Can Syracuse football reach a third straight bowl game?

Syracuse will be looking to extend its bowl streak to three straight seasons this year. That won’t be an easy task given the strength of SU’s schedule. Of the 12 teams that the Orange face this year, eight of them went to bowl games last year. According to the NCAA method, Syracuse has the eighth hardest schedule in the nation.

That doesn’t mean that SU’s bowl streak is going to come to an abrupt end. But it’s worth breaking down Syracuse’s schedule into the following tiers:

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Can Syracuse win six games this season?

1st Tier (No shot in hell): FSU. Clemson.
2nd Tier (A puncher’s chance): Notre Dame. Louisville. Duke.
3rd Tier (Coin flip): Boston College. Pittsburgh. NC State. Maryland. Wake Forest.
4th Tier (Should win): Central Michigan.
5th Tier (Will win): Villanova.

» Related: A 3-0 start would put Syracuse in rarefied air

Now a couple of caveats before I continue. The second and third tier are subject to change as the season goes on. Duke is coming off its best year in school history, but they may sink toward the third tier as time goes on. Alternatively, NC State may fall into the fourth tier after they lost every single conference game in 2013. The reality is, at the end of the season, we may have completely reclassified the third tier, but that’s how I’m going to call it for the time being.

I think the most optimistic of Syracuse fans would take eight wins. To get there, Syracuse would have to sweep tiers three, four and five, while stealing one against a tier two team. An eight win season would be Syracuse’s best finish since the 2001 season, which was also the last time the Orange was ranked in the top 25. That being said, I am not an optimist. While I do think that Syracuse can steal one from the second tier, given how close Syracuse played against the entire third tier last season (with the exception of an improved Maryland team), the Orange is likely to drop at least one game from that group.

A pessimist would only put the Orange at four wins. That would obviously include the fourth and fifth tiers, while taking a split of the third tier and completely giving up hope on the first and second tier. I am also not in this camp because I believe that Syracuse will ultimately end up with a 3-2 record against the third tier.

» Related: Previewing Syracuse’s game against NC State

This leads me to my conclusion. Syracuse seems en route for another six win season. That is not a knock on Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer or his coaching staff, who have not only improved on the field, but also in recruiting. But there is no denying that the Orange are playing an incredibly difficult schedule.

I arrived at my conclusion by conceding the first tier, while taking one win (Duke) out of the second tier. I then put NC State, Boston College and Maryland in the win column (you’ll notice that the only away game of the bunch is against BC). I then took the high probability that Syracuse will win their opening games against Villanova and Central Michigan. By predicting a Syracuse win against Maryland, I am also calling for the Orange to get off to a 3-0 start, something they haven’t done since 1991, and only four times in nearly the last half century. Not a bad accomplishment for what is shaping up to be an extremely challenging season ahead.

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Wes Cheng

About Wes Cheng

Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also worked for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @ChengWes.
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