We break down the upcoming Orange opponents in three categories to help project how SU can get to six wins.
Syracuse embarks on its first ACC conference schedule next week. Syracuse needs to find four more wins in order to become bowl eligible in consecutive seasons for the first time since the Orange went to bowls five straight years from 1995-1999. There are three categories the Syracuse schedule can fall into: must wins, toss-ups and nearly definite losses. Here is the remaining schedule for the Orange and the opponent’s record:
@NC State , 2-1
@Georgia Tech, 3-0
Wake Forest, 2-2
@Florida State, 3-0
Wake Forest: Syracuse needs to beat the Demon Deacons when they come up to the Dome at the beginning of November. On the field, Wake is one of the weaker teams in the Atlantic division. Wake has lost to BC and Louisiana-Monroe, while its two wins came against Presbyterian and Army, not exactly football powerhouses. Wake Forest’s leading rusher Josh Harris has just 151 yards total and quarterback Tanner Price has averaged just 213 passing yards per game. The offense isn’t exactly lighting it up. With the game in the Dome and an expected large crowd because of parents’ weekend and Donovan McNabb’s jersey retirement, the Orange should not lose this game.
Pitt: Syracuse beat Pitt last season, although the game was not pretty. The Orange get the Panthers at the Dome late in the season. Pitt was blown out by Florida State opening weekend in Jameis Winston’s first college game and last weekend nearly blew a 23 point lead against Duke. Pitt’s new quarterback, Tom Savage, struggled against Florida State and New Mexico before unloading on Duke throwing six touchdowns and 424 yards. But Duke doesn’t have a great defense, the Blue Devils allowed 55 points to Pitt and 344 rushing yards against Georgia Tech. Pitt is another team that the Orange should beat at home if the team expects to play in a bowl game.
BC: The Orange should be BC. The Eagles are one of the worst BCS teams in the country, and beat division I-AA Villanova by just 10 points. BC has a first year head coach and was blown out by underachieving USC 35-7. At the time, USC’s offense was lost and in a quarterback battle. Even with a 2-1 record the Eagles have allowed more points (59) than they have scored (55). Quarterback Chase Rettig is more a game manager, completing about 60% of his passes and throwing four touchdowns in three games. The rushing attack carries the offense, with Andre Williams averaging nearly 4.7 yards per carry. This will be the final game of the season, and the Orange has it at the Dome. With a bowl berth potentially on the line SU has to win this game.
NC State: the Wolfpack are a tough team to figure out. They blew out Louisiana Tech opening week, but then needed a last minute field goal to beat Richmond. In its most recent game, NC State was able to hang with Clemson, and if not for a controversial out of bounds call the Wolfpack could have been in position to win. QB Pete Thomas has yet to throw for a touchdown and has four interceptions. The running game has been better, with the Wolfpack averaging nearing 200 yards per game on the ground. But even so, the NC State offense has scored just 8 touchdowns through the team’s first three games. The Orange could beat NC State if the defense is able to stop the running game, the only dominant unit of the NC State offense. But it will not be easy to go on the road to beat NC State.
Georgia Tech: Tech is all about the running game. For years the Yellow Jackets have run the triple option. The strength of the Syracuse defense so far has been the rush defense. With a strong front line, and a stronger group of linebackers, the Orange has done well containing the running game the past two seasons. The challenge for the Orange will be looking out for the pass from Georgia Tech. Quarterback Vad Lee has thrown just 39 passes but has seven touchdowns against one interception. If the Yellow Jackets are successful, it would mean pulling defenses closer and closer to the line of scrimmage due to the potent running attack, before taking shots down the field in the passing game.
Maryland: This is a toss-up because the game is in College Park. The Terrapin offense has looked impressive in the first four games, scoring at least 32 points in each including a 37-0 beat down of West Virginia last week. After losing four touchdowns last year due to injury, the Terps have found their guy this year in CJ Brown. Brown has completed two-thirds of his passes while tossing seven touchdowns to just one interception and scoring six more touchdowns on the ground. The Terps’ top running back Brandon Ross is averaging five yards per carry and leading receiver Stefon Diggs is averaging over 20 yards per carry. The Orange will be going into a hostile environment in Byrd Stadium and play a team that can pose some problems. This will be a grudge match too with long-time UConn nemesis Randy Edsall on the sidelines. He appeared on the hot seat coming into the year, but the team has responded and completely torched the Mountaineers last weekend.
Clemson: The Orange is going to face a sever uphill battle to beat Clemson. Barring an unlikely home loss to Wake Forest, Clemson will come to the Dome as a top 3 team in the nation. Clemson is a legit National Championship contender that already beat top 10 Georgia, who was just a deflected pass away from beating Alabama and playing in the National Championship game last year. The Orange defense hasn’t seen an attack like this in years. The Tigers have a Heisman candidate in Taj Boyd under center and explosive Sammy Watkins split wide. Clemson can put up 30 points and 400 yards without breaking a sweat. The energy will be raucous inside the Dome for the first ACC tilt, but stopping the Tigers is easier said than done.
Florida State: The Seminoles are another top 10 team on the Orange’s schedule, but this time, SU goes on the road. Going into Tallahassee in mid-November will be unlike any environment Syracuse has played in in recent history. Led by Winston, the ‘Noles offense has put up a staggering 52.3 points per game. If you think Bethune-Cookman and Nevada are cupcakes, keep in mind that Florida State hung 41 on Pitt opening weekend. The Seminoles are another team that is for real in the ACC, and could end up in a BCS bowl even with a loss to Clemson. The Noles are one of the best teams in the conference and SU just isn’t on that level yet. It’ll be a long day trying to shut down the elite athletes FSU has across its roster.
It’s simple math for the Orange: win three of your home games and find one game to win on the road. Aside from the two games against top 10 teams, Clemson and Florida State, any game is winnable for the Orange. It’s up to the team to find a way to win four of them if it wants to be bowling this winter.
Posted: Seth Goldberg