Hard as it is to believe, the opening kickoff for Syracuse Football is two and a half months away and will be here before we know it. Last year, the Orange overcame a gauntlet of a schedule en route to a 7-5 regular season and Pinstripe Bowl appearance. This year’s schedule is filled with tough road slates, Clemson at home, and even a showdown at Yankee Stadium. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect in SU’s first six games this year.
SEPTEMBER 2- COLGATE
At least this isn’t a basketball game? That’s not until mid-November. On the gridiron, Syracuse should have no problem taking care of business against the FCS Raiders. Colgate has not made the FCS Playoffs since 2018 and went 3-8 last season. This should be even more of a “gimme” than what we thought the basketball clashes between the Orange and Raiders should’ve been. If SU loses to Colgate in football at home, it should go down as the worst loss in program history.
SEPTEMBER 9- WESTERN MICHIGAN
Sorry Broncos fans- PJ Fleck is not walking through that door anymore. In the now-Minnesota coach’s final season with Western Michigan in 2016, he led them to a 13-1 record which included an appearance in the Cotton Bowl. Since then, the Broncos have made three bowl games, but haven’t had a regular season record better than 7-5. Considering Western Michigan is a MAC program and has a new head coach at the helm in Lance Taylor, Syracuse should have no problem taking care of business.
SEPTEMBER 16- AT PURDUE
The Orange’s rematch with the Boilermakers has been given a primetime slot on NBC. Gone is undisciplined head coach Jeff Brohm (he’s now at Louisville), in is former Illinois defensive coordinator Ryan Walters. It’s no secret SU was fairly lucky to emerge victorious against Purdue last season, it will take a lot more than luck to get it done on the road. The Boilermakers wound up making the Big Ten championship in 2022, and considering how tight-knit last year’s contest was, Syracuse has to step it up to notch its first win on the road over a Big Ten foe since 2006.
SEPTEMBER 23- ARMY
The final tuneup before ACC play. Ever since Jeff Monken took the helm of the Black Knights, the program has completely turned around. From 1997 to 2015, Army made one bowl game. Since then, the Black Knights have qualified for postseason play in five of the last seven seasons. Their situation as an independent isn’t easy, and it’s one the Orange have to take advantage of. Army’s triple-option offense is a unique one, but it’s very beatable by stuffing the box with good run-stoppers.
SEPTEMBER 30- CLEMSON
Here begins without question the most brutal three-game stretch of the season, and this is the only one of those three games at home (this is also SU’s last home game until November). The Tigers are not what they used to be, but they are still the cream of the crop in the ACC and a perennial power in college football. Syracuse had them on the ropes last season, but undisciplined play down the stretch led to another close loss to Clemson. Four of the previous six matchups between the Orange and Tigers have been decided by one possession, it will take an A-level game from SU for that to be the case again.
OCTOBER 7- AT NORTH CAROLINA
The Tar Heels may have the best quarterback in the ACC this year in Drake Maye. Under Mack Brown, North Carolina emerged as arguably the best team in the Coastal over the last few years, culminating in an appearance in the conference championship game last season. Sure, Clemson had its way in that game, it’s still an impressive feat nonetheless. Syracuse opened the season in Chapel Hill in the 2020 season overshadowed by COVID, and it was a forgettable 31-6 rout. This year’s bout should be more competitive, but pulling out a W will not be easy.
There’s only one game over the first six that you should be able to peg definitively as “this should be a close game”. It’s only a matter of time before we find out the truth in that statement. Stay tuned later this week for an analysis of the back half.