Last year at this time, The Fizz dissected the difficulties of Syracuse’s difficult non-conference schedule. According to the Sporting News, SU had the toughest non-con slate heading into last season. The Orange went just 2-3 against non-Big East opponents last year, but showed plenty of upside. Doug Marrone’s squad dropped to Northwestern by one point, and battled Matt Barkley’s USC late into the 3rd quarter at MetLife and fell short. Additionally, SU lost an ugly game against Minnesota, but cruised against Stony Brook and clinched bowl eligibility last year against SEC’s Missouri on the road. Overall, not too shabby.
With preseason training camp shifting to Fort Drum this week, the countdown to opening day at MetLife Stadium is winding down. Syracuse opens its season against tough Penn State on August 31st. SU’s first contest in its new conference is October 5th against Clemson in the Carrier Dome. The first quartet of games is against teams outside of the ACC. Here’s how these teams faired in 2012:
Penn State (@MetLife): 8-4; ineligible for postseason
At #17 Northwestern: 9-3; defeated Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl
The first game of the season against the Nittany Lions has obviously been highly anticipated, there should be plenty of urgency and focus for Syracuse. Bill O’Brien enters his second year following the Jerry Sandusky-Joe Paterno scandal. Was O’Brien’s success last year a fluke? We’ll begin the season with that question getting some answers. Plenty of backlash still exists from last season’s top college football storyline, which is something State College can’t avoid.
The matchup with Northwestern last season gives Scott Shafer some scouting tape to work with. Pat Fitzgerald’s squad comes in as a Top 25 team. In what the media likes to call “The Journalism Bowl,” Syracuse hope to battle the Wildcats tight, although it is on the road.
Weeks three and four are must-wins for the Orange. Wagner was NEC Champs last year, but SU needs to win this game at the Dome or it would be a disaster. Tulane fell apart in Curtis Johnson’s first season as HC, finishing 8 games under .500.
If the Orange wants to be a bowl team this season again getting a minimum of two non-con wins is mandatory. But a third win would be enormous. Based on Shafer’s focus and determination at Fort Drum, a slow start doesn’t seem to be in the picture:
“There are multiple reasons we go to Fort Drum. First and foremost it’s to get away, to be alone. There’s no cell service, we’re not going to have the internet and a lot of the luxuries the kids have on a day-to-day basis are going to be taken away from them and the coaches. There will be fewer distractions. The other reason we’re going to Fort Drum is to be around the world’s greatest military, and one of the greatest divisions in the military, the 10th Mountain Division.”
Shafer realizes how difficult wins will come by in a new conference. Four non-con battles arguably set the tone for the season before competition in the team’s new conference. If Shafer wants his “hard-nosed” bunch to make a statement in year number one, SU will likely look back to how the first four set the tone for ’13.
Posted: Brendan Glasheen