The 2023 Syracuse Orange football season is here and now we’ve got to give you our predictions. We asked the staff to give you their overall record, ACC record, bowl game and various individual awards.
Overall record/ACC record & Bowl Game (if applicable)
Andy: 7-5, Military Bowl. I think it’s clear that the schedule has worked itself out in a way that if the Orange can get through their three-game slate of Clemson-@UNC-@FSU healthy, there’s a great chance to find up to 3 wins against middling teams in the conference.
Mike: 8-4, 4-4, Duke's Mayo Bowl. This is the weakest ACC football has looked in a very long time. No Notre Dame means sweeping all four OOC games is very feasible, and everything outside of Clemson and FSU are at least winnable. This particular bowl would be a Hollywood ending for Garrett Shrader, even more so if Mississippi State is the SEC representative.
Dom: 7-5, 4-4, Pop-Tarts Bowl. Syracuse has the potential to be 4-0 if it can survive on the road to Purdue - easily the most season-deciding game that isn’t in the last week of the season. Even with the gauntlet of a mid-season slate that Andy mentioned, the Orange would only need 2-3 wins against any of Boston College, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech or Pittsburgh to clinch a bowl game.
Kevin: 7-5, 3-5, Military Bowl
I think Syracuse will get off to a 4-0 start and then we’re going to get another big dip in October. The Orange will survive Virginia Tech and beat BC to get bowl eligible before a 1-2 finish. While I’m personally hoping for the Pop-Tarts or Duke’s Mayo Bowl, I think Syracuse will gladly take the trip to Annapolis and the Military Bowl.
Max: 8-4, 4-4, Fenway Bowl.
After two (hopefully) non-competitive wins, the Orange will capitalize off an inexperienced Boilermaker coaching staff in West Lafayette. Beating Army in the Dome will make SU perfect in non-conference play for the first time in 30 years. And finally, the ‘Cuse will go bowling at America’s most beloved ballpark.
Christian: 6-6, 2-6, Military Bowl.
I went back and forth between a 6-6 record and a 5-7 record. That’s because the Purdue contest is the swing game of the season. If the reports of Purdue’s demise are not exaggerated, Syracuse should go bowling again. If not, we’ll see similar trends from the previous years under Dino Babers flare up again. Injuries after the brutal three-game stretch, a lackluster showing after the bye week and a tired team down the stretch makes the “winnable” part of the schedule difficult to take advantage of.
Steve: 7-5, 3-5, Military Bowl
The schedule lines the Orange up for a favorable start, with some relatively soft non-conference schedule action, and a Purdue team in question. There’s the murderer’s row in the middle and I think there’s a good chance this team can scrape together wins in at least three of the 50-50 games. I think another bowl and a firmly above .500 record are in order.
Andy: Oronde Gadsden II. The Orange’s offense last year went to one guy when they needed a big play, and Gadsden delivered. It appears that his star is shining bright this year and I’m hoping a 1,000+ yard season with 8+ touchdowns is on the way.
Mike: Oronde Gadsden II. I firmly believe he can replicate his dad’s success at the NFL level, and one more big season is all he needs to fly up draft boards. Transferring never seemed to be in the question for O.G., despite rumors of FSU and elsewhere, so he trusts this offense to maximize his potential once again.
Dom: Gadsden is the sure-fire pick for most of us (well-deservedly so), but I’ll make an easy case for Garrett Shrader - if he isn’t healthy from start to finish this season, there is a legitimate cap on how well the Orange can perform. Shrader’s improvements as a passer in 2022 paired with his consistent scrambling out of the pocket can’t be understated. Going from him to Carlos Del Rio-Wilson or any of the other backup options feels like a significant drop in value.
Kevin: Garrett Shrader took a major step forward last year. If he’s starting at 100% this season, I think he can raise his passing game another notch. Teams are going to try and take away Gadsden, but I think an experienced and comfortable Shrader is going to make better decisions and distribute the ball to other receivers.
Max: LeQuint Allen. Let’s mix things up a bit. The heir to Sean Tucker will finally get his chance in the Dome spotlight... and boy, will he shine bright. The sophomore won’t be shaken by the offseason controversies, racking up over 1,000 all-purpose yards in a breakout year. His production will keep defenses honest with SU’s air attack, opening the door for the Garrett Shrader-Oronde Gadsden II connection.
Christian: If Syracuse explodes this season offensively, it’ll be due to Garrett Shrader staying consistent from game-to-game. It’s getting harder in the modern game of football for teams to effectively cover a mobile quarterback. That part of Shrader’s game led to much of the Orange success at the beginning of last year. Keeping the defense honest with Shrader’s legs on passing situations opens up the rest of the skill players to have an impact.
Steve: I’ll do that thing. We all know it’s one of the three skilled position players, but I would say the actual MVP is going to be Enrique Cruz. He’s literally the one protecting everything for the Orange, and will be stepping right into the left tackle role of Matthew Bergeron. This team goes as far as the line takes them and the line goes as far as it’s anchor does.
Andy: Marlowe Wax. The Orange defense has so many new pieces and players returning from injury, Wax feels like the constant. If he’s the consistent lock every snap, I think we see a lot of the new pieces come together nicely.
