The top two finishers in the ACC Atlantic Division in 2013 went exactly how you’d expect. Florida State finished first with Clemson close behind. But third in that division was Syracuse in its ACC debut.
Sure, it wasn’t pretty, with the Orange going 4-4 (and coming six seconds away against BC from going 3-5), but that’s a finish that nearly every SU fan would’ve taken at this point last year.
Syracuse’s losses came against Clemson, Georgia Tech, Florida State and Pitt. Its wins came against NC State, Wake Forest, Maryland and Boston College.
So the question now becomes, what to expect in Year 2 in the ACC?
Syracuse’s schedule doesn’t get much easier in its second year. Its eight games come against Louisville, Florida State, Wake Forest, Clemson, NC State, Duke, Pittsburgh and Boston College.
Among the group, there are no “absolutely will wins,” nor should there ever be in conference play. But there are “no chance in hell games,” which include Florida State and Clemson at Death Valley. So that leaves six remaining games against the Cardinals, the Deacons, the Wolfpack, the Blue Devils, the Panthers and the Eagles.
With those six games in mind, the most difficult games come against Louisville and Duke. The Blue Devils are widely considered the consensus No. 3 team in the ACC after a banner year, while Louisville has gone 36-15 since 2010. Still, Syracuse could easily be in these two games. Duke isn’t going to sneak up on anyone like they did in 2013, and Louisville has undergone a coaching and quarterback change in the offseason. This isn’t to say that Syracuse fans should expect wins, but it’s certainly possible.
The remaining four games can be filed in the ‘winnable’ category. Syracuse blanked Wake Forest last season, and caught NC State a winless ACC season. The Deacons will be playing under a new coaching regime, while NC State is still continuing to figure things out in the second year of the Dave Doeren era. Both are as winnable as any games SU plays in conference.
That leaves Pittsburgh and Boston College. Syracuse should’ve beaten Pitt last season, but made far too many mental mistakes down the stretch in a brutal one-point loss at home. But the Panthers are considered a sleeper to challenge the upper-echelon of the conference depending on the development of a talented sophomore class.
Meanwhile, Boston College won seven regular season games last year, but early projections show that BC will likely take a step back in Year 2 of the Steve Addazio era simply because of a lack of depth.
What does this all mean? Here’s what I think are the best and worst case scenarios for conference play:
- BEST: A split against Louisville and Duke, and a sweep of all of the other winnable games. 5-3.
- WORST: A split against NC State and Wake, and 1-3 against all of the other teams in the ‘winnable’ category. 2-6.
The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, and given the strength of SU’s schedule, another 4-4 finish wouldn’t be so bad.