The coronavirus is starting to slowly disassemble the fabric of college sports. ACC Media Day, which the conference announced would be a virtual event, was postponed a week ago. Stanford cut 11 varsity sports. The Ivy League, Patriot League, and others are starting to cancel fall sports. The Big 10 and Pac-12, on the other hand, are choosing to play only in-conference matchups (since COVID-19 can only affect Ohio State when the Buckeyes win 70-0 over Youngstown State). The Atlantic Coast Conference has yet to make a decision on the fall football season, but reports say that the conference is considering a five-team home and home schedule.
This may seem like a misguided solution. As I sarcastically stated above, nothing can expressly prevent players from contracting the virus. The plan will seriously hurt mid-major D1 and D2 schools that earn most of their football revenue from getting beaten to shreds by high tier programs. And fans are losing out on some of the most hyped matchups of the year, namely OSU-Oregon, Texas-LSU, and USC-Alabama (as a Syracuse fan coming from Big 10 country, I was excited to see the Orange face off with Rutgers).
However, the conference-only schedule does present positives. Mainly, it gives the conferences and administrators more time. Time to figure out a uniform plan for schools to screen athletes, time to install offenses and defenses, and time for players to get back into football shape, hopefully with full-contact practices. Syracuse is a unit that certainly needs the last two.
Since there‚Äôs no telling what teams might be on SU five team home-and-home schedule, I took the opportunity to compile some potential 2020 conference slates for the Orange. (Cliffnote before I dive in: Notre Dame is contractually obligated to play five ACC teams a year. ACC commissioner John Swofford said that if the ACC does play a reduced schedule, it will provide ND with games as well)
Opponents: Notre Dame, BC, Pitt, Louisville, Virginia
Record Prediction: 5-5
If the ACC is serious about limiting travel (I‚Äôm sure SU does not want anyone, athletes or otherwise, going to Florida for the weekend), then the smartest way to organize a football schedule is by region. Syracuse would obviously be in the Northern-most grouping, and its opponents would be an interesting bunch. Virginia loses its do-it-all QB, and BC has a new head coach. The Orange would be remiss not to win at least three of those four games. However, the other six games would be rough. Pitt is returning a lot of talent on both sides of the football, and Louisville has the potential to be an offensive juggernaut. Worst of all, Notre Dame is still Notre Dame, rich with top recruits (and destined to disappoint) but a team that certainly would handle SU. Syracuse could maybe steal a game or two, but it would be tough sledding against three quality opponents.
Atlantic Conference + Regional
Opponents: Pitt, BC, Louisville, Wake Forest, NC State
Record Prediction: 7-3
This is probably the best plausible scenario for Syracuse. Avoid any part of Clemson, North Carolina, Notre Dame, and Virginia, and replace the latter two in the above schedule with Wake and NC State, two teams that the Orange should compete with this year. The NC State game last season was a complete mess, one that head coach Dino Babers and staff will surely not want to repeat. But the Wolfpack are still looking for an identity on both sides of the ball. Wake is strong on the D-Line, but lost a lot on offense. Expect Syracuse to beat NC State twice, and spilt with the Demon Deacons. Those three wins, along with two against BC and going .500 against U of L and Pitt, put Syracuse in a bowl and restore the faith in Babers.
The Group of Death
Opponents: Clemson, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Louisville, Florida State
Record Prediction: 2-8
Let me just start this by saying there‚Äôs no way this happens unless John Swofford has it in for someone in Central New York. But I had to do it. The worst possible scenario for SU includes four contests against two top-10 opponents, four more against offenses that decimated the Orange last year, and finally, just to put the cherry on top, an upstart UNC team led by QB Sam Howell, the 2019 ACC Rookie of the Year. Andre Cisco should probably sit this one out, and if we‚Äôre being completely honest, I would too.
Opponents: Virginia, Miami, Louisville, BC, UNC
Record Prediction: ?-?
The random name generator gave me these five opponents as Syracuse‚Äôs 2020 home-and-home schedule. It makes no logistical sense or any other kind of sense. But from all of these schedule predictions, I know Babers and company better start preparing to play the Louisville Cardinals. Miami would be an interesting matchup, with a uber-talented signal-caller in D‚ÄôEriq King but a terrible O-line (which gave up one more sack than SU last year). There certainly wouldn‚Äôt be many blowouts in this 10-game stretch, but I think Syracuse‚Äôs season would turn out in a similar fashion as last year‚Äôs did, leaving Babers‚Äô job just a little less secure.
However, I‚Äôm going to leave this one up to the readers. Tweet the Fizz @OrangeFizz or respond in the comments below and let us know what you think Syracuse‚Äôs record would be against these 5 teams. Remember, it would be a home-and-home, 10 game season.