A few months back, we projected SU’s win/loss record for the upcoming season. Twelve games later the Orange had finished with their second consecutive ten-win season. Whether that prediction is accurate or not remains to be seen. However, the level of competition Syracuse will face this year is rather clear.
We ranked all 12 games in 2019 based on projected difficulty.
12. Holy Cross (Sep. 28)
This is as close to a guaranteed win as it gets for Syracuse in 2019. The Crusaders finished 5-6 last year and were smashed by Boston College, 62-14, in their only game against a power-five opponent. This is the biggest game on Holy Cross’ 2019 calendar, but they won’t have the firepower to compete with Syracuse inside the Loud House. This matchup is very similar to when Wagner came to Central New York and it should come with a similar result.
11. at Liberty (Aug. 31)
Hugh Freeze begins his Flames era at home in Lynchburg against SU. That’s still weird to think about, right? Not only do the Orange open up against a school two years removed from the FCS, but Freeze (formerly of Ole Miss) is the head coach. The Flames do have something working in their favor: a night game to open up newly-renovated Williams Stadium. That’s about it, though.
10. Western Michigan (Sep. 21)
Row the boa… oh wait, that was the saying from a few years back with P.J. Fleck. Things are much different in Kalamazoo since the Broncos went 13-1 in 2016. Syracuse fans know that first hand after last year’s 55-42 win for the Orange to open the season. This September, Tim Lester will be back in the Dome for the first time as WMU’s head coach. Even with Jon Wassink returning at quarterback, the Broncos should be outmatched by the Orange.
9. at Louisville (Nov. 23)
On paper, this is clearly the easiest conference game on SU’s schedule. In fact, if it wasn’t a late-season road game, you could make the case to move it even further down the list. First-year head coach Scott Satterfield has weapons on the offensive side of the ball, most notably wide receiver Dez Fitzpatrick. Most experts agree that it will take Satterfield more than a year to turn around the dumpster fire that Bobby Petrino left in Louisville.
8. at Duke (Nov. 16)
Putting another late-season road game in the ACC this low on this list is risky. Syracuse shined late in the season last year after failing to win a single game after the bye in Dino Babers’ first two seasons at the helm. Duke is always a scrappy team and David Cutcliffe will have his guys ready to go. Led by new quarterback Quentin Harris, the Blue Devil Offense is poised to take a step forward even with the loss of Daniel Jones to the NFL.
7. Boston College (Nov. 2)
The Eagles seem to be a broken record at this point. Every year there’s hype about the BC running game which only gets overshadowed by the team’s inability to put together an entire 12-game season. Maybe that has something to do with quarterback Anthony Brown? The redshirt-junior improved in his second year but didn’t come up with the plays to put the Eagles over the top. QB aside, you can’t ignore a team with A.J. Dillion in the backfield.
6. Pittsburgh (Oct. 18)
Does anyone remember how the Syracuse/Pitt game ended last season? Sorry if it’s too soon to talk about it. That’ll be a significant storyline heading into the 2019 rematch. The Panthers are replacing their backfield but return quarterback Kenny Pickett for his second full year under center. Like Boston College, Pitt has struggled to take the next step and sniff double-digit wins. Both programs will circle the Syracuse games as must wins in order to climb the mountain this fall.
5. at Maryland (Sep. 7)
Why is this game so high on the list? One reason: it’s a week before Clemson. Babers will have his hands full trying to keep the Orange’s focus on the week one and two opponents rather than looking ahead to the primetime showdown in week three. The Terps brought in former Virginia Tech quarterback Josh Jackson to pair with first-year coach Mike Locksley. Usually a non-conference game like this wouldn’t crack the top five, but it does this year given its placement in the schedule.
4. Wake Forest (Nov. 30)
Senior Day could be eventful in the Carrier Dome this fall when Wake Forest comes to town. The Demon Deacons are a popular sleeper team to finish top three in the ACC Atlantic. Since the teams meet to close out their regular seasons, SU and Wake could be jockeying for bowl positioning. The Demon Deacons finished strong last year and have built up a solid core under coach Dave Clawson. This is a program on the rise in the ACC with its eyes on a head-turning season in 2019.
3. at NC State (Oct. 10)
Thursday night in Raleighwood. NC State has slowly become the premier football program in North Carolina. The only problem? This projects to be a down year for Dave Doeren’s team. The Wolfpack still get respect on the list based on what they’ve proven to be capable of and how crazy of an environment Carter-Finley Stadium is on a Thursday night. It’s not the biggest venue in the country, but much like the Carrier Dome, it can get noisy. Both teams will have a bye week to prepare for the matchup.
2. at Florida State (Oct. 26)
Some of you may not agree with this selection. Florida State had an awful year last year, which means second-year head coach Willie Taggart will be coaching for his job this fall. Everyone’s better when that is the case. The talented Deandre Francois is gone, but James Blackman is more than capable of replacing him under center. Change was needed after the miserable season the Seminoles had and that’s exactly what happened. FSU is loaded with high-level recruits and should bounce back this season.
1. Clemson (Sep. 13)
Defending National Champions… Saturday Night Football – 7:30 p.m. on ABC. A win puts the Orange in the drivers seat in the ACC. Do I need to say more?