can start—to continue the weather theme—forecasting what they think will happen.
Does the schedule hold nine or more victories? Is there a chance, maybe even with semi-decent odds, that Syracuse could win the ACC Atlantic division?
That result would likely mean that the Orange would have to take down reigning national champion Clemson on September 14 at the Carrier Dome. No small task. Something that’s not really all too crazy, too. Right? I mean, SU did beat the Tigers the last time the two teams played inside the Dome. And what would have happened in 2018 had the Orange stopped Clemson’s fourth-and-six play late in the fourth quarter?
If we’re going to go out on the that limb: what if ESPN brings GameDay to central New York for that September tilt? It’s not inconceivable, not with the Tigers likely to be a top team and Syracuse potentially a top-25 outfit. (The Nunes Slack is running rampant with ideas for how the ESPN crew can plan its GameDay on campus.) Hell, there might be a near sellout crowd in the house for that one.
The entire outline of 2019 appears to be a path of great potential for Dino Babers’ Orange. Which doesn’t mean it’ll be the easiest, pothole-less road to travel. As there will be seven opponents next season that played in bowl games in 2018. And Syracuse begins with two “true” road games, the first time that’s happened since 2010. No, it’s not a cakewalk (has anyone ever had a “cakewalk?” I say no.) yet with four winnable non-conference games and a manageable ACC portion, it might just be one of the best-looking schedules the Orange has had in years.
All of which takes away any blame for any fan who might be caught looking ahead some eight months or so.
That’s even with the hoops team having felled the might Blue Devils Monday night. On Big Monday no less.
That particular Syracuse group is talented enough. No question. It can also use the victory on Monday to propel itself back into the national conscious. To get back into the hoops’ conversation of teams that have the “it” factor to make a long NCAA Tournament run.
What we all saw in North Carolina this week was something damn special. Sure, Tre Jones left early due to his shoulder injury and Cam Reddish didn’t play because of an illness. Who cares? Duke is still loaded with top picks. Zion Williamson could stop playing right now and he would be the most coveted college player for NBA GMs in years. He’s that good. The Blue Devils, even without two key players, are that good. And Syracuse still beat Duke at Duke.
That’s one of the best regular-season victories in years. No small feat as it was so unexpected—SU was a 17-point dog coming off an inexplicable beat down by Georgia Tech. That kind of “W” reinvigorates fans and probably rekindles the fire of the players. If Syracuse can beat Duke on the road—even a so-called “depleted” Duke—then there is no reason to doubt that the Orange can beat anyone anywhere.
But what about football, though?!
What if Syracuse starts off 3-0, meaning it takes down Clemson? The following home dates include Western Michigan and Holy Cross (the college of my father, William J McClusky!). That’s 5 and oh boy! Could SU football, which was taken out back behind the garage and shot repeatedly by Greg GERG Robinson back over 10 years ago, be a top-five team at that point?
This isn’t meant to be a “Syracuse is going to win it all in ‘19” piece. Because we’ve all seen Syracuse, in its many forms over the many years, drop games we never saw coming. Furthermore, Babers has to replace key members of the offensive line, figure out the future of players Alton Robinson, and, oh by the way, replace Eric Dungey. That won’t be easy.
In that department, Tommy DeVito does look the part, like the real deal. In fact, he might find himself in some national discussions of his own should the Orange start the season hot. Maybe?
Counterpoint: maybe not? He might need time to get used to being the starter, to mesh with everyone. Nothing is guaranteed here. We all know that. Everyone is always on the fence when it comes to anything Syracuse.
Just look at the hoops team for example. It was a preseason top-20 club that has lost some head-scratching, head-pounding games already. It also just went on the road and bested Mike Krzyzewski. So...who knows what’s going to happen?
That goes for basketball and for football.
Really, it’s pretty easy to get lost in daydreams of what could be coming down the road. Not just of March Madness glories ahead. (And that could still very well be on the table.) But also of gridiron GameDay visits to central New York and of national rankings the likes of which Syracuse hasn’t seen in decades.
We all understand, embrace and love that this time is basketball season around these parts until March. Maybe even later than that if lucky. So what to think when you’re seeing posts like this now? Well, it’s probably a good thing to be getting ready for football, even in January.