The old coaching cliche says that every game is important. Is it true? Sure. But it doesn’t take an X’s and O’s wizard to tell you that certain games and matchups can swing a season. Given the Orange’s recent history under Dino Babers, SU will likely steal a game as a heavy underdog and lose one it should win. With Syracuse’s bowl drought spanning back to 2013, there’s a feeling of desperation for central New York football fans. The Orange has come up a game or two short of a bowl in each of Babers’ first two seasons at the helm, both of which could have swung if a couple plays went their way and some L’s were flipped to W’s.
In 2018, the schedule isn’t nearly as tough as it has been in year’s past (hello UNC and UConn, goodbye LSU and Miami). With a couple of game times already known, this is shaping up to be the Orange’s best chance at a bowl since that 2013 season. But 2018 could be another postseason spent watching from the couch if the Orange doesn’t execute in a couple swing games.
Let’s define a swing game before we dive into a couple pending matchups. These are toss up games that the Orange may either be a slight favorite or a slight underdog in. If SU wins more of these than it loses, it has the chance to “swing” the season from being a non-bowl contender to playing an extra game. Keep in mind, these may not be the most exciting opponents on the slate, but they are the difference makers.
The Orange hasn’t beaten the Cardinals since Bobby Petrino re-took over the team. The last two years, you could pencil Louisville in as an L because of the man under center. But now that Lamar Jackson is suiting up for a different bird this coming football season, anything goes. Not only that, but the Cards also lost their elite cornerback, Jaire Alexander, to the draft, which certainly helps the Orange passing attack that has thrown seven interceptions against the Cardinals over the past three seasons. But again, you can’t emphasize this enough: the difference maker the last two seasons has been Jackson. With him off the field, the Orange has a chance to beat a decent Cardinals team.
This is going to be a battle of quarterbacks, especially with Wolfpack defensive lineman/linebacker Bradley Chubb leaving as the fifth overall pick in this year’s draft. Both Eric Dungey and Ryan Finley are entering their final seasons and have been two of the best quarterbacks in the conference during their time. Dungey outperformed Finley in the Orange’s loss to NC State last season. But this year’s matchup comes in the Carrier Dome in what should be a packed house for Family Weekend. NC State could certainly be ranked by the time they roll into central New York, and Syracuse has pulled off big time upsets in each of Dino Babers first two seasons.
Syracuse surely remembers watching AJ Dillon run like the man who the Carrier Dome turf is named after. The ACC Rookie of the Year is back again for his sophomore season. He returns to a BC offense that isn’t losing much. If anything, the Eagles will feel like they’re gaining talent when Anthony Brown returns from a season-ending knee injury. Where BC lost skill is defensively. Defensive end/linebacker Harold Landry was a second round pick in the NFL Draft. If the Orange’s aerial attack can outpunch the Eagles’ ground game, Syracuse could snag a potential bowl-clinching victory to close out the season.