2023 will not be like last year for Syracuse Football, when we thought we had a contender for a New Year’s Six Bowl over the first two months of the season only to come to realize that the Orange were playing otherworldly football in that stretch. Because of this year’s roster outlook, how the schedule is laid out, and the coaching situation, we’ll be fortunate enough to know sooner.
SU lost A LOT while not getting a ton back in return. The list of notable names departed includes those gone for the NFL– Sean Tucker, Mikel Jones, Garrett Williams, Matthew Bergeron, and Andre Szmyt. But when you factor in the transfer portal, you can add Duce Chestnut, Ja’Had Carter, Justin Lamson, and Steve Linton to the list. The Orange were not exactly active in the transfer portal this offseason, so you’d turn to recruiting in the class of 2023. Maybe not in this case. It’s been well-documented how mediocre at best the incoming freshman class is. It’s very troubling. Guys like Damien Alford, Derek McDonald, or Justin Barron- players who have contributed in the past but not in a featured role- need to step up. We’ll know early if they do.
Plain and simple, the beginning of Syracuse’s schedule is most easy. Colgate and Western Michigan at home? Come on. But after that, the Orange get a fascinating early-season test in the form of Purdue. You all remember last season’s thriller. Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but SU only won the game because the Boilermakers took a page out of 2022 Syracuse’s book and racked up countless stupid penalties. Purdue will be under a new coach with Ryan Walters in 2023, so don’t expect those same issues to arise again. If the Orange lay a dud in West Lafayette in week 3, we’ll know to not take them super seriously.
Finally, Dino Babers’ coaching decisions under pressure have been subpar at best over the past few seasons. With that, 2023 might be the season in which the head man faces more pressure than he ever has. Babers leading SU to a 6-0 start only to completely fall apart down the stretch is inexcusable, especially in the manner with which so much of it happened. Elijah Fuentes-Cundiff’s late hit against Clemson is unacceptable, but how fitting was it that the Pinstripe Bowl was sealed with a Syracuse unsportsmanlike conduct penalty? If we see the same issues (poor clock management, an undisciplined team) that have plagued Babers in his SU career early in the season, then lower your expectations.
We shouldn’t expect another 6-0 start with Clemson in week 5 and a trip to see Drake Maye and North Carolina in week 6. That doesn’t mean performances in those games (as well as the ones before that) can’t leave a good impression on the fans and media. If key players don’t step up, SU doesn’t bring its A-game to every game, or Babers doesn’t get it together, mediocrity will continue to be the standard.