Last April, we rang a moderate alarm bell for the Syracuse Orange football team’s 2022 schedule. At the time, Syracuse had two Power Five foes (Notre Dame and Purdue) set, but had two spots to fill — with one of those almost certainly being an FCS opponent.
Now, eight months later, the same thing is true. SU still has those two spots open, but there aren’t nearly as many opponents left to fill out that lingering Group of Five spot, in particular. While last time, we ID’d 29 teams left with an opening, there are now just nine teams left. Those squads:
C-USA: Middle Tennessee, UAB
Independents: Army, UConn
MAC: Kent State
Sun Belt: Coastal Carolina, Troy, UL-Monroe
Making matters worse, there are also just nine or 10 total P5 teams conceivably looking to add a G5 team to the 2022 schedule. Those squads:
ACC: Syracuse, Florida State, Miami, Virginia
Big Ten: Rutgers
Big 12: TCU
Pac-12: Washington (and maybe Stanford)
SEC: LSU, Mississippi State
With more FBS independents than we’ve had in some time, there are now more options out there than ever to fill out non-conference schedules. That can be a good thing for a school like Syracuse — typically delayed in filling future spots — because it provides more options. But it also makes it easier for other schools to get out ahead of things, and it ends up that many have taken full advantage.
The result is a rush on schedule near-term openings, and a sort of bidding war for games against the likes of UMass, UConn, Liberty and New Mexico State (very likely wins for P5 teams) in particular. Syracuse seems to know this, and is happy to just let nearby UConn and financial advantageous Liberty fall into their lap. This can get both boring and irresponsible when it comes to constructing a competitive and/or interesting slate each year for fans to attend games.
So realistically, it would shock me if the Orange didn’t announce a two- or four-game series with UConn sooner rather than later. And they may wind up extending the Liberty series later in the decade too. But going through the scheduling exercise for 2022, when we’re likely looking for a road game with a G5 foe, the available teams probably sort out this way in terms of preference:
Tier 1: UConn, Army
As mentioned, UConn’s the easiest one, and the most likely given the numerous openings they’ll need to fill as a newly-minted independent. There’s potential long-term risk to scheduling the Huskies should they ditch football or join a league that sponsors the sport. But for 2022, don’t be surprised to see it.
Army is already on the slate for 2023-26, but we could potentially tack on games to bookend that in 2022 and 2027, respectively. It’s fine to do that at this point, if we’d like.
Tier 2: Kent State, Coastal Carolina
Before you worry about Sean Lewis’s familiarity with Syracuse for Kent State, he’s highly unlikely to still be coaching the Golden Flashes by 2022 at this rate. Plus, we do recruit Ohio to an extent, so might as well get in there when we can in a winnable game. On the Coastal front, it’s one of the most winnable here, and you can stomach a trip down there because we’ve been making some progress recruiting in the Carolinas lately.
Tier 3: Middle Tennessee, UNLV, UAB, Troy
UAB and Troy don’t provide appealing home-and-homes given both our alumni base and the fact that we don’t really recruit the areas — plus both have proven themselves to be pretty pesky G5 schools of late. MTSU is pesky (and mildly familiar) but at least closer to areas we get talent from. A home-and-home with UNLV won’t happen unless we absolutely have no other options. But it would certainly be a fun road trip for Syracuse fans (and a well-attended one, especially given the Southern California contingent just a short drive away).
Tier 4: UL-Monroe
There is no reality where we should be looking at a home-and-home with ULM.
Additional considerations come courtesy of the other teams vying for the G5 team openings, too. UConn’s not high on the list for those schools — unless they’re giving a discount on pay games. UNLV is probably preferred for the Big 12/Pac-12 teams in question due to recruiting and travel costs.
If I had to guess which teams end up matched where, it probably looks like this:
- Syracuse & UConn
- Florida State & UL-Monroe
- Miami & Kent State
- Virginia & Coastal Carolina
- Rutgers & Army
- TCU & Middle Tennessee
- Washington & UNLV
- LSU & Troy
- Mississippi State & UAB
In the next week or so, I’ll dive into the future openings a bit more, too. But for now, hopefully this lights a bit of a fire for Syracuse to get 2022 wrapped up between the G5 opening and FCS date (the latter of which should be pretty easy). For reference, teams you’ll probably see us targeting for 2022, based on availability: New Hampshire, Albany, Villanova or Bucknell, plus about half of the NEC. While it would be nice to just get that game wrapped up too, SU typically doesn’t target those super far out (save the UNH game in 2026).