Schedule analysis — 2015 Syracuse football preview

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Syracuse will host Boston College at the Dome

The Orange face a schedule that is just about as friendly as it can get. There is only one big name out-of-conference foe and the two crossover opponents from the ACC’s Coastal Division finished in the bottom two spots of the media’s preseason voting. So, the names are about as positive as can be and the layout of the schedule is pretty good, too, especially considering there is only one bye week.

That schedule layout means Syracuse’s bowl fate will be determined in the first half of the season. The season opens with three games the Orange should win. Rhode Island is not the FCS threat that Villanova was last season, as the Rams finished 1-11 on the season with only two losses by single digits. (‘Nova, in contrast, went 11-3 and was led by a quarterback who was named the best offensive player in the FCS.) The Orange beat Wake Forest on the road last season and the Demon Deacons were voted to finish behind SU in the Atlantic Division this season by the ACC media. SU also beat Central Michigan last year, routing the Chippewas last year on the road, and get them at home this time around. In short, it should be expected that Syracuse will match last season’s win total before the calendar officially turns to fall.

LSU, ranked #13 entering the season, will be a very tough test at the Carrier Dome and is the precursor to the most important three-game stretch on the schedule for the Orange. While it is easy to say the Florida State (road)-Louisville (road)-Clemson (home) stretch is the biggest one for Syracuse, the fact is the preceding trio of games is most important.

» Related: Defense & Special Teams preview for the 2015 season

SU has a week off to recover from facing the Bayou Bengals and prepare for South Florida. The Bulls are coming off a 4-8 season, but those victories came over an FCS team and three conference opponents who combined for five victories on the season, two of them in head-to-head play where someone had to win. After USF, the Orange face Virginia, who was picked last in the Coastal Division of the ACC, then Pitt, a long-time rival who have gotten the better of the Orange in recent history, as the Panthers have won 11 of the last 13 games. Even coming off a nightmarish 2014 season, it is not unimaginable for the Orange to be 5-1 coming into the Pitt game, which would give them a shot at sewing up bowl eligibility before the toughest stretch of the year.

The meatgrinder made of Seminoles, Cardinals, and Tigers follows and, while it sounds defeatist to say it, getting through that stretch healthy might be the most realistic goal for SU, especially if they are stuck on four or five wins. Why if they are on four or five wins? All hands on deck would help the Orange in their final two games, as NC State and Boston College were voted directly ahead of SU in their division and every bit of available talent would help SU close in on a potential bowl berth.

DATE TIME OPPONENT TELEVISION
Fri, Sep 4 7:00pm RHODE ISLAND ESPN3
Sat, Sep 12 12:30pm WAKE FOREST ACC Network
Sat, Sep 19 12:30pm CENTRAL MICHIGAN TBD
Sat, Sep 26 TBD LSU TBD
Sat, Oct 10 TBD at South Florida TBD
Sat, Oct 17 TBD at Virginia TBD
Sat, Oct 24 TBD PITTSBURGH TBD
Sat, Oct 31 TBD at Florida State TBD
Sat, Nov 7 TBD at Louisville TBD
Sat, Nov 14 TBD CLEMSON TBD
Sat, Nov 21 TBD at North Carolina State TBD
Sat, Nov 28 TBD BOSTON COLLEGE TBD

 

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Jim Stechschulte

About Jim Stechschulte

A 1996 graduate of Syracuse University, Jim has reported on Syracuse sports for the Syracuse University Alumni Club of Southern California on nearly a decade, where he currently resides. He has also written a fantasy basketball column published by NBA.com. Follow him on Twitter @DSafetyGuy.
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