We are officially under four months away from Syracuse football’s season opener against Louisville. SU enters something of a make or break season with it being year eight under Dino Babers. Conversely, it’s also the start of something new with the new offensive coach staff coming in from Virginia. In any case, the Orange showed signs of life in 2021, now the expectation is a postseason berth. Let’s evaluate the ‘Cuse’s fall slate and rank each game one to twelve based on difficulty.
12. vs. Wagner (10/1)
11. at Uconn (9/10)
10. vs. Florida State (11/12)
9. vs Purdue (9/17)
Picking eleven and twelve were pretty self explanatory here. Wagner didn’t win a single game in 2021 and should be heavily overmatched. The Huskies get the benefit of hosting the Orange in Connecticut but that’s about as far as the benefits go. Uconn won one single game in 2021. The Huskies beat Yale, so yeah.
Picking from ten and on was much more difficult because every opponent on SU’s schedule was featured in the top 65 of ESPN’s preseason FPI. FSU is slotted at ten because its a Dome game and the Seminoles are still developing under Mike Norvell. Yeah the Noles have talent but until they have a serious threat under center, they don’t deserve that much respect. Purdue could be the best offense Syracuse plays against in the 315 this season. The Boilermakers can sling it all over the field. SU will need its secondary at its best in this intriguing early season non-con clash.
8. vs. Virginia (9/23)
7. at Pittsburgh (11/5)
6. vs. NC State (10/15)
5. at Boston College (11/26)
A lot of the road games are sandwiched inside the top seven because Syracuse has not been good on the road under Babers, especially not in ACC play. Virginia returns QB Brennan Armstrong and will no doubt be juiced up to battle against its former coaches Robert Anae and Jason Beck. Pittsburgh was definitely a lock for a top five game in terms of degree of difficulty, but then Jordan Addison entered the transfer portal.
NC State returns to the Salt City after being upset in 2018 and nearly being taken down in 2020 (shoutout Rex Culpepper). The Wolfpack had a very impressive 2021 season which saw them reach nine wins. The Pack bring back star QB Devin Leary and other playmakers on both sides of the ball. Boston College gets the nod at five due to the game being in Chestnut Hill and the fact that QB Phil Jurkovec will be back (we think?). The Notre Dame transfer did not play against SU last year due to injury.
4. vs Louisville (9/3)
3. at Wake Forest (11/19)
Both the Cardinals and Demon Deacons return prolific signal callers in Malik Cunningham and Sam Hartman. Both of the gunslingers lit up Syracuse’s defense last year en route to wins. Syracuse has beaten UL just once since Babers took over in 2016 and Scott Satterfield’s pistol offense has torched the 3-3-5 in the previous meetings. Can you believe Wake Forest is at 3? Tell anyone that five years ago and they would’ve called you crazy. Believe the hype though, Hartman and Company put a nice 40 piece up on the ‘Cuse last year and bring back several studs.
2. vs Notre Dame (10/29)
1. at Clemson (10/22)
These picks are pretty predictable. There was definitely some debate between slotting Wake or even Louisville ahead of Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish are breaking in a new quarterback, running back, and several other positions on top of a new head coach in Marcus Freeman. From a team talent perspective, ND has a lot more of it and should be in full swing by the time late October rolls around.
The mid-October road date with Clemson is the toughest game on Syracuse’s schedule. We’ve already mentioned the road woes, now amplify that with a game in Death Valley. SU has surprisingly played some competitive ball down in South Carolina in the past few trips. The Orange have never won a game at Clemson though and the hill is quite steep to pull off that stunt this fall.