At this point, asking your neighbor how excited they are for SU’s upcoming season is probably getting old. You can only ask someone how rowdy they think the Carrier Dome will be for the Clemson game so many times. The good news is training camp starts in a week and the taste of football season is finally in the air.
We spent a week in Charlotte documenting the Orange’s appearance at ACC Kickoff. At this point, we have what we need to determine SU’s projected ceiling and floor for the upcoming season. The best and worst case scenarios for Dino Babers’ 2019 squad:
Best Case: Syracuse soars under new face-of-the-team Tommy DeVito. The redshirt sophomore silences the national critics and proves he can be just as effective as Eric Dungey was in 2018. On top of that, the defense shines and shows why Babers called them the team’s strongest unit. The combination of those two things leads to a red-hot start, including an upset win over Clemson. That win puts Syracuse in the national spotlight and leads to CFP conversations* throughout the rest of the season.
*How crazy would that be. It feels like yesterday the Orange couldn’t even win a game after their bye week in Babers first two seasons.
Worst Case: The offensive line never pans out and Syracuse finishes the season with 5-6 wins. Because of the struggles up front, DeVito never gets settled and has a disappointing first year as the Orange’s full-time starter. As for the defense, Cisco struggles to follow up on his impressive rookie campaign and no one steps up to fill the holes at linebacker. Alton Robinson and Kendall Coleman are both relatively effective on the defensive line, but neither of them sniff double-digit sacks for the second consecutive season. The lack of pass rush exposes the Orange in the middle of the field.
As you can see, the difference in these outcomes is very stark. That’s the state of the program right now. While the hype is as intense as it’s ever been (rightfully so), there are still plenty of things that could go wrong. Let’s not forget about the injury bug. As Babers pointed out last week, Syracuse stayed relatively healthy last year and took hits at areas that could withstand them. The opposite happened in 2017 and the Orange finished 4-8.
Prediction: The buzz around the program is very positive these days, which is why I think the actual outcome will be a lot closer to the best case scenario. I said 10 wins a few months ago and I’m going to stick with that. Besides a couple of games, the Orange’s schedule is friendly this season. Now let’s see if they can go out and take advantage.