First off, let’s pour one out for the original 2020 Syracuse Orange football schedule.
After years of scheduling messes, SU has figured things out in recent years. The 2020 slate was potentially the crowning achievement of that, giving Syracuse four very winnable non-conference games that would potentially help coax a rebuilding and questionable squad to a bowl game just the same. I didn’t appreciate that fact enough when the schedule originally came together, and now, I’ll never get to see it in action. It was artfully crafted, really.
As you know, what’s replaced the old 2020 schedule is no cakewalk. A look at those opponents once again:
Home: Boston College, Duke, Georgia Tech, NC State, Wake Forest
Road: Clemson, Louisville, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Pitt
That’s... not ideal if we’re still aiming to win six this year. While the home games do us a favor, the road games are brutal. There’s no margin for error here, and even with an 11th game to help us out, it’s going to be a stretch to get the Orange to 6-5.
We can focus on that in another piece (and we will), though. This one’s about what this means for the future.
I’m specifically talking scheduling here, and it’s a problem that most college football programs are going to have in future seasons. What do you do with the 2020 games that got cancelled, especially if they’re only part of home-and-homes?
Syracuse has already lost two games — vs. Colgate and at Rutgers — and has decisions to make on the two remaining right now (vs. Liberty, at Western Michigan). First, we mentioned there are three main options available for the 11th game:
- Keep Liberty and pay back the WMU road game at a later date
- Have WMU visit the Dome, swap the 2023 matchup so we’re on the road then instead (and push Liberty home game to a later date)
- Reschedule both WMU and Liberty, then host Buffalo or Army (or someone else, I guess)
In scenario one, the Western Michigan road game could get tossed in as early as 2024, where Syracuse is currently scheduled to visit Army and host Ohio. The Broncos still need one more game that year to finish out their slate, and already have two road games, so that works. SU and WMU could also push to 2028 or beyond where both teams are pretty open.
Scenario two needs more actions. Along with switching the sites of the Western Michigan games, you also have to move Liberty. That game wouldn’t be made up until 2025 at earliest, but you could do it. Or, y’know, just cancel the series.
In scenario three, you’re adding a new home game against Army or Buffalo, which you could potentially swing against either given other cancellations already from their original opponents. You’d also need to push the WMU and Liberty games. As mentioned, Liberty’s no earlier than 2025. Western Michigan can just hold off ‘til 2028 or later.
None of these moves figure out what happens with Colgate and Rutgers, though. The Raiders are easy, and you can plug them in wherever you need an FCS team (so maybe 2027). Rutgers needs a P5 opponent in 2025 and 2028. We’d be better off opting for the latter instead of adding them on top of an already-scheduled road game at Notre Dame in 2025.
Those fixes aren’t the most complicated things to figure out, but that’s mostly because of how empty future Syracuse schedules are past a certain date. The bigger concern for the future I have is about what a poor showing against this more difficult schedule could do to the Orange’s momentum under Dino Babers.
We basically swapped Rutgers, Colgate and Florida State for Notre Dame, North Carolina and Duke. That’s a much tougher schedule, and one that erases the purposefully simple road we’d previously laid out. That’s no one’s fault, and there are much more important things going on right now than football schedules. However, if the season actually gets played and SU falls flat at 3-8, it gets significantly tougher to gauge where exactly this program is headed — for both fans and future recruits alike.
Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that.