It is finally here. Amid a global pandemic, college football has arrived. Syracuse kicks off its 2020 campaign this Saturday against North Carolina. So before the season gets underway, we at Orange Fizz want to predict what SU’s final record will be.
The Orange have hands-down the hardest away schedule in the ACC, but play a cupcake out of conference game against Liberty and have a semi-easy home slate. There are a lot of question marks going into this season, which makes these predictions even harder, but here goes nothing. Here are the Fizz’s 2020 Syracuse Football season predictions:
Okay, okay, hear me out. I’m not a crazy Syracuse fan who is blinded by bias. So, I’m not going to claim they will beat UNC, Notre Dame, Clemson, or Louisville. I could see Syracuse winning some of the other games on their schedule, but deep down in my heart I just don’t think it will happen all that often. The teams in the bottom half of the ACC are very comparable and each week will be a toss up. The reason I might be a little lower on this Syracuse team compared to some of the other writers is because of their offense. The offensive line was atrocious last year and it was supposed to be better this season, but it doesn’t look like it anymore. The Orange are starting Chris Elmore at the left guard position. I mean come on. He was recruited as a defensive lineman and played some tight-end and fullback, but he’s not an offensive guard. Plus, SU is without its top two running backs. So, without an offensive line to Tommy DeVito upright when he drops back and without running backs to keep it on the ground, I just can’t see this offense doing much.
The strength of this team is the defense. The new 3-3-5 scheme plays right into the Orange’s best unit, which is their secondary. I believe this will be a top-five defense in the ACC. But defense can only get you so far. The away games are going to be blowouts and the home games will be toss ups. I can comfortably give Syracuse two wins at home, but any more than that I don’t feel too confident on.
Also, I’m not dumb, I do know how to do math. I have Syracuse only playing ten games because there is just no way the Liberty game is happening with how the Flames are handling COVID.
Honestly, 3-7 is optimistic after the most recent depth chart listed Chris Elmore as the starting left guard. Elmore has played all over the roster for the Orange, at running back, fullback, tight end and defensive line. But never as an offensive lineman. Elmore starting over Patrick Davis is incredibly concerning heading into Week 1 against No. 18 UNC. Now as mentioned earlier, Syracuse’s schedule is incredibly difficult. But we’re also talking about a team that finished tied for the third worst overall record in the ACC last season. That was with Alton Robinson, Kendall Coleman and Trishton Jackson. All those guys are gone to the NFL. Gone too is offensive lineman Evan Adams who graduated.
As we all know, Syracuse is establishing a new 3-3-5 defense. But unfortunately, the defense has had very few reps due to COVID-19. On the offense, SU is learning under Sterlin Gilbert, the new offensive coordinator. I’m not as concerned there since Babers will have a heavy hand on that side of the ball.
But the offensive line was the biggest problem a year ago, and Elmore does not instill confidence. This team wasn’t good last year, and it won’t be good this season. The talent is worse and the glaring weakness wasn’t fixed. Like Jaron, I don’t think there’s any way Syracuse plays Liberty unless they truly follow through with following ACC guidelines.
Ladies and Gentlemen, gear up for a rocky ride. A new season of Syracuse football is upon us. Only this time, SU is without its top three leading rushers from last season, leading receiver, NFL-caliber defensive ends, and MVP (most valuable punter). Fun quirks include two new playcallers, a H-back starting on the offensive line and multiple receivers who have never logged snaps in a college game.
Tommy DeVito is going to have to be perfect for Syracuse to win games. Head coach Dino Babers has already said the O-line might be mix-and-match for the first couple of weeks (#FreeChrisBleich by the way) and losing Abdul Adams and Jarveon Howard is a crushing blow for the Orange run game. The wideouts are going to struggle unless Taj Harris has a banner year. Expect lots of Aaron Hackett, Jawhar Jordan and Luke Benson in the passing game.
Jaron is right. The defense is the strength of this team. However, it just isn’t strong enough. The 3-3-5 might put more defensive backs on the field, and we can highlight them all we want, but the front six is extremely weak. None of SU’s linebackers are experienced, and having three glorified D-tackles up front isn’t a great way to rush the passer. Open-field tackling last year was atrocious, and I don’t expect that to change. Unless Tony White has a playbook full of creative blitzes, teams could run all over the Orange.
