Yes, it is only January. Yes, the football season just ended. Yes, it is wayyy too early to be predicting games for next year. All of those may be true, but Syracuse Football wanted to drop its 2021 schedule already, so we are obligated to give you all the content you desire. We’ve already ranked the Orange’s opponents and picked out the most interesting matchups. Now it’s time to look into the crystal ball and make some record predictions. Here we go!
After a dismal 2020 campaign riddled with injuries that ended in a 1-10 record, Dino Babers‚Äô program will bounce back to an extent next season. With the return of Tommy DeVito and addition of Garrett Shrader, Syracuse has options behind center. If neither of those two work out, maybe JaCobian Morgan gets an extended look or Justin Lamson takes control. Now it just needs to figure out if any of them are good.¬†
On defense SU is replacing three star defensive backs. Last season younger secondary players received plenty of playing time after Andre Cisco played just two games due to an ACL injury. While there is promise in Garrett Williams and Mikel Jones, inexperienced players around them need to develop quickly.
To step out of the ACC cellar, Syracuse needs vast improvement on both sides of the football. Besides better quarterback play, SU‚Äôs offensive line needs to grow up quickly. Last season, SU‚Äôs 38 sacks against was the worst rate in the conference. There‚Äôs a lot of holes on this roster, and while SU dealt with more than its fair share of injuries last season, a bounce back season won‚Äôt result in a bowl game.
Obviously, there are a number of question marks heading into the upcoming season, for Syracuse football. Prominently, fans are currently left wondering what to expect at the quarterback position, as well as a number of incoming recruits who could have real chances to make an impact. Long story short, things should add up to be better than last season because‚Ä¶ well, they can‚Äôt get much worse than they were last season. The Orange was 1-10 last season and returns plenty of assets, but will also get back last year‚Äôs COVID opt-outs like Abdul Adams and Jarveon Howard. Sure, SU will, formally, lose Andre Cisco and Trill Williams, but Orange fans know, based on last season, that won‚Äôt make a difference. Not to mention, Syracuse‚Äôs young members in its secondary showed promise towards the end of last year as well. All told, I see SU boosting its win total to somewhere around 4-5 wins in 2021, but giving fans some reasons to be optimistic about 2022 in the process. What might be an interesting topic of debate is, if the Orange turns in anything less, 2022¬†could¬†be a make-or-break year for head coach Dino Babers.
Let‚Äôs be completely honest here, this prediction is actually pretty aggressive. I could definitely see Syracuse not even getting to the four-win mark, but I‚Äôm trying to be optimistic and give the Orange some credit. Starting with the non-conference slate, SU actually has it pretty easy. Starting on the road may be a tad difficult and if Liberty is anywhere close to as good as it was this past year that could also be a tough game. So, I‚Äôll say Syracuse comes out of the non-con with a 2-2 record, but I wouldn‚Äôt be surprised if it was 3-1. Then for the ACC slate, the Orange have a relatively easy schedule. They really only have to face one of the top teams in the conference (Clemson). They avoid the other top teams like Miami and North Carolina, while also not drawing a Notre Dame non-con matchup. Despite having it easy, Syracuse is still going to be at the bottom of the ACC hierarchy, so I can really only give them one or two wins, and that is how we get to the 4-8 record. It‚Äôs not pretty, but it is realistic.
This schedule isn‚Äôt the epitome of difficulty. SU will take at least 2 of those first 4 non-conference games, and it‚Äôs hard to believe they‚Äôll fail to win at least a couple conference games. Obviously they won just a single game in conference this past season but with a new QB hopefully taking the reigns in Garrett Shrader the program could look a little different. Yes, Syracuse lost some talent within the secondary as Iffy Melifonwu and Trill Williams declared for the draft, but guys like Garrett Williams, Rob Hanna, and Ja‚ÄôHad Carter have shown they‚Äôre ready to fill those shoes. The Orange won‚Äôt be making a bowl appearance this season but don‚Äôt be surprised when they impress you at some point.
This schedule actually looks a lot easier than last year‚Äôs. Gone are the days with two College Football Playoff teams on the regular season slate. But that doesn‚Äôt change the fact that SU still has a lot of flaws on its roster, and while there are plenty of options at quarterback none of them are perfect. The daunting thing about this team is, ironically, the defense. Tony White‚Äôs 3-3-5 base set forced a lot of turnovers last year, one of the toughest facets of the game to carry over year-by-year. The offense won‚Äôt be able to keep themselves on the field no later who they‚Äôre playing. It‚Äôs up to the defense to give them a boost.
Albany? Easy. Ohio? I sure hope so. Other than that‚Ä¶ 2021 isn‚Äôt looking great for Syracuse football. The other two non-conference games are super tough. A revitalized Rutgers team under the direction of Greg Schiano, and the Liberty Flames, who return a ton of talent after handily beating the Orange last year. Oh, and then eight straight ACC contests. Dino Babers‚Äô team is going to have to show out in ACC play if bowling is a possibility. I expect the Orange to steal one in-conference, maybe against Pitt or Wake Forest. However, with no established quarterback and young players on the defensive end, it‚Äôs going to be another tough wait for basketball season.
Wow, I went from thinking 9-3 potentially last year to this. I would say this is the worst case scenario record but I just don‚Äôt see the wins here. Yes, Syracuse should beat an Ohio program that is actually respectable out of the MAC. SU will beat Albany, that‚Äôs a chalk pick. As far as non-conference losses, I think Greg Schiano and Rutgers beat Syracuse after a solid 2020 rebuild season and Liberty will come to the Dome and win once again. There‚Äôs just too much firepower in that Flames offense and they‚Äôre an ascending program under Hugh Freeze.
Getting into ACC play, I don‚Äôt think the Orange will win a single game. Florida State is more talented and gets SU in Tallahassee, Wake Forest returns Sam Hartman at QB and adds some solid transfers. Clemson is Clemson. There won‚Äôt be an upset over a team that‚Äôs out to prove itself in 2021 after a disappointing close to 2020.
Virginia Tech has a solid program with great talent, and it‚Äôs extremely hard to win in Blacksburg. BC will be even better under HC Jeff Hafley, as will Louisville under Scott Satterfield. Syracuse‚Äôs best chance to beat the Cards was last season and that of course didn‚Äôt happen. Finally, NC State is a toss up and could go either way but since the Wolfpack get the Orange in Raleigh I‚Äôm taking them, and Pitt will beat SU to close out the 2021 season.
Look, it‚Äôs still early. Some things could change with roster turnover and transfers and what not, but as of right now in late January 2021, my outlook on the upcoming season is bleak. This team returns good talent on both sides of the ball but there are so many questions surrounding the program. Who‚Äôs the quarterback going to be? Who does SU get in the transfer portal? Who will transfer out? Who returns from opting out? Get those answers and then we can talk about adding more wins to this dismal 2-10 early prediction.