Kickoff of the season is just over a week away, and Syracuse fans don’t know quite how to feel. Last year’s one-win campaign dampened enthusiasm for the program overall, and pundits are predicting another difficult season ahead. But a new year always brings optimism, and it’s virtually impossible to have a season as poor as ’20. So with Ohio just 8 days away, let’s take a look at the reality of SU. The good, the bad, and the fixable.
The Good: Syracuse will improve its win total. With games against Albany (FCS), Rutgers (one of the worst teams in the Big Ten), and Wake Forest (one of the worst teams in the ACC), it’s hard to fathom SU only nabbing one win. The avalanche of injuries were also historic last season for the Orange. By the end of the season SU’s starting 11 was unidentifiable compared to the opener. Plus, last year’s Covid-wrecked campaign was a mess for every program. Some handled it better than others, but no fans, new testing protocols, opt-outs, and possible game cancellations threw everything into a blender. The offensive line looks far stronger than the end of last year, and the quarterback situation is sturdier. Dino Babers will have two-year starter Tommy DeVito and dual-threat Mississippi State transfer Garrett Shrader to choose from. Highly-touted recruit Duce Chestnut will also debut, along with a slew of talented young defensive backs.
The Bad: The Orange is still one of the least talented teams in the ACC. Babers’ enthusiasm and branding (“Orange is the New Fast”) has not equated to improved recruiting rankings. SU is still responsible for finding 3-star kids and developing them into steady college players and possible pro prospects (which they’ve done, to their credit). The schedule doesn’t have many easy layups. Liberty handed SU its lunch last year. Rutgers is improving. Ohio is expected to be one of the better teams in the MAC. SU doesn’t play Duke, and Boston College and FSU seem to be better than last year. Expectations are also low, as every publication and analyst is predicting a lost season. So it will be tough to get fans in the Dome to help motivate the Orange (assuming fans are allowed in full back to stadiums all season). DeVito is still a confounding player, capable but not sensational. SU could be 4-8, which is a solid improvement but nothing to be excited about.
The Fixable: The offensive line can’t be worse than last year. So many mistakes because of youth and inexperience caused quarterback mistakes all season (and perhaps injuries). Those poor decisions under center can be improved as well. Assuming DeVito and Shrader stay healthy, Babers can give a hook to a QB who makes bad choices. The confusion and distractions of last year are in the rear view. Whatever the Covid protocol is, everyone will have a year of experience with it.
On the bright side for Syracuse fans, you may be able to enjoy action on every game across the country as well soon. According to SportsBettingDime.com, potential sportsbook operators began submitting their applications to the NY State Gaming Commission in hopes of securing mobile betting access in the Empire State. Despite meeting this deadline for proposals, NY online sports betting is still a ways off. But as more states green light sports betting (like New Jersey), it’s on its way.