The minimum goal for any college football program at the FBS level is to make it to a bowl game. About 99% of the time, that means getting six regular season victories. It’s no secret that the Syracuse football team faces a pretty brutal schedule this year, and fans have a surprisingly realistic take on how things will play out. But we want to get to that bowl game. Let’s see if we can figure out how to get there.

Yesterday, I put up a series of polls on Twitter, breaking the schedule into three parts: the games Syracuse should win, the games Syracuse will probably lose, and the games that could go either way. For the games the Orange should win, I asked the fans which one might be the biggest stumbling block. Here’s how the vote’s gone:

Now, I took a look at the four games that are, on paper anyway, the most difficult on the schedule and asked which game Syracuse has the best chance of pulling off an upset in:

Finally, I took a look at the remaining four games. I’m not sure I’d quite call them “toss up” games because at this point, I don’t believe SU would be favored in any of the four. However, they don’t really fall into the “will probably win” or “will probably lose” categories. I asked people which game SU is most likely to win out of this group of tough, but winnable games:

Of the first group, people seem to be most worried by Boston College as a potential spoiler, with UConn and Wake both hovering around the same level. Colgate is obviously the game the Orange are least likely to lose, though in the whole “never overlook an opponent” spirit, we should remember that Colgate is nationally ranked at the FCS level (No. 21 in the nation). That’s a game Syracuse should absolutely win, but they’re not exactly going to be a creampuff team.

In the second group, Louisville is the overwhelming fan choice for pulling off an upset. I tend to agree, for a number of reasons. One, the game is at home. Florida State is at home as well, but at the tail end of the season. By then, the secrets will be out when it comes to Dino Babers’s offense. That’s why Louisville appears right now to be by far the most likely upset victory on the schedule.

Assuming Syracuse takes care of Colgate with relative ease – which yes, I realize I just said we shouldn’t assume because Colgate is a good FCS team – it means that there’s a good chance Dino won’t have to show his hand, so to speak, in week one. Which means that, by extension, Louisville isn’t going to get a very good look at the offense and everything it will hopefully be capable of doing. The element of surprise is going to be on Syracuse’s side, along with the home crowd advantage. If Syracuse is going to knock off a top 25 team this year, the best chance right now is against the No. 23-ranked Cardinals.

Now, we come to the most difficult part of the schedule to decipher. Let’s say for a moment that Syracuse wins all four games it should win. Let’s even get a little crazy, and say that the Orange pull off a stunning upset over Louisville in week two. That brings us to five wins.

So which team out of that next group does Syracuse have the best chance to beat? Honestly, I’m a little surprised that as of right now, the fan vote is saying South Florida. The Bulls were one of the surprise teams in college football last year. USF finished 8-5, and they’re fast, athletic, and return most of their best players from last season. Personally, I think the Bulls have a shot at being a borderline top 25 team this year. They’ll be hard to beat.

Virginia Tech, meanwhile, is entering unfamiliar territory without Frank Beamer on the sidelines. That said, Justin Fuente is a good coach, and even in what was considered a “down” year last season, the Hokies got to (and won) a bowl game. Amazingly, the last time Virginia Tech missed a bowl game was 1992, and they haven’t won fewer than seven games since then. Now, the game is at home, and Syracuse has a tendency to play the Hokies well in the Carrier Dome.

Syracuse owns a 9-8 series record against Virginia Tech, but they haven’t played since 2003, somewhat surprisingly. The Hokies won that game 51-7, on the heels of Syracuse pulling off an incredible 50-42, triple overtime victory in the Dome the year before. The Orange and Hokies have played nine times in Syracuse, and the Orange have been victorious in seven of those meetings. The last two wins in the Dome were the aforementioned overtime game, and before that, the fabled “McNabb to Brominski” game.

Of course, none of that has any bearing on this game. But the Hokies are certainly beatable for Syracuse this year, as are NC State and Pittsburgh. Honestly, I think all three opponents are more beatable than USF will be this year.

The chances are that if Syracuse wants to make it to a bowl game (and from what I’ve been told, the coaching staff firmly believes 6-6 is very much on the table, even with a new system and a brutal schedule…they like the talent they have to work with that much), it’ll need two wins out of this “toss up” group. My gut is telling me that the Pitt game is ripe for the taking. The Panthers will be solid, and potentially a bowl team. But Syracuse is going to need to beat some bowl teams to become a bowl team itself.

Six wins are doable. But it’s not going to be easy.

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Jeff is a 2003 graduate of Syracuse University, and has been published on various websites including,,,, and, among others. His work was featured in the New York Times bestselling book You Might Be a Zombie and Other Bad News. He's got a wife, and a toddler he's brainwashing to love Syracuse. Jeff's a pretty great guy, overall, and would never steal your car. Follow him on Twitter: @jekelish