The 2018 season is in the books for the Syracuse football team, and it was one hell of a run. With a 10-3 record and a bowl victory over West Virginia, the Orange surpassed all preseason expectations from… well, everyone.
Even I thought Syracuse would be able to max out at about eight wins, and I’ve been accused on more than one occasion of looking at things through orange-tinted glasses. So as we look ahead to next year, in light of finishing the season with a top 15 national ranking… what can we reasonably expect for 2019?
Looking at the schedule next year, things certainly look more favorable than the slate from the 2018 campaign. The non-conference portion features Liberty and Holy Cross, two games that will undoubtedly be blowout victories. Getting Western Michigan at home will more than likely translate to another victory, and while playing at Maryland is probably not a gimme, having the Terps as the toughest OOC contest is vastly less daunting than what the Orange faced this year.
Assuming the Orange are able to adequately replace Eric Dungey and some key members of the offensive line, the offense probably won’t miss a beat – particularly when you add Abdul Adams, Trishton Jackson, and Ed Hendrix into the mix, not to mention a senior Moe Neal, an experienced Jarveon Howard, Taj Harris, and all of the other weapons Tommy DeVito (the likely starter – but don’t sleep on Chance Amie) will have at his disposal. Losing Chris Slayton on the defensive line is a big hit, but some combination of McKinley Williams, Josh Black, and Kenneth Ruff should fill that hole at least reasonably well, and the duo of Kendall Coleman and Alton Robinson makes for one of the better defensive end combinations in, at a minimum, the ACC and potentially the nation.
All that is to say that it’s not unreasonable to expect a 4-0 mark against non-ACC opponents next season. Getting into conference play, the Orange are fortunate in that they get Boston College, Pitt, and Wake Forest at home. Those three games have been crucial each of the last few years, and having those opponents come to the friendly confines of the Carrier Dome is big in the mission to equal this season’s success. Clemson also comes to Syracuse, but that one is always going to be a tall order – particularly with a more experienced Trevor Lawrence under center. Don’t be shocked when he and his flowing locks are in the conversation alongside Tua for the Heisman in 2019.
Still, it’s very, very feasible that the Orange could emerge from their home slate with a 3-1 record. Combined with the projected unbeaten mark in OOC play, that puts us at 7-1, and I’m certainly not writing off the possibility of upsetting Clemson. Given the last two games have been classics, there’s certainly a possibility that the Orange could knock off the Tigers for the second time in three years. With that one, it’ll be all about momentum, so if Syracuse is rolling early in the year, it could lead to a visit from ESPN’s GameDay crew and a ton of hype.
Moving on to the road slate of games, this year’s crossover opponent is Duke, which will be without star quarterback Daniel Jones. NC State, likewise, will be without Ryan Finley, and Louisville continues to be a mess. It feels unlikely that Florida State, with all of their elite athletes, will be as bad next year as they were this season, and winning at Doak Campbell Stadium is not going to be an easy task. Still, once again we’re looking at a very winnable quartet of games. I’d like to think we could win at least three, and hopefully all four of those games, but given our struggles on the road the last few years I’m not quiiiiiite ready to chalk up a 4-0 mark. I’ll continue to be optimistic, though, and say we come out of that group with another 3-1 mark.
So what’s that mean? Well, the math is tricky (4-0 plus 3-1 plus 3-1) and I had to consult with a number of professors to check my addition, but that’s a 10-2 mark in the regular season. And, guys, here’s the crazy thing: going 11-1 wouldn’t be out of the question, if we play up to our capabilities.
It’ll be very interesting to see what the betting odds are for Syracuse football next year. Given the relatively weak schedule and the vast improvements Dino Babers has brought to the program, including an influx of better and better talent, could the Orange be a dark horse contender to crash the College Football Playoff?
I know, I know. We’re getting way ahead of ourselves. But keep an eye on whatever kind of odds Syracuse gets. Depending on how steep those odds are, you wouldn’t be crazy to place a little wager on New Jersey’s legal betting sites on the Orange to shock the (Carolina-area) world and win the ACC title. If the Orange can knock off Clemson, it just might be ours for the taking.
Am I drinking the Kool-Aid again? You bet I am. And man, it tastes amazing.