Item: We’re under two weeks away from the highly anticipated 2019 season opener at Liberty Aug. 31 (6:00 p.m. ET / ESPN+), and Syracuse is fresh off of Monday’s preseason No. 22 ranking in the first AP poll. In Part II, we take a look at games five-eight in chronological order, with Part III covering the rest of the season to be published Aug. 22. Part I is here.
While game five of the season against Holy Cross will be the FCS Crusaders first time in the Dome, the Worcester, Mass.-based school has played on campus before, many times before. From 1946-1973, the Orangemen and Crusaders (5-6 last season) played 24 times either at Archbold Stadium or Fitton Field (conspicuously tucked next to I-290 in Worcester), including the 1957 game at Archbold that a season later resulted in a Sports Illustrated cover photograph of SU quarterback Chuck Zimmerman (1956-58) chronicling the fifth week of the 1958 season. With an open week looming and this year’s game turning one-sided early in the second half, plenty of Orange reserves receive game experience in the 45-3 final. (4-1, 0-1)
The off weekend comes at perfect time for the players and staff to regroup because there’s only one home game in the month of October (Syracuse does not play on four Saturdays this season), and the Thursday night national TV game to start things off at North Carolina State is a tough assignment at loud and frantic Carter-Finley Stadium. The Wolfpack (9-4) are still smarting from scoring 41 points and losing by 10 to the ‘Cuse last year in the Dome, so the NCSU defense will be up to the challenge of stifling the potent Orange attack and zeroing in on Tommy DeVito. Trailing 33-28, a fourth quarter deflected interception gives the ‘Pack possession inside the Orange 20 with 2:00 to play, and a late touchdown run stuns SU 35-33. A large portion of the large crowd enjoys themselves on the field afterwards as the clock strikes midnight. (4-2, 0-2)
Football coaches thrive on the rituals of their weekly in-season schedules, and they stick to them. Playing back-to-back on a Thursday night, then a Friday night eight days later hosting Pittsburgh provides a mid-season paradigm shift for Dino Babers and his staff, but coming off a road loss and bad memories of their own over the overtime defeat to the Panthers (7-7) last season, provides plenty of motivation for the now famous Orange version of “Friday Night Lights.” SU scoring 17 points on its first three possessions has the building buzzing, and we get a glimpse of what’s to come in the season’s final month as the rushing attack comes alive in a 38-17 victory over annual rival Pitt, to gain the first conference victory of the season. (5-2, 1-2)
There is simply no way a program with all of the resources Florida State has that the Seminoles (5-7) will remain out of the national polls and not in their regular spot among the ACC’s bowl rotation for too long. Of course, last year was an aberration, the first season FSU did not play in a bowl game since 1982, and the schedule is bookended by tough games against Boise State in Jacksonville and at Florida, besides the ACC Atlantic. But the ‘Noles did have two preseason All-ACC selections (no small feat considering Clemson had 13 players of the 27 selected, Syracuse had four, Miami three, FSU and BC two, and Virginia, Pitt, and Duke one each), and running back Cam Akers even received a player of the year vote. SU is up 24-10 entering the fourth quarter when FSU ends a long drive with a score to trail by seven. Akers scores the tying touchdown with 3:00 to play and the game goes into overtime. After the Orange only get a field goal on the first OT possession, the Seminoles finish the comeback with a short TD run to cap a 30-27 comeback victory. (5-3, 1-3)