Expectations for Syracuse football have been slowly climbing since the end of the Groobers Error, and Scott Shafer believes a winning season would be cause for celebration in a new power conference. SU is no stranger to exceeding expectations. When Ryan Nassib entered his senior season, there were grumblings whether he could adapt to pocket pressure well enough. He responded by leading the Orange to yet another Pinstripe Bowl victory. He matured from a skittish QB under duress to a player voted by Pro Football Weekly as a First-team All American.
With a new coach, and questions surrounding the QB position, Orange Nation wonders if SU will be contending for a bowl or have a rough season against more formidable competition. So what can SU do to reach Shafer’s goal of an above-.500 season? Here’s three keys:
- Ready, Set, Go!
A fast start is big. SU begins the season in the Meadowlands against a Penn State team still on postseason probation and picking up the scandal pieces. Penn State is rebuilding, and has questions with Tyler Ferguson under center. Could SU steal this game? It’ll be rough. The Nittany Lions went 8-4, (6-2 in the B1G) and Bill O’Brien steadied a ship that was taking on water last offseason. It’ll be a tough task. A trip to Northwestern is also difficult, the Wildcats were 10-3 last year. But the Orange have winnable games in the Dome against Wagner and Tulane.
- Shake and Intimidate
Shafer hopes Orange Nation shows up in bigger numbers at the Dome this season. Attendance had been lackluster under Doug Marrone, but the team pours its effort into every single practice and game. The Orange have two separate jersey retirements this season which should boost attendance up for those two games. It’s a good ACC slate inside the Dome: Clemson, Wake, and old foes Pitt, B.C. The final two contests against classic rivals with a postseason berth on the line means there’s enough reason for the Dome to be rocking for most home games.
- Expect the Expected
The Orange struggled last season sewing up games it expected to win like Northwestern at home, and at Minnesota. SU has tough games against FSU, Clemson and Penn State. SU must win the ones its supposed to. If the Orange can beat Wagner, Tulane and Wake at home, then beat a Maryland team on the road that was only 4-8 last year (2-6 in the ACC), SU already has four wins. With home games against Pitt and BC to wrap up the season, the quarterback situation should be settled by then, and that could put the Orange at 6 wins. If it steals another one somewhere, that gets to the 7 win plateau. If not, a bowl game could net this program its 7th win.
To begin the year SU is going to rely on the defense to set the tone of the games. There are going to be growing pains at QB. It’s not impossible to reach Shafer’s goal of a winning season. Now it’s up to the Orange to make it happen.
Posted: Zephan Mayell