Football season is kinda, sorta here! Welcome to our 2019 ACC Kickoff opponents thread. This Wednesday and Thursday each team in the ACC will field questions about their expectations and prospects for the 2019 season. We will keep a running thread of what they’re saying in here and give you a crash-course on every 2019 Syracuse opponent.
11:45 a.m. – Florida State (vs. Syracuse Oct. 26th)
2018 Record: 5-7
All Time Series: 2-10
Last Meeting vs Syracuse: 7/15/18 Syracuse 30, FSU 7
What to Know About The Seminoles:
The pressure is on Florida State and head coach Willie Taggart as he enters year two at the helm. After snapping a 36-year bowl streak, FSU returns a large chunk of its defense and some blue-chippers on offense in running back Cam Akers and wide receiver Tamorrion Terry. In true Florida State fashion, talent is not the issue. It’s weather the Seminoles can sure up their offensive line woes and put last year behind them?
“Year two you know a lot more…you’re familiar with everyone. Our players are more comfortable with us. We’re more comfortable with our players,” Taggart said.
The Seminoles return sixteen starters from last year’s team, which is tied for the most in the ACC. One of them is likely quarterback starter James Blackman. Some early litmus test games against Boise State and at Virginia will give us a sense of how much, if any, the gulf coast offense has improved in year two before they travel to Clemson and Wake Forest the two weeks prior to hosting Syracuse down in Tallahassee, a place where the Orange have never walked away victorious.
12:15 p.m. – Boston College (at Syracuse Nov. 2)
2018 Record: 7-5
All Time Series: 31-20
Last Meeting vs Syracuse: 11/24/19 Syracuse 42, Boston College 21
What to Know About The Eagles:
Boston College has been consistently mediocre. In the past six years under head coach Steve Addazio, the Eagles have won exactly seven games five separate times. This years team on paper looks like, well, roughly a seven-win ball club. BC returns starting quarterback Anthony Brown, and their powerful starting tailback A.J. Dillon to an offense that will transition to a new offensive coordinator this year in former Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB coach Mike Bajakian. At times BC looked like a top-25 team last year but at other times they really struggled. Now, we will see if they can finally put it all together.
“The next step for us is to compete for a conference championship. In order to do that you know we’ve gotta be able to stay consistent in our level of play through the course of the season. We’ve got to stay consistent. Stay healthy,” Addazio said.
The head coach in his seventh year at BC also said improvement on third down, both offensively and defensively, will be a key this year. The ceiling, unlike some previous Boston College teams, might come down to defense, and more specifically, how well a young secondary performs. The Eagles schedule, on paper, gets tougher as the season goes on. They meet Syracuse on Nov. 2nd at the Carrier Dome.
1:15 p.m. – NC State (vs. Syracuse Oct. 10)
2018 Record: 9-4
All Time Series: NC State leads 10-2
Last Meeting vs Syracuse: 10/20/18 Syracuse 51, Boston College 41
What to Know About The Wolfpack:
Recently, NC State has been a program hovering around nine wins per season. With plenty of turnover, including the loss of quarterback Ryan Finley and three starting offensive linemen, the Wolfpack figure to take a step back this fall. While head coach Dave Doeren has done a fantastic job building the program, the seventh-year coach has his hands full in 2019. The elite programs are able to work through roster turnover and continue to put out a winning product on the field. Can NC State join that group?
“Our staff understands that we don’t just look for good football players. We look for guys that love to train and love to play that are good human beings,” Doren said.
At this point, the quarterback situation is unclear. R-Fr. Matthew McKay appears to be the frontrunner. McKay has the most experience with the program but will likely need time to adjust if he is given the nod. The good news for him is that junior Emeka Emezie has emerged as one of the premier wide receivers in the conference.
2:45- Wake Forest (@ Syracuse, Nov. 30)
2018 Record: 7-6
All Time Series: 8-5
Last Meeting vs. Syracuse: 11/3/18 Syracuse 41, Wake Forest 24
What to Know About The Demon Deacons:
Coming off three straight years of winning a bowl game, Wake Forest continues to build under head coach Dave Clawson. Now in his sixth year at the helm, the Demon Deacons are set for, perhaps, one of their best years in quite some time. The ceiling is higher than normal with a talented running back in Cade Carney and veteran leadership on defense, especially in the secondary.
“I expect us to be better. Improving statistically, that’s a low bar. I expect us to be a lot better. I think our players have bought in, believe what we’re doing, and that’s three-quarters of the battle,” Clawson said at the podium Wednesday.
Expect Sam Hartman to start at quarterback for Wake. Their schedule starts out fairly soft with three lower-tier non-conference opponents and North Carolina, Louisville and Boston College in their first six games. It picks up though before they close the season in the Carrier Dome for a game that could be a battle of two upstart programs in the Atlantic looking to cap off strong seasons.
