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Syracuse football: our way-too-early 2023 season projections

It’s never too early to set some expectations.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 22 Syracuse at Clemson Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Syracuse Orange football finished 7-6 last year, riding a hot 6-0 start and securing the team’s first bowl appearance since 2018 as well as a season-high ranking of 14th on the AP polls. SU is now looking to achieve back-to-back above-.500 seasons for the first time since 2012 and 2013.

With football’s return on the horizon, it’s time to look ahead and release our way-too-early projections for the upcoming season.

Mike, Christian and I are ranking each matchup with the following labels: Solid Win, Lean Win, Toss-up, Lean Loss and Solid Loss. Mike will soon go into greater detail and preview every opponent more in-depth. For now, here are our general game predictions for ‘Cuse:

Note: SP+ offensive and defensive rankings courtesy of ESPN. All over/under win totals courtesy of DraftKings. For context, Syracuse ranks 62nd in offensive SP and 43rd in defensive SP for the upcoming season and has an O/U of 6.5 wins. Also, keep in mind that the ACC is entering year one of the new schedule model.

Sept. 2: Home vs. Colgate (SP: N/A, O/U: N/A)

Dom (Solid Win): Compared to their basketball team in recent years, Colgate’s football team won’t come close to pulling off an unthinkable upset. No excuses for the Orange.

Mike (Solid Win): They’re not Wagner levels of pushover, but an FCS squad coming off a 3-8 season should be a cakewalk to start the year. Don’t play down to them.

Christian (Solid Win): Dino Babers’ first game in charge of Syracuse was against Colgate in 2016. It was the reveal of the “Orange is the new fast” offense, and this should serve as a good run through for Jason Beck’s offense and a retooled Rocky Long 3-3-5 defense.

Sept. 9: Home vs. Western Michigan (SP: N/A, O/U: 3.5)

Dom (Solid Win): Similar to 2021 and 2022, expect Syracuse to jump out to a comfortable 2-0 start with back-to-back home games to begin the year. From here, however, things get interesting.

Mike (Solid Win): Another game that should be pretty much decided by halftime - with or without LeQuint Allen on the field.

Christian (Solid Win): The only hope Western Michigan had was the power of Tim Lester. Now that he’s no longer there, it’s another tune-up game.

Sept. 16: Away vs. Purdue (Off. SP: 91st, Def. SP: 98th, O/U: 5.5)

Dom (Toss-up): No, this is isn’t the same Boilermakers squad that finished 8-4 last season, played in the Big Ten title game and secured a bowl game versus LSU. In fact, Purdue’s SP numbers are down from the top 50-60 range to the bottom of the top-100. But this is a road game and I’m factoring in the miraculous finish from the 2022 matchup, expecting the job to be more difficult given that context.

Mike (Lean Win): This Purdue team has a LOT of turnover and uncertainty entering the 2023 season. A true first-year head coach getting tossed into a primetime game will either make for a memorable first statement of his tenure or reinforce a learning curve. Experience says to go with the latter.

Christian (Toss-up): This is where we start to figure out where Syracuse’s offensive line is. If Garrett Shrader has time to throw or find a run, the Orange should grab a win. However, if the offensive line continues to perform like it did at the end of last season, the Syracuse defense is going to be on the field a lot.

Purdue v Syracuse Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

Sept. 23: Home vs. Army (Off. SP: 94th, Def. SP: 88th, O/U: 6)

Dom (Lean Win): All signs are pointing to Syracuse having the better roster and higher odds of winning heading into this matchup. If Army’s defense plays near its 2022 marker (43rd in defensive SP), however, this could play out like a defensive slugfest similar to last year’s home game versus Virginia.

Mike (Lean Win): I would have called this a toss-up a few weeks ago, but that was before the NCAA banned cut blocks and Army did away with its signature triple-read option.

Christian (Lean Win): With the triple option no longer in play, the 3-3-5 should have an easier time bottling up Army.

Sept. 30: Home vs. Clemson (Off. SP: 65th, Def. SP: 34th, O/U: 10)

Dom (Toss-Up): Syracuse is 2-9 all-time versus Clemson and hasn’t won since that all-time home upset in 2017. In back-to-back seasons, however, the Orange have lost both matchups versus the Tigers by a combined nine points - including a heartbreaking loss last year. If any insane upset will happen for the Orange, this is the game for it to happen.

Mike (Solid Loss): You had two chances to beat weakened Clemson teams and failed both times. I have full confidence that these Tigers will be back to full strength and while the Dome should be rocking, it won’t be enough to stop the significantly better team from winning.

Christian (Solid Loss): One of the big reasons why Syracuse stayed competitive in last season’s game was due to the offensive line. Bryan Bresee and Myles Murphy couldn’t leave a lasting impact on Garrett Shrader due to the Orange offensive line holding strong. I have a strong feeling that won’t be the case this season.