Syracuse should definitely beat Duke and Boston College, and might eke one out over Wake or NC State. But fans will want to shield their eyes for other weeks. I also agree that Liberty won’t play any ACC teams this year due to its ridiculous lack of testing. Good on the SU players, John Wildhack and the ACC for taking a stand.
This may be way too optimistic but what the heck. I have Syracuse putting together five wins, all of which will come in the comfort of the Dome. Like my colleagues, I don’t think Syracuse will play Liberty. However, this could prove detrimental depending on the rules established regarding required wins for a bowl game. What if SU is just a game short of making a bowl? This could hypothetically come back to hurt them, hopefully Liberty can figure it out before mid-October.
I have Syracuse beating Georgia Tech. Duke, Wake Forest, and Boston College. We’ll beat Georgia Tech because they still have a roster full of players built for the triple option. Are they ascending? Yes. But I think they’re still a year away from contending.
We’ll beat Duke because we get them at home and we’re coming off a bye week. Not to mention, by then we’ll have played three games and hopefully have worked out the kinks and found lineups that work. We’ll beat Wake Forest because the Deacs lost arguably their best player to the opt-outs in Sage Surratt. In addition, I think our secondary shuts down their biggest threat, Donovan Greene. We’ll beat BC because they have a first year head coach and no longer have AJ Dillon. David Bailey is a capable back, but SU makes it a point to stop the run and the Eagles don’t have the playmakers outside to take advantage.
As for the losses, North Carolina has too many playmakers offensively for us to keep up with. They run the ball well and have the difference makers on the outside to put up big numbers. Pittsburgh figures to be solid once again and led by their vaunted defense. I don’t think we’re able to score enough in what will be a defensive struggle. Moving into October, we won’t beat Clemson because well, it’s Clemson. I understand we upset them a few years ago but come one, Kelly Bryant is no Trevor Lawrence. They also have Travis Etienne back for another year and the defense will be dominant once again under DC Brent Venables. Finally to November, I don’t see us beating Louisville. They’re a sleeper in the ACC this year and will simply score more points than we will just like last year. Next is NC State, they return 15 starters from last year’s team and honestly I had us winning this game at first but I had just no valid reason to back that belief. Notre Dame is the last game on the schedule. I can’t wait to see this one, it may have a sense of normalcy by late November and they’re allowing fans and students in the stadium. Besides that I think the Fighting Irish win behind a stellar performance by Ian Book who could be in Heisman contention.
Overall, 4-6 is not bad. I think SU has recruited very well the past couple years and this is the year the young guys get experience and take their licks. Come 2021 get excited, but perhaps the Orange can surprise some folks in a year no one expects them to perform well.
Yes, I know I’m the only one here predicting Syracuse plays 11 games. Given the way Liberty has handled COVID, that might be the boldest prediction I make ahead of the 2020 season.
There are two variables in play. The first one is the offensive line. It’s no secret that Syracuse had the worst offensive line in the country. Tommy DeVito was sacked 44 times, more than any other signal caller in the country. But I might be one of the only writers at the Fizz that is slightly optimistic about DeVito’s protection. Airon Servais as the full-time left tackle will help DeVito immensely. Last season Servais split time between center and left tackle. On the strong side at right tackle, Matthew Bergeron showed immense promise in 2019. Sure, there were bumps along the way. But what do you expect when a true freshman is asked to start after your “big fish” transfer Ryan Alexander goes down with a season ending injury? Between injuries and performance based swaps, the offensive line was adjusted like a jigsaw puzzle. Now that DeVito is an upperclassman, and is more familiar with his boys up front, the Orange will win on first and second down, keeping them out of third and longs. I understand the depth chart dictates some question marks inside, but in the long run DeVito should be better protected.
The defense could go one of two ways. Tony White’s 3-3-5 system could fool ACC teams having never seen it before. Syracuse fans should be familiar with this success by surprise concept since the “Orange is the new fast offense” pulled it off in 2016. In theory, it should work well with the personnel Syracuse has. Sacrificing a down lineman masks the void Alton Robinson and Kendall Coleman’s graduation leaves. Adding a linebacker should make up for Lakiem Williams and Andrew Armstrong’s departure, even though I might be the biggest Mikel Jones fan on staff. The secondary is SU’s strength, anchored by All-American safety Andre Cisco. With the versatility of this system, White could have a lot of fun with his new toy.
