Ed. Note - This week, the TNIAAM writers are taking a stab at telling you why this football team will finish with a specific record. Some are out of the norm, some are right in the norm's wheelhouse. We can't truly predict what's going to happen but we can at least try to cover our bases and understand how each record will be possible.
Villanova Wildcats: Villanova's a solid FCS squad, but we saw what this team, with more questions at receiver than it should have this year, did to both Wagner and a bowl-bound Tulane team last year. Hunt has a year under his belt, we have exciting news playmakers aplenty, and the Orange will win this one handily. W (1-0, 0-0)
at Central Michigan Chippewas: I've seen a few people cite this as a game that concerns them, and it really shouldn't. Central Michigan has some players, as any MAC team does, but as far as I can tell, they're an also-ran team from a weak (albeit very fun) conference. If Syracuse loses to CMU, we have far bigger problems than "can we get to six wins." If this team is what we think it is, this game should be a gimme. W (2-0, 0-0)
Maryland Terrapins: Maryland will probably be better than last season. Any insinuation that not having their star receivers last year didn't make an impact is probably wrong, although based on how the game played out, I still think Syracuse wins. This game will likely be tighter this season, and if this was back down in College Park, maybe things would turn out different. However, I think Syracuse will improve right alongside Maryland, the Dome will be a solid home field, and SU eeks out a close one against a powerful Big Ten program. W (3-0. 0-0)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish: As I mention above, without the services of DaVaris Daniels, KeiVarae Russell, Ishaq Williams and Kendall Moore, Notre Dame is even more vulnerable than we had thought. However, I have a hard time seeing this team going 4-0 right off the bat this season. It could certainly happen, and I will be there, praying for it to, but for the purposes of this blog, I won't predict it...yet. Ask me again during game week when Notre Dame has lost to Michigan and struggled with Rice. L (3-1, 0-0)
Louisville Cardinals: This is another huge swing game, but for whatever reason, I feel good about this one. Louisville's breaking in a new quarterback and a number of new defenders. The program was different then, but if we can knock off Teddy Bridgewater at the height of his powers in the Dome, Shafer can figure out Will Gardner. Louisville's receiving group is incredibly talented and terrifying, but it was the same in 2012. The Dome gets a win here. W (4-1, 1-0)
Florida State Seminoles: Nope. L (4-2, 1-1)
at Wake Forest Demon Deacons: I don't know why the schedule ships us down to the Carolinas in back-to-back weeks, but at least one of those weeks features the lowly Demon Deacons, who are suffering from a confluence of "new coach," "bad season the year before," and "lost all of their best players." I support the Deacs and hope they bounce back, but Dave Clawson's going to need a year or three. W (5-2, 2-1)
at Clemson Tigers: Clemson may be the most intriguing team in this league. The defense should run things this year, and by all accounts, be off the charts. Most of the guys that dominated us last year on that side of the ball are back. Offense is still a question mark for me. Cole Stoudt has been in the program and should have what it takes to keep the program afloat, but you never really know until he gets out there. Star freshman Deshaun Watson may also take snaps, which I'm sure Stoudt isn't thrilled about. Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant are gone, but Clemson proved at the Dome that the Tigers' skill positions are deeper than those two receivers. Syracuse can win this game, but it will take a braver man than I to predict it. L (5-3, 2-2)
North Carolina State Wolfpack: As John and I discuss on a near-weekly basis on our podcast (rate and review on iTunes!), we're not totally sure why everyone's back riding for N.C. State this year. Apparently you can't pop the "this team always wins seven games" balloon with one bad year. I'm taking a healthy wait-and-see approach on what this Jacoby Brissett-helmed offense looks like before I sign for N.C. State being a legit threat. W (6-3, 3-2)
Duke Blue Devils: Couldn't we have drawn them after they inevitably lose Dave Cutcliffe? Duke was not a fluke last year, and while they may not emerge from the ridiculous Coastal Division again, they should still be a rock-solid team this year. Cutcliffe is an offensive master, and SU is not going to skate by with only an FSU loss at the Dome. L (6-4, 3-3)
at Pittsburgh Panthers: As I said on the Pitt podcast a few weeks ago, for whatever reason, Heinz Field, which is anything but an imposing home field advantage based on my two trips for Syracuse games, is a bogeyman for the Orange. SU hasn't won at Heinz since 2001, in what must have been one of the first games in the new stadium. Pitt is a mystery team, and could anywhere from first to fifth in their division. I'm not in love with them as a potential eight or nine win team, but for whatever reason, they have our number at home, and I don't love this game for Syracuse. L (6-5, 3-4)
at Boston College Eagles: The bad news is that this game won't be as thrilling as last year. The good news is I see a comfortable seventh win for the Orange up in Chestnut Hill. B.C. loses a ton from last season, including do-everything (except against Syracuse) back Andre Williams, who is now playing alongside Jay Bromley, Justin Pugh, and Ryan Nassib in New York. After a rough stretch to end the year, Syracuse takes some momentum into the bowl season. W (7-5, 4-4)
So there you have it. The Orange will take a step forward, going 7-5, and we'll be preparing for yet another Pinstripe Bowl against a middling Big Ten squad...perhaps Minnesota again or Indiana if they can win half a dozen shootouts...or Michigan if things go really poorly in Ann Arbor. That, or we'll be shipped off to Maryland or Detroit, or the BitCoin Bowl, which I imagine will be played in a Tron-like universe. No matter where we go bowling, Syracuse will be happy to do it, and should have a fair chance to grab that eighth win that Scott Shafer put forth as the goal.