Oct. 7: Away vs. North Carolina (Off. SP: 15th, Def. SP: 55th, O/U: 8.5)

Dom (Solid Loss): This is where things start to get rough for the Orange, including a road game against a loaded UNC squad on the road. It ain’t gonna happen...

Mike (Lean Loss): Of this brutal three game stretch, this is the one where I think SU could *maybe* get lucky. Drake Maye fell off a bit at the end of a phenomenal freshman year and demonstrated he’s not invincible, but the Orange offense needs to keep up with his arm to have a chance.

Christian (Solid Loss): A lot of defensive players have commented with positive thoughts on Rocky Long’s 3-3-5. Now it’s time to show it. If Syracuse can’t pressure Drake Maye, it’ll be a long day.

Oct. 14: Away vs. Florida State (Off. SP: 9th, Def. SP: 11th, O/U: 10)

Dom (Solid Loss): If last year proved anything, it’s that this is Florida State’s ACC championship to lose. Especially with a deeper roster, a high preseason ranking and projected Heisman candidate Jordan Travis all in the mix.

Mike (Solid Loss): I’ll go one step further than Dom and say that FSU is likely a College Football Playoff team this fall. This will be the ugliest show of the season, but it’s fortunately right before the bye.

Christian (Solid Loss): Jordan Travis has seen Syracuse enough times to know how to dismantle a defense that hasn’t been great at stopping mobile quarterbacks.

Florida State v Syracuse Photo by Isaiah Vazquez/Getty Images

Oct. 26: Away vs. Virginia Tech (Off. SP: 90th, Def. SP: 46th, O/U: N/A)

Dom (Toss-Up): Virginia Tech is an even matchup for Syracuse, but coming off potentially three-straight brutal losses to the aforementioned gauntlet above, Syracuse will need to keep its composure.

Mike (Toss-Up): On one hand, SU honestly looks like a better team than the Hokies. On the other, “Enter Sandman” on Thursday night has prevailed 13 of 19 times.

Christian (Toss-Up): If this was a home game for Syracuse, I’d shift to a lean win. However, on a weekday night at Lane Stadium and coming off a bye week, the Orange better start fast.

Nov. 3: Home vs. Boston College (Off. SP: 91st, Def. SP: 63rd, O/U: 5.5)

Dom (Lean Win): This isn’t the same BC squad from last year, especially offensively. With this game at home, this will be a much-needed win in the Dome.

Mike (Solid Win): After not having a home game for an entire month (thanks ACC scheduling committee), Orange students and their families will pack the house and see a very lopsided rivalry continue to be that way.

Christian (Solid Win): AJ Dillon and David Bailey aren’t on Boston College anymore. Don’t mess this up, Syracuse.

Nov. 11: Neutral Site vs. Pittsburgh (Off. SP: 101st, Def. SP: 102nd, O/U: 6.5)

Dom (Toss-up): Arguably the biggest swing game of the year to push that 6.5 over/under line, Syracuse plays against Pitt in an 100th anniversary special at Yankee Stadium. This one could decide who makes a bowl game or not.

Mike (Lean Loss): If this were in the Dome, I’d call it a lean win, but considering it looks to be more of a corporate audience attending, expect the usual slog game against Pitt that ends with neither team deserving a win but Pat Narduzzi somehow getting it anyway.

Christian (Lean Loss): Syracuse hasn’t figured out Pat Narduzzi’s defense in the post-Dungey era. Not too many things have changed to make me believe that fortunes will be reversed this season.

Nov. 18: Road vs. Georgia Tech (Off. SP: 89th, Def. SP: 53rd, O/U: 4.5)

Dom (Lean Win): On paper, Syracuse should be able to get the job done. But based off last season’s derailment due to regression and injuries, this could be more of a toss-up.

Mike (Lean Win): GT has an improved roster compared to the train wreck that was last year’s mass firing of athletics personnel. Unfortunately for them, the Empire State of the South has a ton of Orange alums that will make this more of a home environment than the week prior in the Bronx.

Christian (Lean Win): As Dom alluded to, hopefully Syracuse is healthy enough to take advantage of a rebuilding Georgia Tech.

Nov. 25: Home vs. Wake Forest (Off. SP: 38th, Def. SP: 73rd, O/U: 6)

Dom (Toss-up): Another potential late-season marquee game, Wake Forest’s potent offense led to a demolition against the Orange this past season. At home and with a bowl game on the line, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Mike (Toss-up): I genuinely don’t know how to rate Wake Forest at this point, so let’s just hope this is an insurance game for a better bowl and not a must-win to get there at all.

Christian (Lean Loss): I continue to don the hat of the eternal pessimist at TNIAAM. The lack of Orange depth will flare up well before this game and it’ll manifest into a loss here.

Final updated predictions:

  • Dom (best-case scenario: 8-4, realistic record: 6-6)
  • Mike (best-case scenario: 9-3, realistic record: 7-5)
  • Christian (best-case scenario: 7-5, realistic record: 6-6)

How realistic are our predictions? Leave your thoughts down below.