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Very early win-loss projections for Syracuse football in 2021

We’re doing this again? Of course!

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 19 Syracuse at Pitt Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Despite still not having a men’s lacrosse schedule right now, we do have a Syracuse Orange football schedule for 2021. Assuming vaccine rollout goes well and all, the schedule you see here should be the one SU actually ends up playing. For a refresher in one image, here’s what things look like:

Before we get into the game-by-game probabilities, some top-level thoughts:

  • Syracuse has avoided a late bye for years now, so no surprise to see the Orange finally saddled with one again
  • Going 3-1 (at least) in non-conference play is going to be pretty essential, as it always is
  • Don’t love Clemson on short rest, but we probably weren’t winning that game anyway — so will take the extra day to prepare for Virginia Tech right after
  • November’s pretty manageable if Louisville’s decline was real and NC State’s rise was not (big ifs)
  • Going to be really hard to go bowling if Syracuse goes any worse than 5-2 at home

Cool? Now onto the game-by-game projections...

Week 1: at Ohio Bobcats

Ohio went just 2-1 during a shortened 2020 campaign, but was a 7-6 (5-3 in the MAC) squad back in 2019 and Frank Solich has gotten the Bobcats to a .500 or better record each season since 2009. They’ll have a lot of youth on the offensive side, while the defense could be a good mix depending on who’s back. Don’t see a blowout here, especially for a Syracuse team that’s usually slow to warm. But a win should be in the cards. Win likelihood: 70%

Week 2: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Greg Schiano’s return started with a surprising win over Michigan State, and from there, they played respectably while going 2-6 the rest of the way. With what should be a full offseason, one would expect they’ll be a bit more competent, but last year’s group didn’t provide any major causes for excitement on either side of the ball. They have young players in a lot of spots (sounds familiar), so their main hope is improvement from those contributors. Syracuse “should” be favored here at home, but not by a whole lot. Win likelihood: 55%

Week 3: Albany Great Danes

It’s an FCS matchup against a team that hasn’t played since 2019, though the CAA will have a short spring season starting in March. Seeing those players in action closer to when the game against Syracuse is (September) should be a better gauge of what the Danes actually look like. They’re also unlikely to improve by leaps and bounds between the spring and fall. Win likelihood: 97%

Week 4: Liberty Flames

Last year’s game went... poorly, to say the least. But at the same time, Liberty wound up being a top 25 team and Syracuse was a pretty depleted group by that point in the season. Of course, Malik Wilis and Joshua Mack are both back, so that won’t do us any favors. But the Orange should be a better team than the one that met the Flames last year. Still unlikely we’ll be favored, but it should be a more competitive game... and if you believe that the Dome creates some weirdness during Friday night games, this is one of two tests to that theory this season. Win likelihood: 42%

Week 5: at Florida State Seminoles

After changing coaches once again last fall, FSU didn’t really look up to snuff at just 3-6 on the year. But another year transitioning to whatever Mike Norvell plans to do should help them out, and it would be hard to believe this team’s worse this year than last. They’ve added a ton of transfers this offseason to try and make sure of that. I don’t think the ‘Noles run away from Syracuse, but also seem more likely to grab a win. Win likelihood: 32%

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Week 6: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Despite making a bowl game last year, the Deacs still definitely took a step back while going 4-5 (3-4 in the ACC). Even with the questions — especially on the defensive end — this is a team that will remain competitive and be able to keep up on offense. Of all of the typical toss-up games, I probably feel best about this one. Again, assuming relative health on the Orange side, SU could be a slight favorite here. Win likelihood: 55%

Week 7: Clemson Tigers

Just because Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne aren’t around anymore doesn’t mean the Tigers will be any easier to beat. There’s the Friday night at the Dome factor to consider, along with the fact that SU has played Clemson closer than just about anyone in the last five years. Still, a (very) probable loss. Win likelihood: 7%

Week 8: at Virginia Tech Hokies

Year one with Tech’s defense led by someone other than Bud Foster did not go as planned, as the Hokies went just 5-6 (5-5 in the ACC) while finishing 103rd in total defense. To make matters worse, both their leading passer (Hendon Hooker) and leading rusher (Khalil Herbert) are gone, so they’re attempting to rebuild that side of the ball as well. There’s talent on this roster, but Justin Fuente’s also on the hot seat. The Orange are a slight dog, and maybe get some help from the extra day of rest, assuming they’re not too beaten up after facing Clemson the week before. Win likelihood: 40%

Week 9: Boston College Eagles

Phil Jurkovec returning should be a boon to BC, and the same could be said about running back David Bailey, plus a solid offensive line. We know that the Eagles kind of slept through a 16-13 win over Syracuse at the Dome last season. That seems unlikely to occur again. Still, one could expect a close game. Win likelihood: 40%

Week 10: Bye

Fully expect the Orange to best the Fightin’ Byes once again.

Syracuse v Louisville Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Week 11: at Louisville Cardinals

On the bright side, it couldn’t be worse than last year’s trip to Louisville. The Cards limped to a 4-7 finish in 2020, and lose several key contributors including Javian Hawkins, Tutu Atwell, Dez Fitzpatrick, Jared Goldwire and Dorian Ethridge, among others. Still, with Malik Cunningham and the O-line back, it would seem Louisville’s still the better squad. Syracuse improvements could close the gap somewhat, but a win on the road here would still be an upset. Win likelihood: 35%

Week 12: at N.C. State Wolfpack

State was a surprising 8-4 (7-3 in the ACC) last year, and a lot of that was due to the run game and defensive front seven. Though QB Bailey Hockman has transferred out, getting Zonovan Knight back at running back will be helpful, and the defense should return a bunch of talent as well, while also adding several P5 transfers. I don’t know that State repeats last year’s results. They should be at least a .500 team, though. As long as what happened last year doesn’t repeat itself, I think we can all consider this a victory. Win likelihood: 40%

Week 13: Pittsburgh Panthers

Ugh. Pitt. Despite being a “peer program” for the most part, Pitt’s winds up being just good enough to get the win over Syracuse every year. With Kenny Pickett back, 2021 may be no different... though a lot more could be on his shoulders. The run game was lackluster last year, and the team relied heavily on a defense that will need to replace a few key pieces. That could make up the difference... or like always, the Panthers just wind up winning anyway for reasons unknown. We better hope we don’t need this one in order to make the postseason. Win likelihood: 45%

For the math-impaired, that’s .70 + .55 + .97 + .42 + .32 + .55 + .07 + .40 + .40 + .35 + .40 + .45 = 5.58

That’s only six if you round up, but... Syracuse gets there provided they win the first three (so 5.58 turns into 6.36 wins). This is not an easy schedule and last year’s was certainly simpler in some regards. Yes, we’re banking on young players improving and a potential transfer QB working out, plus the offense actually looking like something after two years of failing to. But considering the progress we saw even throughout the last year on the defensive side, I’m willing to bet that plus health equals a better on-field product last year.

Agree or disagree profusely here? Share your own picks below.