Mike: Caleb Okechukwu. While still not the strongest position group, the D-Line has bulked up some from last year, meaning Okechukwu will have plenty more chances to create chaos in the backfield (seven sacks, two strips and a pick-six in 2022).
Dom: Okechukwu... he’s clearly focal with bringing the team together, he’s entering his redshirt senior year and he definitely is a main-stay starter with a nice blend of athleticism, size, productivity and experience. His numbers don’t completely jump off the page, but he’s a much-needed veteran for a defense lacking continuity given the departures.
Kevin: Stefon Thompson. I was going to go with someone from the secondary but I honestly don’t know how the defensive back rotation will shake out, so instead I’m taking the player who could cause the most havoc on opposing offenses. A healthy Thompson could give the Orange pass rush a major boost.
Max: Marlowe Wax. The junior has full control over SU’s linebacking core following the departure of Mikel Jones. Wax led the team in tackles last year, and I don’t expect that to change this time around. The anchor in the middle of the Orange defense will tally over 100 takedowns en route to a Second-Team All-ACC nomination.
Christian: Leon Lowery. Wax is the easy choice here, but to switch it up a little, I’ll pick the guy we assume is going to start in his place this season. We’ve seen how devastating Wax is from the WLB position and the 3-3-5 allows both edge linebackers to have a significant impact in the backfield. Lowery showed bursts of that impact last season and I think he’ll be a tough matchup to contain.
Steve: I’m with Kevin. If Thompson goes from question to healthy, this linebacking corps goes from solid to good with some serious depth. Knowing this team, that depth will be important, so having a healthy Stefon Thompson will be key.
Special Teams MVP
Andy: Jack Stonehouse. In 2018 when the Orange broke out under Babers, the punting game consistently flipped the field for the team, forcing teams to work for their points. A successful Orange team needs to bring that element back, and Stonehouse looked great in the Spring Game.
Mike: Trebor Pena. I feel his return skills have been underrated in the past, and with a defense that rotates its parts frequently enough to also put starters on ST, he should again break off some long gains and keep the Orange from being pinned deep on punts.
Dom: Pena. He’s one of the most experienced and productive returners in the country who decided to stick around this season. Having some consistency with special teams will help to mitigate some of the variability the Orange could face in 2023.
Kevin: Brady Denaburg. Dino Babers isn’t going to change overnight so that means he’s going to settle for 40 yard field goal attempts instead of gambling. If Denaburg can be as productive as Andre Szmyt that’s going to be a huge boost to hopes of a winning season.
Max: Give me Pena. He’s now a specials teams maestro with three years as a returner under his belt. A track star in high school, the speedster has the wheels to flip the script instantly. He’ll also get enough playing time lining up in the slot on offense to stay fresh for his returns.
Christian: Jack Stonehouse. Syracuse has really missed the field positioning that Riley Dixon, Sterling Hofrichter and Nolan Cooney gave in the punt game. Judging by the early reporting, it looks like Stonehouse can give the Syracuse defense great opportunities to make opponents very uncomfortable in long-field situations.
Steve: Brady Denaburg. You don’t go from former All-American kicker to next man up all the time, but when you do it’s important. In close games, he’s going to need to convert for the Orange to be successful in those toss up matchups.
Andy: Juwaun Price. A lot of attention was rightly paid to LeQuint Allen this offseason, but Price came into this program as an established player from New Mexico State. He’s got the body type (5’10”, 208) to work between the tackles, and we know the red zone offense needs to improve.
Mike: Jeremiah Wilson. All the pieces are in place for a breakout year a-la Garrett Williams. Jerry, as his teammates often call him, is described as an always energetic, explosive corner who performed excellently in spring camp. If he can win 1-on-1s on one side of the field, it will make it easier for Justin Barron and the rest of the secondary to home in on opponents’ top targets.
Dom: Marlowe Wax. With the departures of some of Syracuse’s defensive leaders, Wax will need to be a focal anchor for this unit and will boast plenty of chances to produce beyond what he’s already done. The Orange’s highly-ranked defense has been a majority of the reason behind the program’s past two years of decent success and will need someone like Wax to both produce and serve as a leader for the defense.
Kevin: Donovan Brown. With all the attention that opponents will place on Gadsden, there will be lots of chances for receivers to face single coverage. Brown’s got the big-play ability to thrive in space and I expect he’s going to deliver some this fall.
Max: Bralyn Oliver. A “diamond in the rough,” according to Alijah Clark, Oliver has the tools to fit in nicely with the secondary. He didn’t see much action last season at Louisville but had been matched up one-on-one with Gadsden in training camp. He won’t start right out the gates but expect the redshirt sophomore to capitalize off crucial reps as the year progresses.
Christian: Isaiah Jones. I only said Jones because we haven’t seen him over a full season at wide receiver. He looked great in the small sample size last year before his injury. Now that he’s presumably healthy, he’ll provide the much-needed second option in the receiving game when defenses inevitably tunnel in on covering Oronde Gadsden.
Steve: Denis Jaquez Jr., has only suited up six times for the Orange, but he was a player poised to make a move as a true freshman before being derailed by injury. If he can have a solid campaign and add a true threat opposite Caleb Okechukwu, I think that can only improve the defense.
Now it’s your turn. Put those picks in the comments and we’ll revisit in late November