It’s finally that time. Syracuse football is back and that means it’s time for The Fizz’s annual crystal ball picks. Last season, only one of our writers hit the nail on the head with a 4-8 record. The other five all finished a game off. AKA, if Syracuse didn’t allow Wake Forest to close out on a 40-8 run, we all would’ve looked a lot smarter. Anyway, here’s how The Fizz thinks 2018 will shake out:
David Edelstein: 5-7
Some magic may be about to happen for Syracuse football, but the spell might not be as strong as many Orange fans might be hoping for. Dino Babers is entering his third full season as the SU head coach, which is big news because he has never spent three full seasons as the head coach of any team before. After the season starts off easy with Western Michigan and Wagner (but remember we said that last year, and then came Middle Tennessee State), Syracuse will play tough opponents in the ACC, including (but not limited to) Florida State, Clemson and Louisville. North Carolina is an addition to the schedule this year and is coming off a rough season, and the Tar Heels don’t look like they will rebound enough to topple the Orange. At this point, after the 2016 defeat of ranked Virginia Tech, the 2017 defeat of ranked defending national champion Clemson and the 2017 loss to Middle Tennessee State, it is only fair to calculate for both an upset win and an upset loss. In order for Syracuse to break through this year, the Orange will have to win on the road. To be a Bowl team, there cannot be anymore last-second, game-winning field goal misses (2017 at Florida State) or blown games after taking a 17-0 lead in the first quarter (2016 v. South Florida). On the bright side, Eric Dungey is once again slotted in as a top prospect for awards. After three straight 4-8 seasons and four straight seasons with no more than four wins, SU should be positioned take on one more win. Hey, that’s improvement.
JD Raucci: 6-6
Tim Leonard: 6-6
This is the year Syracuse gets back to a bowl game. Its time. Babers and company knocked down the necessary checkpoints in his first two years. Now, it’s time for him to hit that elusive one. I’m not worried about the young receiving core given how friendly Dino’s system is to pass-catchers. Not to mention, the running game should improve with a stronger offensive line. The defense is still going to allow a lot of points. But after a narrow win on the road at BC in the regular-season finale, Syracuse will live to play into December. If not, four years with Eric Dungey and no bowls would be a shame.
With Syracuse’s opening weekend matchup with Western Michigan on the horizon, one major question remains: can the Orange get out of its own way? Injuries — particularly to starting quarterback Eric Dungey — have been a major problem under Dino Babers. Now, the third-year coach has the best roster he’s had at Syracuse. If those players are able to stay on the field, this should be the best football season that Central New York has seen in a long time. The Orange has loads of experience on the offensive line, which should help keep Dungey healthy and open up running lanes for running backs Dontae Strickland and Moe Neal. There is understandable concern at linebacker, but the switch to the nickel defense should help the inexperienced bunch. Of course, that’s assuming defensive back Antwan Cordy can stay on the field. If everything goes right for this football team, it could win seven or eight games. As we know, that rarely happens, which means SU will have to settle for a six-win season and its first trip to a bowl since 2013.
Harrison Singer: 7-6
Eric Dungey may be the talk of town, but it should also be noted that Dino Babers has plenty to prove in year three. The Orange returns Dungey and other key pieces, but inexperience exists in other spots. Looking at SU’s schedule, failing to at least surpass the 4-win mark for the third straight year would be utterly disappointing. Meetings with Clemson, Notre Dame, and Florida State will obviously be tough, but there still should be room for error. Most of the games on the Orange’s schedule are games it can certainly win if it plays well. It also wouldn’t be crazy to say that SU, at the very least, has a fighting chance in all of its games. We all remember what happened last year at the dome. Ultimately, Babers should be able to coach this team to six wins and a bowl game. After all, he might have to.