Item: Wasn’t it like, yesterday, that we were celebrating the rebirth of the Syracuse football program under Dino Babers, saluting a senior class led by Eric Dungey, Chris Slayton, and the like, following a convincing win over West Virginia in the Camping World Bowl? Now we’re just over three weeks away from the highly anticipated 2019 season and in Part I this week we take a look at games one-four in chronological order, with Part II covering the next four games to be published Aug. 20.
There were a few eyebrows raised last December when the largest private, non-profit university in the United States hired Hugh Freeze as its next football coach. But that’s exactly what the Liberty program did to embark on its first season as a full-status FBS member playing as an independent. Freeze got into hot water and subsequently lost his plum job at Ole Miss in 2017 after using his university-issued cell phone to call an escort service. In Lynchburg, Freeze is selling his past mistake to get better athletes in his new program along with an Evangelical Christian education. For the season opener, however, Freeze and the Flames (6-6 last season) don’t have enough talent to matchup with Syracuse as the Orange players flex their muscles in a 38-7 victory. It’s the second straight year SU will win on the road to begin play, the first time that has happened in program history. (1-0)
For the second straight week, the SU coaching staff will be preparing for a new coach running his program on the opposite sidelines when its matches strategy with Mike Locksley of Maryland in week two. Locksley left what seems like an annual revolving door in and out of Nick Saban’s offices at Alabama, the price of success, where he was the offensive coordinator for four seasons, after he finished an interim stint as the Terrapins head coach for six games in 2015. Actually, Locksley should have received the Maryland (5-7) job full time instead of DJ Durkin, who was fired last season amid public pressure following the death of a 19 year old player during offseason workouts. This game will be close until the fourth quarter before a defensive stop and subsequent late field goal seals a 35-20 win. (2-0)
We wrote this during ACC Media days in July, if it were not for Clemson football and the two national titles over the last three seasons, there would be no ACC Network in partnership with ESPN debuting next week (Aug. 22, 2019/7:00 p.m. ET). For all of the rich history of “Tobacco Road” and the success of ACC basketball, football is king for the mega TV dollars and revenue sharing which have made the ‘Cuse move south in its conference affiliation a no-brainer. The big difference between the last time the Tigers (15-0) played in the Dome in 2017 and this season is Trevor Lawrence. Playing in a Saturday night ABC primetime game is exactly the atmosphere Lawrence shines in, and this game will be no different. SU will give CU a game for three quarters before the Tigers pull away 38-24. (2-1, 0-1)
It will undoubtedly be tough for Babers and his staff to get the Orange going again following the bad taste of the Clemson loss, but a hungry Western Michigan team that is coached by old friend Tim Lester will be waiting in the Dome a week later. The Broncos (7-6) will have played at Michigan State before meeting SU, and no doubt Lester will have his somewhat veteran team focused on pulling an upset against his former program, but as in the case of the second half of last year’s win at Kalamazoo, there’s too much SU talent. Tommy DeVito fires three fourth quarter touchdown passes to cement a 38-20 win in front of a smaller than hoped for crowd of 33,000. (3-1, 0-1)