3:45-Louisville (vs. Syracuse, Nov. 23)
2018 Record: 2-10
All Time Series: 7-10
Last Meeting vs. Syracuse: 11/9/18 Syracuse 54, Louisville 23
What to Know About The Cardinals:
Exit stage left: Bobby Petrino, enter stage right: Scott Satterfield. The former Appalachian State headman is now tasked with picking up the remnants of the Louisville program and slowly stitching them back together. The Cardinals have talent at the wide receiver position with Dez Fitzpatrick, it remains to be seen who will be throwing him the ball though. Jawon (Puma) Pass and Malik Cunningham are both back as options at quarterback from last year.
“There can be a role for both of these guys. We have to see as it goes forward, see what gives us the best chance to move the ball, what gives us the best chance to win games,” Satterfield said about the quarterback situation.
Regardless of where you look, Louisville is pegged to finish last in the ACC Atlantic after last year. However, it’s still a road game against a team that could surprise some folks with a likable new coach.
4:45 – Clemson (vs. Syracuse, Sep. 14)
2018 Record: 15-0
All Time Series: 2-5
Last Meeting vs. Syracuse: 9/27/18 Clemson 27, Syracuse 23
What to Know About The Tigers:
Ah, yes that brings us to Clemson. We all kinda know about the Tigers by now. Some considered them the best college football team ever last year and now Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne, and company are back to try and do it again. Did you know that Etienne averaged 8.1 yards per carry last year? Anyways, they’re really good, but clearly head coach Dabo Swinney knows SU is on the rise too.
“Syracuse, Dino has just done an unbelievable job. It’s a great place. It starts with him. I mean, he’s put a good staff together. They have a good philosophy in place. They’re well-coached. They recruit well. They develop well. You can tell that it’s a relationship-driven program. He does a great job in connecting with his players. They play hard. They play hard.
He’s created the belief in his team that they can win, regardless of who they play. That’s what it takes. He’s done an awesome job of instilling that mindset into their team. He’s had good players, some really good players.
So I don’t see them going away any time soon,” Swinney said at the podium Wednesday.
Pretty strong words from a guy who has built arguably the best culture of any program right now. Anyways, 58 days till that season opener in the dome. Let the countdown continue…
Thursday (Coastal Division)
9:30 a.m. – Duke (vs. Syracuse Nov. 16)
2018 Record: 8-5
All Time Series: Duke leads 3-0
Last Meeting vs Syracuse: 11/08/14 Duke 27, Syracuse 10
What to Know About The Blue Devils:
Duke faces low expectations every year and almost always overachieves. That might be tough to do with a tough schedule that includes Alabama in week one on Aug. 31. Yikes. The Blue Devils will replace Daniel Jones with Quentin Harris, a quarterback who is capable of big things. Harris threw seven touchdowns to just one interception last fall when playing for the banged up Jones. The Blue Devils also have Deon Harris, one of the most talented running backs in the league. While that all sounds fine and dandy, wide receiver and offensive line remains a huge question mark for coach David Cutcliffe’s team.
“We lost a good amount of our starters from last season. I’m confident in the group we have coming back. Thankfully I had a couple of starts to get my feet wet,” Harris said. “I think we have a lot of great depth at all positions, great leadership on the offensive line up front with three guys in the middle coming back”
Let’s be honest, coach Cutcliffe always seems to have his team playing good football late in the season. That’s exactly when the Orange make the trip to Durham. This matchup may not be the most daunting on SU’s schedule, but it does have the potential to be a trap game. The bottom line: there is a lot of question marks surrounding this program. Only time will tell if Cutcliffe can work some more magic and get the Blue Devils to another bowl game.
11:00 a.m.. – Pittsburgh (at Syracuse Oct. 18)
2018 Record: 7-7
All Time Series: Pitt leads 39-31-3
Last Meeting vs Syracuse: 10/06/18 Pitt 44, Syracuse 37 (OT)
What to Know About The Panthers:
Like many programs in the ACC Coastal division, Pittsburgh is waiting for its moment in the sun. Sure, the Panthers won their division last year, but they finished 7-7 and haven’t played in a major bowl game in quite some time. That task won’t get any easier with running backs Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall, two work horses over the past several years. They do have Maurice Ffrench back, who returned two kickoffs for touchdowns last year and is also a talented receiver.
“But, you know, are you happy with 10 wins and no championship, no Coastal championship? Are you happy with seven wins, a chance to play in the championship game?” Narduzzi Said.
Quarterback Kenny Pickett emerged at the end of the 2017 season but had an up and down 2018 campaign. That’s one of the many variables that determines how Pittsburgh will do this year. As for the meeting with Syracuse, it comes in the middle of October. For the Orange, it’s a chance for revenge after last year’s overtime loss. They have the pieces to put it all together and I would expect them to be a tough out for yet another season under Narduzzi.