Saturday night’s game against #1 Clemson was a pretty graphic illustration as to where the Syracuse football team stands with three games under its belt. The defense is talented, but unable to consistently make stops against offensively skilled teams. The offensive line is a real problem, leading to the magnification of every mistake made by players at other positions.
But, we still got special teams.
Sterling Hofrichter aside, the Orange have one other thing going for them – their remaining schedule.
Yes, it is strange to be optimistic about playing more games when the team has dropped their last two by 78 points combined, including getting manhandled in the most-hyped game at the Carrier Dome in a couple decades. But that schedule, particularly in how it lays out, has a lot of benefits.
SU gets two home games followed by a bye week and a game on Thursday night at North Carolina State. Those two home games are against Western Michigan and FCS opponent Holy Cross.
This schedule layout gives the Orange a very good opportunity to improve in practice and carry that improvement over to winnable games. The Broncos will not be a walkover, as they are getting some pub for rolling up 450 yards and seven scores on the ground Saturday against Georgia State.
On the other hand, WMU mustered 67 rushing yards and a 2.5-yard per carry average the week before against Michigan State. The real Broncos team is certainly somewhere in the middle of those two performances.
Should the Orange win these two games, as expected, means they would be 3-2 with 11 days off to prepare for N.C. State, the sixth game on their schedule. Head coach Dino Babers mentioned in the aftermath of the Clemson game that he expects his squad to come together around the fourth to sixth game of the season. That matches the upcoming schedule.
If Babers is right, we may be seeing an entirely different Syracuse team at that point. It could certainly be a confident team with a two-game win streak under its belt with a defensive unit of better tacklers and an offensive squad with a more consistent line, leading to improved production overall.
After the Orange meet the Wolfpack, they have a Friday night contest with Pitt and a Saturday game with Florida State. That means two more games with an extra day of rest and preparation. SU then hosts Boston College and gets their second bye. They then close with Duke, Louisville, and Wake Forest in consecutive weeks.
It’s very early, but none of those teams remaining on the schedule look exceptional. The national media coverage of the conference’s collective performance Saturday was somewhere along the lines of “dissolve the ACC”.
After holding off North Carolina in a non-conference game Saturday, Wake Forest is the lone undefeated team remaining on the Syracuse schedule. Two of the Demon Deacons’ victories are by a combined nine points. Boston College is the only other foe who will face the Orange that currently owns a victory over a Power 5 school, as the Eagles beat Virginia Tech.
Undoubtedly, Syracuse has disappointed thus far. The remaining schedule, though, is full of other teams that have had similar results. Maybe when that schedule plays out, the talk will be how the Orange got their toughest opponents early and righted the ship.