The Syracuse Orange football team began the 2019 campaign with two road games — just the sixth time SU’s done so since 1950. That’s not the primary reason why Syracuse lost by 43 at Maryland on Saturday. But a second straight road game (especially one against a Power Five program) certainly didn’t help matters.
Of course, it’s easy to point to the Carrier Dome renovations as the reason for doing so here (oh, and definitely next year too), but that also provides a convenient excuse that prioritizes the renovations over putting a team in the best position to win.
The rarity of this occurence should be hint enough that it shouldn’t happen for any Power Five program, nevermind one that was hitting reset at some key positions this season. Obviously I know that these slates are set at least a couple years in advance, but when the Liberty game was put on the calendar, SU already could’ve figured as much based on Eric Dungey’s remaining eligibility.
Even without such specifics, though, there are always young players on a roster who could use the familiar environment of their home stadium as a nice early confidence boost. There’s also the fact that when the game was scheduled, SU was still struggling to rebuild things, further complicating the prospect of winning two road games to start a year.
Oddly, however, Syracuse has managed to deal with the challenges that come with two road games rather well over the course of previous seasons where its occurred (since 1950).
2010: 1-1, finished 8-5
2004: 1-1, finished 6-6
1984: 2-0, finished 6-5
1962: 0-2, finished 5-5
1956: 1-1, finished 7-2
That’s three bowl games in five tries, and nothing worse than a .500 record (plus the Orange also won a share of the 2004 Big East title). Strangely, the trend holds when looking at just two games away from home to start a year, too — which includes neutral sites here.
2013: 0-2, 7-6
2001: 0-2, 10-3
1979: 1-1, 7-5
So three more bowls, this time in three tries. That 2001 season featured losses to two top-10 teams (Georgia Tech, Tennessee), however. So far more challenging than what SU saw when up against Liberty and Maryland this time around.
Are those overall historical results a particularly realistic standard to hold this team to as well? For now, yeah, actually. Syracuse came into the season as a top-25 team. And while that doesn’t appear to be true for right now, the schedule’s there for them to get back at some point — or at the very least, probably get back to a bowl game.
This year, Syracuse was the only P5 team to open with two straight true road games and one of two (Miami was the other) to open with two games away from home. The ‘Canes went 0-2 in their first two games but that also included a week zero start vs. rival Florida in Orlando plus a week one bye. Still not great, but at least a little more manageable.
Looking ahead at next year, Florida State and UNC will start with two non-home games (one neutral site), but that’s it when looking at currently confirmed games for Power Five teams. It’s unlikely that changes. Once again, Syracuse will almost certainly be the lone P5 team on the road for two straight games to start the year.
Perhaps this is an overreaction after a bad loss. But given the fact that we’re the ONLY school doing this to ourselves from a scheduling standpoint and got torched on Saturday, it seems worthwhile to at least question the validity of the idea. When adding SU’s scheduling struggles in the past, the renovations are a convenient excuse. And now they’re a potential reason the Orange aren’t 2-0 and won’t host Gameday this season, either. Certainly doesn’t sound like a great price to pay for an extra week of construction.