Outsiders might say it’s the new-look Cleveland Browns-esque uniforms that are the biggest piece of preparation the Orange are doing.
With teams like Clemson and Pitt, the ACC is a tough conference. And though our hopes were, high, Syracuse played above expectations in many ways in 2018. Although the boys didn’t quite make the ACC Championship game, they were victorious against a tough Mountaineer team in the Camping World Bowl down in Miami.
The Clemson Tigers are once again far and away favorites to win the ACC at betting sites like YouWager. But the Orange are right in the mix odds-wise with Florida State, Virginia Tech, and Virginia, right after the Miami Hurricanes. But remember, the only team in the ACC that even came close to defeating the Tigers was the Orange.
Can Syracuse improve upon last year’s campaign?
Tommy DeVito will be under center. Losing Eric Dungey will take some adjustments. But although it’s DeVito’s first year as the full-time starter, he already has some real-time, high-level experience, leading the Orange to victories over both Florida State and UNC. So, I do not doubt that he’ll be able to hold his own in 2019.
A bigger concern is a critical loss of experience to the linebacker core. Ryan Guthrie and Shy Cullen are gone. And now there is a good chance that the core of young talent could be depleted further. Tre Allison, Nadarius Fagan, and Tim Walton all have their names in the transfer portal. Allison was likely to be the first backup, but now it is more likely that he’ll go, which is a shame as he red-shirted last year but shows true talent at the position.
So, in the 4-2-5 that ‘Cuse typically runs, we should see Lakiem Williams starting at middle linebacker and Andrew Armstrong at the weakside. The Orange aren’t completely depleted at LB, but there is nowhere near the same kind of experience as last season, so these guys are going to have to step up their play if the Orange defense doesn’t want to get exploited around the middle.
Preparing for the season, the Orange get a tune-up game against the Liberty Flames to open the 2019 campaign. Then they have to travel to Maryland to play the Terps at Byrd Stadium. This is no easy game. The Terps smashed Texas last season and took the Buckeyes to the wire, 51-52. After that they get another shot at Clemson, making back-to-back tough weeks of football in two and three. But they get a reprieve with Holy Cross and Western Michigan back-to-back before settling into a winnable schedule with one true test, Pitt.
Other than Pittsburgh, the remaining schedule is all teams that the Orange took down last season. They get NC State, Florida State, Boston College, Duke, Louisville, and Wake Forest. Looking at the schedule, they have a legitimate shot at another 10-win season. The deciding factor on whether they break the 10-mark will come down to Maryland, Clemson, and Pitt. Those are all, extremely tough, yet, winnable games –as we saw against Clemson last season.
All in all, the Orange are in great shape for nine wins and good shape for ten. But extra preparation is going to have to be focused around the middle of the defense. And perhaps some adjustments will need to be made around the linebackers to make up for the lack of experience.