Schedule analysis & Prediction — 2018 Syracuse Football preview

Eric Dungey
Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey throws under pressure during Syracuse's game against Pitt.

SCHEDULE (all listed times Eastern, time and TV coverage subject to change)

DATE TIME OPPONENT
Fri, Aug 31 6:00pm at Western Michigan
Sat, Sep 8 3:30pm WAGNER
Sat, Sep 15 12:00pm FLORIDA STATE
Sat, Sep 22 TBD CONNECTICUT
Sat, Sep 29 TBD at Clemson
Sat, Oct 6 TBD at Pittsburgh
Sat Oct 20 TBD NORTH CAROLINA
Sat, Oct 27 TBD at North Carolina State
Sat, Nov 3 TBD at Wake Forest
Fri, Nov 9 TBD LOUISVILLE
Sat, Nov 17 2:30pm vs Notre Dame (at NYC)
Sat, Nov 24 TBD at Boston College

SCHEDULE BREAKDOWN

Syracuse has a fairly manageable schedule this coming season. Outside of ACC play, the Orange start with appear to be a pair of tune-ups. While the second game against FCS opponent Wagner should be a comfortable win, the opener at Western Michigan could be a dangerous game. The Broncos are a middle-of-the-pack team from the MAC, but in addition to having the homefield advantage, they also have head coach Tim Lester, recruited Eric Dungey to Syracuse when he was the quarterbacks coach under Scott Shafer. That knowledge of the SU quarterback adds an additional element of difficulty to the game.

Connecticut will come to the Carrier Dome for the third non-conference tilt and the highlight of the out-of-conference schedule is the November trip to Yankee Stadium to face Notre Dame, who enters the season ranked #11 in the country. The Orange come between games against Florida State and USC for the Fighting Irish, so perhaps SU can play spoiler in what may be a trap game.

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While the Orange reside in the tougher division of the ACC, this year’s schedule sets up reasonably well for them. Only Clemson (#2) and Florida State (#19) are conference opponents on SU’s schedule who start the season in the national polls. The two crossover games from the Coastal Division are Pitt and North Carolina, who were voted fifth and sixth in their division in the preseason media poll.

Florida State comes to the Carrier Dome in what will be an early measuring stick game for Syracuse. The Seminoles are under a new head coach in Willie Taggart, so it an unknown how the Seminoles’ talent will adapt to a new style of play. Clemson gets a home shot at revenge against the Orange to close September. If SU can finish the opening month of the season, including those two high-profile games, with good health, that could be a positive sign for the rest of the season.

Four of Syracuse’s next five games come against the teams picked to finish fifth and sixth in the ACC’s two divisions. After a road trip to Pitt (5th in the Coastal), SU gets a bye followed by North Carolina (6th in the Coastal). NC State breaks the trend, but Wake Forest (6th in the Atlantic) and Louisville (5th in the Atlantic) follow. That span of five games will likely determine if the Orange will get a bowl berth.

SEASON PREDICTION

With the team ending each of the last two seasons with a big losing skid, the big question for the Orange revolves around if the Orange can stay healthy and compete for a full season. While the overall talent on the roster creeps closer to their ACC brethren, shoring up the depth along the way, there are still holes on the roster.

The most inexperienced units are the wide receivers on offense and linebackers on defense. The linebackers’ influence will be limited by scheme, but there is nowhere to hide a weak receiver group in Dino Babers’ high-octane offense.

But, can an experienced offensive line bolster the run game and protect Eric Dungey, helping to hide deficiencies at wide receiver? With an improved line in front of him, will Dungey be able to remain in the pocket, limiting exposure to potential injuries? While there will be contests where the line struggles (hello, Clemson), it should be able to help Dungey remain upright.

And, if SU’s most explosive offensive threat remains on the field, that will help all facets of the team. The offense should be able to perform better, scoring points and helping make life easier for the defense. The defense, in turn, should not be exposed as much and be able to perform even better.

The ACC is tough and there is an extra degree of difficulty in that the other teams that have stood near Syracuse in the standings the last couple years are improving, as well. There is no conference game on the schedule to pencil in as a win this early.

The Orange keep getting better incrementally, though, and should approach six wins and a bowl berth. Whether or not they can climb over that hump remains to be seen.

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Defensive & Special Teams — 2018 Syracuse Football preview

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Jim Stechschulte
About Jim Stechschulte 496 Articles
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.