We’re about 24 hours away from a day on the sports calendar that I circle — even if few others do. The ACC football schedule will be announced in full, with dates attached for all 12 Syracuse Orange games, plus similar information for the conference’s other 13 football-playing members, I suppose.
Honestly, I’m a bit surprised the league already has things settled this early given the lack of full schedules for all ACC spring sports yet, and the general uncertainty around travel and fan attendance come fall. But with vaccines rolling out, it appears they have what they need to lock in all dates.
The ACC hasn’t officially announced that they’ll go back to the previous Atlantic/Coastal divisional format following a year off from it during 2020’s disjointed season. However, I’d bet that’s what we’re getting here. The league may continue to discuss better scheduling and divisional alignments down the road. But to me, announcing the slate this early means there likely aren’t any huge changes in format this year.
What could be changed, however, is how home and away dates are allocated versus certain teams. The 2020 ACC football schedule disrupted the typical rotation of home and away opponents, so they could either opt to just pick up 2021’s plan as if 2020 never happened. Or potentially shift 2020’s original opponents and sites into 2021. I’m tempted to believe they’ll opt for the former, as it’s the simplest solution. That’ll just mean three straight years of Dome visits for the likes of Boston College and Wake Forest. #Blessed
Now that we’re through that longer preamble, though, here’s what I think we’re going to get when the ACC unveils Syracuse’s 2021 schedule on Thursday:
Saturday, Sept. 4: at Ohio Bobcats
Somehow the first meeting between these two teams since 1921. This one was already scheduled, so no surprises here.
Saturday, Sept. 11: Rutgers Scarlet Knights
The back end of a home-and-home now becomes either a one-off home game for Syracuse or more likely, the front end of a home-and-home that sees the Orange head to New Jersey later this decade.
Saturday, Sept. 18: Albany Great Danes
Another previously scheduled non-conference game, this time against a team we’ve never faced before.
Saturday, Sept. 25: Liberty Flames
Saturday, Oct. 2: Clemson Tigers
They usually like to put this game on the earlier end of things, and this year would be no different at the Dome. One potential issue with this placement — would mean four straight home games for the Orange, something that would come back to bite them. But we’ve seen weird schedule construction in the past, too.
Saturday, Oct. 9: at NC State Wolfpack
It would be too nice for the ACC to give us a bye post-Clemson, and without much in the way of expectations for the Orange this year, I’m not expecting one. There are certainly worse fates than trips down to Raleigh earlier in the season.
Saturday, Oct. 16: at Louisville Cardinals
With Louisville getting a primetime game (a blowout loss for ‘Cuse) last year vs. SU, I’m not banking on seeing another one in 2021. So standard Saturday afternoon matchup it is. Syracuse is also going to get two straight road dates at some point here. Would rather it was these two.
Saturday, Oct. 23: Pittsburgh Panthers
Based on the full conference mock schedule I was working with, this was an open date for both. The ACC’s played with a variety of spots in the slate to put this matchup. And while they’ve tended toward late in the year a lot, having it earlier probably means it matters a bit more/generates more interest.
Saturday, Oct. 30: at Florida State Seminoles
If FSU figures things out this coming season, that’s likely happened by this point in the schedule. That’s unfortunate for the Orange, but the talent gap already is what it is, so it’s fine here as opposed to right after Clemson.
Friday, Nov. 5: Wake Forest Demon Deacons
If the schedule shakes out as I’ve noted, this is an interesting game that the season could hinge on. Friday nights at the Dome usually find a way to be strange, somehow. The last time the Deacs played SU at night at the Dome, it fit the bill.
Saturday, Nov. 13: BYE
Syracuse hasn’t had a weird bye in years. We’re probably due.
Saturday, Nov. 20: at Virginia Tech Hokies
It’s been decades since the Orange have headed to Blacksburg, and end-of-year placement seems reasonable with a home game to close.
Saturday, Nov. 27: Boston College Eagles
We’ll try this one out to close the season again. Hopefully it goes better than the last two matchups have in this series.
This is far from the only possibility available to us. And how this all shakes out depends on how the ACC constructs schedules (which teams or games are first, what’s immovable, etc.). You may be more interested in the “ideal” schedule for Syracuse, so if you have thoughts there, feel free to share your own thoughts below.