The start of Syracuse football’s 2017 season is three months away, but there is no reason for Orange fans to start getting anxious. Athlon has already told the people how SU will fare this season, so you can spend game day reading a book or learning to knit — whatever it is people who aren’t college football fans do on Saturdays in the fall.
Athlon’s ACC predictions hit the web Monday. After picking the Orange to finish last in the ACC Atlantic in 2016, the sports and lifestyle magazine gave SU a bit more credit this season. Despite having the toughest schedule in the country, Athlon predicts a 5-7 (2-6 in the ACC) finish for Syracuse and the No. 6 spot in the ACC’s Atlantic division.
The 3-1 non-conference record doesn’t need explaining. Athlon doesn’t give game-by-game predictions, but you can assume the three wins are over Central Connecticut State, Middle Tennessee, and Central Michigan while the loss goes to LSU in Baton Rouge. The speculation really begins when you look at Syracuse’s ACC schedule.
Let’s start by getting the almost-certain losses out of the way. The Orange hosts Clemson and then plays at Miami and at Florida State in three straight weeks. Two weeks later, SU visits Louisville. Anything can happen, but it most likely won’t in those four games. That leaves four winnable games for Syracuse: home games against Pittsburgh, Wake Forest and Boston College, and a trip to NC State in Week 4 to start ACC play. Athlon says Syracuse will win two of those games, the most likely of which are probably at home against Wake Forest and Boston College (they’re the only two Atlantic teams SU has beaten since 2014). If the Orange can win three of those four then Dino Babers is bowling again, so where will that third win come from.
Weeks 4 and 5 are when the success or failure of the season will be decided. If Syracuse can beat Boston College and Wake Forest later in the year (which is as far from a certainty as you can get), the Orange will need to beat either NC State on the road in Week 4 or Pittsburgh in Week 5 in the Carrier Dome to get six wins and guarantee a bowl appearance. Pittsburgh is a very winnable game. Yes, Syracuse gave up 76 points to the Panthers last year and Pitt’s offense is supposed to be just as good in 2017, but the Orange put up 61 of its own in that game. If SU gets into another shootout, the game goes up for grabs, and you can expect the Orange defense to be at least a little bit more formidable in Dino’s second time around the track.
Pittsburgh is a very winnable game. Yes, Syracuse gave up 76 points to the Panthers last year and Pitt’s offense is supposed to be just as good in 2017, but the Orange put up 61 of its own in that game. If SU gets into another shootout, the game goes up for grabs, and you can expect the Orange defense to be at least a little bit more formidable in Dino’s second time around the track. That game also comes off a bye week for Syracuse, while Pittsburgh will be playing for the sixth straight week.
There are cases to be made for a win over NC State as well. The Orange lost by 15 to the Wolfpack last season, but this year the teams meet in between NC State’s games against Florida State and Louisville which sets up nicely for a trap game.
Unless the Orange impresses early, Syracuse will only be favored in five games this season. That makes for an easy 5-7 prediction, and if it turns out to be true we’ll see if it’s enough to keep Orange fans happy (You can also vote in our poll below to tell us what you think).
Athlon predicts a 5-7 season for Syracuse football in 2017. Would you be satisfied with that record?
— Orange Fizz (@OrangeFizz) June 7, 2017
Posted: Nathan Dickinson