Ed. Note -- As has become (a beloved?) tradition, TNIAAM writers will spend the week telling you why this year’s Syracuse football team will finish with a specific record. Predictions get better as we progress, so hopefully you’re done lobbing scorn at us by Wednesday or Thursday.
Monday: 5-7 (John)
Tuesday: 6-6 (Kevin)
Wednesday: 7-5 (Steve)
Thursday: 8-4 (Andy)
Friday: 9-3 (Some guy Sean)
Welcome back! As always, I’m taking all of your venom to start this thing off — though this time, hopefully the ire doesn’t last too long. The Syracuse Orange finished a surprising 10-3 last season, yes. But replacing Eric Dungey, a lot of the offensive line and the linebacker corps. pose their own unique challenges. We have a lot of faith that things will go relatively right just the same, but... there is some chance that 2019 could present a step back before another step forward.
While I don’t believe this will actually happen, we’re spelling out how it could. We start with the fact that there are a LOT of toss-ups on this schedule and should most of them fall in the wrong direction, there’s a path to get there. Even if that’s not the one we want to see.
at Liberty Flames: Maybe you’re buying the talk that Liberty could be pesky with Hugh Freeze. But even if the Flames hang around longer than we’re comfortable with, SU still puts them away just the same with a strong offensive performance. W, (1-0) (0-0)
at Maryland Terrapins: The second road game to start 2019 winds up being the struggle some have predicted. While Maryland hasn’t collected wins in recent years, they’ve recruited well and with Josh Jackson under center in this one, they’re able to engineer an upset over the Orange in a surprisingly ugly contest. Syracuse’s run game is shut down from the start, forcing a pass-heavy attack to take too many risks, ultimately dooming SU. L, (1-1) (0-0)
Clemson Tigers: Without a 2-0 start for Syracuse, there’s no Gameday for the huge week three matchup against Clemson. And the deflated fan base gets insult added to injury as the defending national champions drub them at home in primetime. The hope is that these are early-season jitters and just working through some tougher opponents. L, (1-2) (0-1)
Western Michigan Broncos: WMU picks the wrong weekend to head to the Dome, as the Orange aim to set the tone early and bounce back from the last two weeks’ losses. They’re up 21-0 in the first quarter, and never look back in a 40-point win. W, (2-2) (0-1)
Holy Cross Crusaders: Similar to the win over the Broncos, Syracuse is clinical and efficient against the overmatched Crusaders, too. Clayton Welch gets extended reps under center in the second half, as do most of the team’s reserves. Orange fans are excited to see several of the new freshman on defense, as well as early looks at the up-and-coming group of new offensive weapons. W, (3-2) (0-1)
at N.C. State Wolfpack: Thursday night games in Raleigh have a tendency to get weird, and this one delivers there. Both Syracuse and State trade blows for three quarters before an end zone interception gives the Pack the critical final possession. They nail a field goal as time expires, and anxiety starts to ramp up in CNY. L, (3-3) (0-2)
Pittsburgh Panthers: The eight-day break doesn’t lend Syracuse enough favors, and the horrors of this Pitt matchup resume at pace. As the Orange linebackers continue to struggle stopping opponents on the ground, the Panthers are happy to run it right at them despite an underwhelming rushing attack coming in. Pitt runs for 350 yards, but makes a crucial fourth down stop at the goal line late to preserve the win. Panic ensues on this end, L, (3-4) (0-3)
at Florida State Seminoles: FSU’s retooled offense is able to fix what ailed the ‘Noles rather quickly, taking advantage of the team’s still-impressive talent pool to score over 35 points-per-game to this point in the season. With Syracuse reeling, Florida State piles on in a shootout victory which includes both defensive fronts also terrorizing the others’ offensive line. L, (3-5) (0-4)
Boston College Eagles: Though SU hasn’t stood up well against the run all year, A.J. Dillon has been run into the ground by this point, and it shows against the Orange. BC can’t pass to fix the issues, and while they put up a reasonable fight, Syracuse looks a bit like their old selves in a double-digit win to right the ship temporarily, at least. BC remains on pace to go 7-6 again. W, (4-5) (1-4)
at Duke Blue Devils: Though the Duke offense isn’t much to look at, its defensive front is very good and applies enough pressure to disrupt whatever Syracuse wants to do. Tommy DeVito plays admirably under fire, but turnovers end up dooming his afternoon and Syracuse’s. Someone mails their “GTL” shirt back to me with an angry post-it attached. L, (4-6) (1-5)
at Louisville Cardinals: Louisville may have changed coaches, but Bobby Petrino’s stench has yet to wear off this team — much to Syracuse’s advantage. It may not be last year’s disaster for the Cardinals, but the Orange still wind up topping the 40-point mark and looking good doing it. Bowl hopes remain intact with a week to go. W, (5-6) (2-5)
Wake Forest Demon Deacons: Both Syracuse and Wake come into this one at 5-6, needing a win to go bowling. We’ve been in this situation before, though, and that one didn’t go well for SU. This one won’t, either. For once, all of the Deacons’ players stay healthy against the Orange, and it’s enough to guide a surprisingly effective offense to success against a gassed defense. SU puts up a great fight late, but can’t complete the comeback. This place is literally on fire. L, (5-7) (2-6)
The good thing is that this was less believable of an article to write than previous years. The bad is that it’s still potentially feasible, just by way of other ACC squads improving and Syracuse taking just enough of a step back to make up that difference. Again, I don’t think this will occur. But it’s also a sobering reminder of the journey left to go toward being a consistently winning program with depth and stability across the board.