Here’s the alternative. The 3-3-5 fails because Syracuse was crunched for time in the offseason, with only a few spring practices and a fall training camp abbreviated by the pandemic. Communication in a new system could be a problem for the Orange, and penalties could be rampant.
In the end, talent rules. The Orange have the toughest schedule in the ACC, playing Clemson and Notre Dame on the road. It’s very possible they go winless on the road. But they will beat Liberty, assuming they play the game, and they will steal a few other games in the Dome.
I tried going against the grain here… I really did. But, the test SU will face with its schedule went from bad to worse after the blows taken from the team’s recent opt-outs. With the 11-game slate (which very well could be 10) the Orange has upcoming, there might not have been wiggle room to lose even a backup kicker, let alone both of its top two rushers and starting middle linebacker – among others.
Another significant hurdle for SU will be something that many other teams also have to face. It’s no secret this season will be unique, to say the very least, and a prime example of that will be the lack of fans in the stands at games. The Orange certainly will not be alone in playing without the benefit of a home crowd behind them. However, one could argue that SU will feel the loss of home fans more than most. I mean, that dome gets freakin’ loud and has been a tremendous factor in some of SU’s most iconic victories – from all the way back to 1980, until this very day. All told, with Orange fans forced to patiently wait before enjoying the new and improved dome, both the fans and players alike, will merely be left wondering what could’ve been. With SU’s work, on-paper, definitely cut out for them, a roaring Loud House crowd could be a colossal loss this season.
Looking at things game-by-game, it’s hard to envision a reality in which the Orange has no trouble with teams like North Carolina, Clemson and Notre Dame. SU also could run into some problems against Wake Forest, Louisville and NC State as well. As far as potential brighter results go, the Orange should have a good chance to snag a pair of home wins – even without a crowd – against Georgia Tech and Boston College. In addition to those two, I’m throwing in one more win, somewhere in there for SU – whether it comes via upset, or in a more winnable game like Pitt, Duke or someone else. Unfortunately, the status of SU’s Oct. 17 matchup with Liberty is currently up in the air and at least as of now, doesn’t seem likely that it will wind up being played. If that changes, I’ll say that would be win No. 4. However, without it, Syracuse could be in for a rather difficult three-win campaign.
This SU team isn’t one that will be remembered for years. There’s a lot of talent on this roster in some places and not a lot of talent in many other places. If you go by individual position group things don’t look good. Tommy DeVito has talent, but without a serviceable offensive line to protect him, nobody to throw to and no one to bandit off to, he’ll have a tough time orchestrating offense. Taj Harris will have to play out of his skin to keep this offense afloat, which seems unlikely.
On the other side of the ball things don’t look much better. This front seven might be one of the worst in SU history. Josh Black returns without any of his teammates from last season, Kendall Coleman, Alton Robinson, and Andrew Armstrong are just the three biggest names that have moved on from their time in Orange, and left this team with an incredibly unproven defense. The Secondary is actually one of the few bright spots for Syracuse. Trill Williams, Ifeatu Melifonwu and of course the future NFL first rounder Andre Cisco anchor the outfield for the Orange. Maybe not the best trio in the country but definitely one with some serious athleticism that has the chance to surprise some people.
With this prediction coating for only ten games it means SU wont play Liberty. The Flames’ handling of COVID most likely leaves them without a matchup against the Orange.
Phasing in two new coordinators in 2020 sounds like a disastrous idea. Never has there been more uncertainty surrounding personnel and never has there been so little practice time. I expect a lot of mistakes to be made early, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Opening against Boston College and UNC is a horrible way to start for the Orange.
Down the home stretch, however, this defense has a lot of potential to be solid. The secondary is one of the best in the ACC, and the defensive line elicits confidence. As long as an alarmingly inexperienced linebacker corps doesn’t mess everything up, I’m giving the defense a positive outlook, once the mental mistakes are eliminated.
It’s the offense that has me projecting a 2-8 season in the ACC for Syracuse. What single position group can I feel confident about? Not one. DeVito and Harris didn’t eclipse 600 yards last season. Jordan at running back will be fun to watch, but can he pass protect? I would have felt okay about the offensive line had Dakota Davis and Chris Bleich been in the fold, but alas.
Why can’t Syracuse ride the defense into doing better than 3-8? Because they run a hurry-up offense and play home games indoors. No scoring, no winning.