Orange Watch: Rebuild of Syracuse football is minimum three seasons away

Franklin leads a Syracuse defense that will need to improve
It’s going to take several seasons to fully integrate the right schedule balance and upgraded talent into the Dino Babers system of Orange football

Item: If one former Bowling Green coach, Wake Forest’s Dave Clawson, can begin to start seeing evidence of his ACC Atlantic Division rebuilding project by his third season with the team’s current W/L records of 5-1, 2-1 after back-to-back 3-9 seasons, that should give us an indication as to the approximate timeframe needed for his successor with the Falcons, Syracuse’s Dino Babers, to get the Orange into a position to not only be expecting to play in a bowl game each season, but fighting off the Wakes, N.C. States and B.C.s in the division pecking order while chasing the three nationally ranked big boys.

If you were to list an ACC football power ranking for the week of Oct. 10, it would realistically look something like this:

1. Clemson
2. Louisville
3. Florida State
4. Miami
5. Virginia Tech
6. North Carolina
7. Pittsburgh
8. North Carolina State
9. Wake Forest
10. Virginia
11. Duke
12. Georgia Tech
13. Syracuse
14. Boston College

Sure, you could move a couple of teams around in the bottom half of the league, as we basically gauged toss-ups by head-to-head meetings so far, and if you added Notre Dame to the mix, with losses to Duke and N.C. State (along with Texas and Michigan State), the Irish might only be ranked somewhere between 10-12 if they were a fulltime football member.

» Related: The good and bad of Syracuse football through five games

You might even be able to make a case for swapping SU and BC, but by virtue of their schedule so far the Eagles have one additional conference defeat, but you get the point about where the definitive strength of ACC football resides in this list.

This past Saturday night’s ‘Cuse conqueror, Wake Forest, is one win away from grabbling one of the league’s contracted 10 bowl game spots at only the halfway point of the season, with a schedule of remaining games that includes Virginia and B.C. in league play, and an out-of-conference game against Army.

How did the turnaround occur in Winston-Salem? By recruiting better talent into a program that continually improved its facilities to go along with what was already a quality education.

Sound familiar?

And the right schedule balance helps significantly. Below are this year’s comparable schedules for Wake and SU against non-shared opponent’s both out-of-conference, and the ACC permanent cross-over and seasonal cross-over matchups:

Wake Forest Syracuse
Tulane Connecticut
Indiana Notre Dame
Army South Florida
Delaware Colgate
Virginia Virginia Tech
Duke Pittsburgh

The schedules are pretty similar, but the main difference between the teams so far is that Wake Forest has won all of its FBS games except at N.C. State, while the Orange has dropped games to N.D. and USF, along with both ACC games against Louisville and the Demon Deacons.

The 2017 Syracuse schedule, even with presuming a nice recruiting class comes about next February, is a killer. At LSU, at Miami, at Florida State, at Louisville, and Clemson in the Dome, are balanced by home games against Middle Tennessee (C-USA) and Central Michigan (MAC), along with a hoped-for FCS opponent. Still, six wins seemingly will be a tall order.

It could be the following season, which will also be after Babers third recruiting cycle on The Hill, in which he and athletic director John Wildhack structure a schedule that currently only has one non-league game at home versus UConn, along with an ACC portion that includes a cross-over home game against North Carolina, into one that will make a minimum six wins and a bowl game invitation easier to achieve.

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About Brad Bierman 848 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.