Every year, the Orange Fizz staff comes together to predict the outcome of the upcoming Syracuse football season. Two of our writers correctly predicted the Orange’s 4-8 record last season, and here’s how the staff thinks Syracuse will fare in the first year of the Dino Babers Era:
This feels to be a real reboot for the program, which means a fresh start but also players designed for the wrong system. Does Dino have the weapons to make his offense hum? I don’t think so. I think this year will be one of significant growing pains. But I love the energy and direction Babers has brought to SU. It feels like the right move, but will take some time to develop. And this year the schedule does them known favors.
Connor Morrissette: 4-8 (2-6)
Dino Babers has said it himself, it takes more than a full season for his offense to completely find its rhythm. He has asked for SU fans to be patient this offseason. I’m sorry Orange faithful, but this will be another year of mediocrity as Syracuse tries to find its footing under a new coach. One of the top 20 toughest schedules in the country mixed with severe inexperience on the offensive and defensive lines means the Orange will only manage to match last season’s win total. As a consolation, SU’s offense should have a handful of magic moments this year.
Nathan Dickinson: 6-6
Yeah, I’m that guy. I have major Dino Babers fever, and if this offense can look anything like it has at Babers’ other stops this season will already be a remarkable improvement for the Orange. In 2015, Syracuse was a disorganized group and lost games because of it, and Babers’ history shows he can whip a team into shape quickly. Defense may win championships, but SU is only trying to win a couple more games. I think the offense can handle that.
Logan Grossman: 5-7 (2-6)
The Syracuse football program has been injected with optimism and Orange Nation is expecting improvement on the gridiron. That improvement doesn’t necessarily have to come in the win column – many would settle for more entertaining and well-played football – but expect the Orange to marginally improve on last year’s win total. Syracuse should win three of its first four games but, yet again faces another tough conference schedule. Syracuse will grab two conference wins, both on the road, against Wake Forest and Boston College, the same two teams the Orange beat in the ACC last season. Ultimately, Syracuse will fall short of a bowl game but the fans will be treated to a much more enjoyable season.
Drew Carter: 5-7
A tough schedule may make it hard to see on the surface, but Syracuse should take a sizeable step forward in 2016. Expect the offense to be dynamic and increasingly productive as the season progresses, with Eric Dungey improving each week in the team’s new, fast-paced system and Steve Ishmael shattering his career highs in catches, yards, and touchdowns. But it’s the other side of the ball that should concern Orange fans. Babers’ staff will implement a Tampa 2 defensive scheme, which rarely features the blitz, and relies on dominant defensive ends to pressure opposing quarterbacks. It sounds good in theory, and has worked at the professional level with teams such as Tony Dungy’s Colts (Dungy is sort of the godfather of the NFL’s modern Tampa 2), whose edge rushers were some guys named Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. The problem? The biggest weakness on SU’s roster might be the lack of a premier pass-rusher. If the coaches are forced to bring extra blitzers, it could expose an unproven, already-banged-up secondary. But overall, Syracuse will be better than it was last season, due to both experience — the Orange returns 90 percent of last year’s production, the third-highest mark in the nation, according to SB Nation’s Bill Connelly — and the Babers Effect. I think the team’s postseason fate will be decided by the season finale at Pittsburgh, with the Panthers once again crushing the dreams of SU supporters.
Tyler Aki: 4-8
In a season where the hype is at an all time high, the Orange simply aren’t catching a break with the schedule. This year’s slate presents very few (if any) guaranteed wins, and of the 12 teams Syracuse faces this season, nine played in a bowl game last year. The Orange hung with teams last year and lost multiple games in the final seconds, which can be attributed to coaching. With a new regime, the Orange should be better in close games, but those situations won’t necessarily present themselves due to the strength of SU’s schedule. There is a soft spot in the calendar in Weeks 6-8 against Wake Forest, Virginia Tech and Boston College. However, two of those games are on the road. If the Orange can get out to fast starts and the defense keeps up, this team could win seven games. But the reality is that there will be growing pains on both sides of the ball. When it’s all said and done, Year One of the Dino Babers era may seem like a disappointment, but don’t let the potentially bad record fool you into thinking there wasn’t a huge step taken in the right direction.