Syracuse football’s schedule for the 2022 season dropped Monday night. It’s…..interesting:
September 3rd Vs. Louisville (ACC)
September 10th @ UCONN
September 17th Vs. Purdue
September 23rd Vs. Virginia (ACC)
October 1st Vs. Wagner
October 8th **BYE WEEK**
October 15th Vs. NC State (ACC)
October 22nd @ Clemson (ACC)
October 29th Vs. Notre Dame
November 5th @ Pitt (ACC)
November 12th Vs. Florida State (ACC)
November 19th @ Wake Forest (ACC)
November 26th @ Boston College (ACC)
At first glance, there are plenty of oddities that come with this schedule. Your eyes might be immediately drawn to the two college football powerhouses in Clemson and Notre Dame that sit back-to-back smack dab in the middle of the season, or the fact that conference play starts on day 1 against Louisville, or perhaps that the year ends with 3 out of the last 4 games on the road. There’s plenty not to like about this schedule, but with that being said the looming question that sits atop Dino Babers’ shoulders is: How does this team make a bowl game? Let’s take a look.
Starting off hosting Louisville, a team Syracuse has mustered just 3 points against in two years is a bold move. The Cardinals have had SU’s number for the past couple of seasons, so introducing an entire new class of SU students to the football program this way might not be best. The good news though, is the next four games are all winnable. Aside from Purdue, none of those teams had a positive 2021. Virginia was a middling ACC team at 6-6, while UCONN and Wagner only had 1 combined win (UCONN), so there’s a good chance Syracuse comes out of the first half of the schedule at 3-2, if they’re lucky 4-1 or even 5-0. Then comes the difficult part, the thick of conference play. It starts with NC State, a team that battered SU at Carter-Finley stadium this year. With Devin Leary and Payton Wilson returning among others, NC State is looking to build on what was a very successful 2021. Then SU takes a trip down to Clemson and flies right back up to the hill where they’ll host Notre Dame…wow. There’s a good chance the Orange are 0-3 in that stretch, which makes their season total 3-5 at this point. Now let’s look toward the final part of the year, that aforementioned stretch in which the Orange play 3 of their last 4 games on the road. At this point, Babers’ team will likely be in a similar situation to the one they were in this past season. With just a few games left, Syracuse will have a chance to make a bowl game, but won’t get it without forging through some tough opponents. In 2021, SU squandered all three chances to go bowling, maybe in 2022, that’s different. First, up will be Pitt at Heinz Field. The Panthers admittedly will be worse this season without Kenny Pickett at the helm, but Pat Narduzzi on the road will still be a tough game, could really go either way. The next week, Syracuse hosts Florida State, a program that’s been in shambles ever since Jimbo Fisher left in 2017. Mike Norvelle has made an effort to rebuild it, but at just 8-13 in two seasons, this one will prove crucial for him. This game should be a win for the Orange unless Norvelle can really turn things around in Tallahassee. Next is Wake Forest. With Sam Hartman back in 2022, it would be far-fetched to foresee an Orange victory on the road against the Deacs. Then things round out with a game at Alumni Stadium against BC, maybe the Eagles are better with Phil Jurkovec back, but that also seems like a toss up as of now.
So to answer the question, the Orange make a bowl game by either romping the early competition, or surprising people down the stretch on the road. Those three games in the middle of the season are almost assuredly losses. If Syracuse wants to play past the regular season, it’s going to have to hit the ground running and steal games from Louisville and Purdue, or take out teams like Pitt/BC and upset Wake Forest down the stretch.