Welcome to the 2020 college football season, maybe. It remains to be seen if any games are played, but the ACC says it plans to play. So let’s take a look at the new 2020 schedule for Syracuse football.
There is no question the start of the season is brutal for ‘Cuse with road visits to North Carolina and Pittsburgh. The last time Syracuse opened against a Power 5 opponent was in 2013. This team got off to a sluggish start in 2019. After beating Liberty 24-0, the Orange got steamrolled by the Terrapins 63-20. Facing Sam Howell in game one is going to be a rude awakening for the defense.
Heading to Pittsburgh, the opposite will be true. The Panthers don’t boast a prolific offense, but that defense is going to give Tommy DeVito nightmares. Pitt’s front seven is loaded with NFL talent. Even with Jaylen Twyman opting out, Rashad Weaver and Patrick Jones II will eventually play on Sundays. Paris Ford is a roaming playmaker behind them as well. There is a very real possibility the Orange opens the season 0-2. It looks like the toughest part of the 2020 schedule.
Thankfully, things ease up significantly from there. Georgia Tech, Duke and Liberty will all visit the newly-remodeled Dome in a nice three-week homestand. The Yellow Jackets finished last in the Coastal division this past season, only managing two conference wins. Geoff Collins is still working to turn the team around after the triple-option era ended. History does not side with the Orange though. Syracuse is 0-3 vs. Georgia Tech all time.
Duke is an odd customer in the ACC. In 2019, the Blue Devils started the season 4-2, including a 45-10 beatdown of the Hokies in Blacksburg. A five-game losing streak followed before they finished the season on a high note by beating Miami. In that five-game slide, ‘Cuse crushed Duke 49-6 in likely the best game of the season for Syracuse’s rushing attack. Adding former Clemson quarterback Chase Brice (yup, that Chase Brice) should help the Blue Devils offense, but this still feels like a winnable game.
It would be wrong to overlook Liberty, even after Syracuse shutout the Flames to open the 2019 season. Hugh Freeze delivered the program’s first bowl win last season and the team should be a little better with more of his recruits in house. Liberty does have to face three ACC opponents in 2020, which could potentially wear them out as the year rolls on. However, ‘Cuse is the first one on the schedule. The Orange should win this game, but it won’t be a total mismatch.
Being 3-2 close to the midway point of the season would feel pretty good, but Clemson awaits. The trip to Death Valley will not be easy, even without fans. The Orange do not have the same proven offense that allowed them to keep the Tigers on the ropes during their last visit either. I don’t expect this one to be too close. Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne are both Heisman candidates for a reason. Let’s just hope it’s not a blowout.
The next four games on the 2o2o schedule are all winnable, but Syracuse could just as easily go 0-4 as well. ‘Cuse pulled off a big win to close last season when it beat Wake Forest in overtime. Assuming he can stay healthy, Syracuse will have to contend with Sage Surratt, who I believe is the best receiver in the ACC this season. A win is definitely in the range of outcomes. Call this one a toss up.
Boston College is always a tricky one to predict. The two schools have split their last four meetings, but BC looked far superior last November in a 58-27 drubbing. Fortunately for the Orange defense, A.J. Dillon is now a member of the Green Bay Packers. Unfortunately, David Bailey is back for another year. He racked up 172 yards at 10.8 yards per clip and punched in two touchdowns. The key to a Syracuse victory will undoubtedly be stopping the run. It will be interesting to see how Jeff Hafley measures up in his first trip to the Dome.
Facing Louisville is not as intimidating as it used to be, that didn’t stop the Cardinals from hammering the Syracuse defense last season. Micale Cunningham torched the secondary for five touchdowns. Javien Hawkins racked up 223 yards and a score on the ground. DeVito managed just 153 yards on 21 passes before exiting with an injury. ‘Cuse gave up way too many big plays to be competitive. If the Orange hopes to win in 2020, they will need to keep plays in front of them and make open field tackles. Doing so is not a strong suit for the unit, so the defense could be in for another tough day.
NC State is in something of a rebuild at the moment. The Wolfpack finished the year on a six-game losing streak and went just 1-7 in the conference. That one win came against Syracuse though. Uncertainty at quarterback is part of the reason for State’s struggles. ‘Cuse held them to just 16 points. How, the Orange offense disappeared. Tommy DeVito was sacked eight times and the running game accounted for just 41 yards. A better performance from the offensive line should lead to an easy win.
The 2020 schedule ends with a really tough test. It also provides a really fitting benchmark for Tommy DeVito’s progress. He was thrown into the fire against No. 3 Notre Dame in 2018 when Eric Dungey left with an injury. Two years later, DeVito will finish out his second full season as the starter against the Irish. ‘Cuse is definitely overmatched in this contest, so hopefully it will be a close game. The Irish’s front seven is loaded with playmakers like Daelin Hayes, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Drew White. I don’t see the Orange scoring enough points against Notre Dame’s defense to emerge with a victory.
Without a doubt, this will be a unique and likely memorable college football season, if it happens. 2018 might feel like a long time ago, but Syracuse is just one season removed from a 10-3 finish and a spot in the rankings. The range of outcomes feels pretty wide. Best-case scenario would see ‘Cuse finish around 8-3. A dismal 3-8 finish also feels potentially possible. I believe the Orange will finish around the .500 mark. This feels like a middle of the pack team in an underwhelming ACC.