Item: It’s our annual August guess as to how the Orange football season will play out, in this case year number three of the Dino Babers era, and the sixth year in the ultra-competitive ACC. With both the university, the program, and fan base starving for a bowl game, can the ‘Cuse hit the minimum six victory mark (or better) to qualify for the postseason? Part I, which ran on Wednesday, details games 1 through 3. Part II, below, covers games 4 through 6. Part III and IV will be published the week of Aug. 20 covering games 7-12/13/14 (we’re simply covering our bases).
Back for his second season of his second tenure at Connecticut, the pressure is on Randy Edsall to better his two games under .500 cumulative record over 13 seasons on the field, but any evident progress with a ton of underclassmen starting on both sides of the ball may be another year away. Edsall, rightfully, didn’t want to publicly comment on the preseason coaching fallout at Maryland, his prior stop, and with good reason, coming on the heels of his own awkward ouster from the school. Coming off the Seminole shocker, SU starts slow against UConn in the Dome, up only 14-10 at halftime. But a relentless fast-paced offensive takes its toll on the Huskies defensive scoring 17 third quarter points, including two DeVito scoring strikes, on route to a 38-24 victory and the best start since the 2010 team won four of its first five, and the 1991 team’s 4-0 mark. (4-0, 1-0)
Similar to its situation as an Eastern Independent in the 1960s and 70s with Penn State, and in the 1990s with Miami in the Big East, now Syracuse has Clemson in its ACC division, an annual national title contender. Why even Sports Illustrated labeled this year’s Tigers defensive line, featuring four all-ACC first team preseason selections and likely first round NFL draft picks, “The Best Ever.” Despite a national championship in 1981, Clemson’s rise as a program has been handcrafted by Dabo Swinney and staff bringing in elite talent, and a famous fan base for contributing the revenue necessary to build truly one-of-a-kind facilities to give its players every advantage. What are the odds that Swinney would drop games to Syracuse in consecutive years? We couldn’t find those among a couple of new East Coast sports books college football offerings, but suffice to say the Clemson players repeatedly watched the video of SU celebrating its Friday the 13th Dome win from last October during winter workouts, and 80,000 plus will go home happy from Memorial Stadium this time around with a 41-21 victory. (4-1, 1-1)
Like Syracuse, Duke, and North Carolina, Pittsburgh made the quartet of ACC teams not to go bowling last season, so they’re publicly proclaiming what was previously an inside mantra around the program this season, “Lock The Gates.” Let Panthers sophomore tight end Tyler Sear explain as told to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I believe ‘Lock The Gates’ means when you step on that field and there’s an opponent standing out there, you want to lock the gates behind you. You want to fight that opponent until there’s only one standing. That’s ‘Lock The Gates.’” Pitt has certainly been successful doing that to the Orange at Heinz Field, site of this year’s first Saturday of October game, winning all but one (2001) of the eight games played at the intersection of the city’s three rivers, including that 76-61 anomaly in 2016. Down two points in the waning moments, a freak deflection causes an Orange fumble while driving into field goal range, and stunningly the Panthers hold on 33-31. (4-2, 1-2)
Check back in tomorrow for predictions on games 7 through 12!