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Why Syracuse football will finish 4-8 in 2021

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A little more optimism followed by pessimism

NCAA Football: Liberty at Syracuse Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Ed. Note — As has become a (much derided) tradition, TNIAAM writers will tell you all week why this year’s Syracuse football team will finish with certain W-L records. These projections will get better as we go along, so hopefully you’re done being mad by mid-week or so.

Monday: 3-9 (Andy)

Tuesday: 4-8 (Christian)

Wednesday: 5-7 (John)

Thursday: 6-6 (Steve)

Friday: 7-5 (Kevin)

Alright this is my first crack at a “Why the Syracuse Orange finishes X-X” this season article.

I wish it was under better circumstances.

Granted, Andy took the harsh floor yesterday, which got plenty of you talking, but I’m not tasked with something much better. However, as we’ve mentioned multiple times on here, a 4-8 record is the bare minimum that Syracuse and Dino Babers should aim for. At the very least, if the large majority of games are competitive, close and within one or two possessions throughout the whole contest, that should be enough for Babers to keep his job.

We just want to see some progress. How does that look game-by-game in a 4-8 season?

***

at Ohio Bobcats: Yes, some books have Ohio as a one-point favorite. But you have to win this game as Syracuse. The big factor in this Syracuse victory is that the Bobcats haven’t had time to fully gel under Tim Albin as head coach. Starting on the road is always tough, but Syracuse theoretically has this one. W, (1-0) (0-0)

Rutgers Scarlet Knights: Even as a New Jersey native, I would love to see Rutgers lose this game. However, the Scarlet Knights have been on an upward trajectory more so than the Orange have been. Like Andy said, this’ll be a dumb game, but Syracuse probably does something dumb like go three-and-out on two straight possessions to tire the defense out again. L, (1-1) (0-0)

Albany Great Danes: Please don’t 2014 Villanova this game. Because if Syracuse does, the Orange don’t have Riley Dixon to save them this time. W, (2-1) (0-0)

Liberty Flames: Here’s where my one extra win comes from. The big reason for this is that Malik Willis didn’t actually do much in this game last year. He only had 182 yards in the air and 70 on the ground. For a guy with Willis’s standards, that’s lower than normal. As became readily apparent last year, Syracuse couldn’t stop the run. Theoretically, the run defense has improved enough where that’s not a big issue. Not having your starting quarterback suffer a season-ending injury in the fourth quarter during the previous game probably helps the Orange as well. W (3-1) (0-0)

at Florida State Seminoles: Oh boy, ACC play. This is going to be rough. As much as we love to laugh at FSU’s demise over the past couple of years, they’ve rebounded enough where the Orange don’t have much of a chance in this game. Couple that with the fact that this game is in Tallahassee and not much favors SU on paper. L (3-2) (0-1)

Wake Forest Demon Deacons: Alright, a second bite at the cherry against the Demon Deacons in the dome. Syracuse hung tight with Wake Forest last year until halfway through the third quarter. Again, a large part of that loss is due to the fact that the offense couldn’t stay on the field long enough to give the defense a break. Having a starting quarterback should help alleviate those issues. W (4-2) (1-1)

Clemson Tigers: It’s a Friday night in the middle of October and the Clemson Tigers bring in a new full-time starting quarterback to the Dome this season. Sound familiar? The scenario is almost exactly the same as 2017. So it could be close. But that’s all I’ll give. L (4-3) (1-2)

at Virginia Tech Hokies: Being a top-three team in the ACC Coastal isn’t much of an accolade, but that’s much better than what Syracuse usually has to offer over the past few seasons. It doesn’t help that Lane Stadium will be loud and raucous for this game. L (4-4) (1-3)

Boston College Eagles: It pains me to say this, but Boston College will still be just good enough this season. I think the Orange could have a chance in this game as neither offense showed up to play last season. In a different season this should be a win. However, there’s enough rushing from the Eagles to beat the Orange again. L (4-5) (1-4)

at Louisville Cardinals: Malik Cunnnighman is poised for a breakout year, and we already saw the disaster that happened last year. Yes, he threw two picks, but the Orange offense showed absolutely nothing at Cardinal Stadium. The SU offensive line should be better, but Cunninghman might be rolling enough at this point again. L (4-6) (1-5)

at NC State Wolfpack: I think this could be another win for the Orange since SU doesn’t have Rex Culpepper spiking the ball on fourth down this time. However, this game is in Raleigh. And that probably doesn’t bode well for Syracuse. L (4-7) (1-6)

Pittsburgh Panthers: These games are always dumb for the weirdest reasons. The scary thing is that Kenny Pickett is the one quarterback that had a decent game against the Syracuse defense last year. Syracuse should have a small advantage being at home to close out the season, but Pickett might single-handedly win this game for the Panthers. L (4-8) (1-7)

***

We’ll talk about this more later before the season starts, but it almost feels like every game, save for the Albany game, is a coin-flip for the Orange this season. There isn’t enough evidence yet to show that this Syracuse team is vastly different than last year. We know the defense will have its moments, but can the offense support that? The answer to that question could decide the floor and ceiling for Syracuse this year.