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Cue The Smiling Child...

A cuteness overload. Suck on that one UConn.

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Now this was a logo.
It's been a long time since Syracuse played UConn in football regularly. And by a long time, I mean not that long in terms of years. But definitely a long time in terms of things that have happened since. Like changing conferences. Saying goodbye to the Big East. And a whole host of other things. But we all still hate each other. So can Syracuse finally beat the Connecticut UConn Huskies at their own field?

Syracuse's offense is fast, fast, fast. And pretty good. Amba Etta-Tawo has been the most pleasant surprise. And frankly, despite some missteps along the way, the offense has looked pretty good. The defense on the other hand, has been a disaster in many ways. You can't really blame them though. They lost a lot of talent to graduation, and on top of that, have had several injuries already this season. So we're playing with kids who probably shouldn't have been playing this season. And that is never a recipe for success. On the other side, UConn plays sloooooow. And not only that, but Coach Bob Diaco hasn't proven the most adept at clock and time out management. They lost their game to Navy on the 1 yard line after all. They beat a very weak Virginia team by 3, and their only other win is against FCS Maine, of which they had to win on a last second field goal. Now granted, Syracuse hasn't won their last 2 games, but they played Louisville and USF. So needless to say, I'm not picking against the Orange in this one. I said in my season preview before any football was played that SU would win against UConn this year, and I haven't seen anything to convince me that UConn has suddenly become the team that got blown out in the Fiesta Bowl (after the taxpayers of the State of Connecticut had to pay $3 Million because UConn couldn't sell out their ticket allotment). That was back when Syracuse was VERY bad. They aren't that bad anymore. They aren't really good, but they definitely aren't that bad anymore. I'm taking the Orange in this one 23 to 17.

This game is available nationally on CBS Sports at 1:00pm. John is off the grid this weekend, but I'll be in the field at The Rent tailgating and then attending this one. So Syracuse better show up. Because I need to see a game there that doesn't involve me slowly walking the miles back to my car disappointed and sober (bad football is sobering), or soaked. UConn... U SUCK!

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Lots of thinking happening in this picture
I'm gonna keep this rather short. The Syracuse football team is a work in progress this season, and Saturday's Homecoming game against the South Florida Bulls was a prime example. A 17-0 lead after the first quarter led us to believe that this team could compete with its peers -- in fact, be able to beat its peers handily. Then, the rest of the game happened. A 45-3 USF run. So painful.

1st quarter: A; 2-4 quarters: F. So really, C might be generous. When the offense is on, it's on. When it's not, you wanna cover your eyes, or visit the concession stand, or piss in a trough. Dungey still had a decent game (32 of 48 for 350 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs). The passing game is on a higher level than the ground game, which has a lot of issues right now. Some bright spots, but it's the weaker of the two. But if you look at all the stats, you scratch your head wondering how this team only scored 20 points. That's gotta change.

For as long as the defense continues to give up huge plays -- several in a game -- it's gonna be the Achilles Heel of this team. And while the offense is overall pretty good, it needs to be crazy great to overcome the deficiencies of this defense.

Special Teams
Sterling Hofrichter punted five times for 209 yards. Cole Murphy was good on field goals from 40 and 48 yards, and successfully hit both extra point attempts. Kickoff returns were decent from Sean Riley. Good effort from this squad.

I think the coaches are doing a good job preparing the team for games and making decisions in-game. But there's only so much they can do. The players still play the game. And when the players don't win, that's a reflection on the coaches. So I can't give the coaches a failing grade.

2.08 (C)
This grade is too high. It should really be a D, at best. But I guess the bright spots you see from time to time seem to balance out the overall score. Maybe that gives us hope for the future... but not for this year.

If you were extremely disappointed by this game (and the complete breakdown of anything good after the first quarter), you might just want to skip the UConn game altogether. UConn is a game we look at and think Syracuse should win. Don't fool yourself. Or, rather, don't get your expectations up. Assume the worst and be pleasantly surprised if things work out peachy. That's probably the outlook we should all take from here on out.

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Cue the Crying Child...

Need to wash the stink off from that game.

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South Florida Quick Predictions

Interesting how the seal of the University of the Western Hemisphere shows a good portion of the Eastern Hemisphere.
It's Homecoming Weekend on the Hill in Syracuse, and the South Florida Bulls come to town. USF is off to a perfect 2-0 start, beating Towson and Northern Illinois. Meanwhile, the Orange is 1-1, winning the season opener against Colgate, but getting thumped against Louisville last weekend. It's all been in the friendly confines of the Carrier Dome thus far, and in front of less than stellar crowds.

Syracuse hasn't really played a peer yet; Colgate was well below Syracuse's talent & ability, while Louisville is an elite team. USF is definitely the closest Syracuse will have seen to a peer so far this season, yet it seems like they may be just ahead of the Orange. The Bulls have had some momentum season to season, while the Orange clearly took a step backwards at the end of the Shafer era. But before Syracuse goes out and shocks Top 25 teams, it's teams like USF that Syracuse needs to focus on competing with. If you can't do that, then what business do you have thinking you can be competitive with the Louisvilles and Florida States and Clemsons of the world?

That being said, Syracuse will be seeing a tough Bulls team that has a quarterback cut from the same cloth as Louisville's Lamar Jackson: Quinton Flowers is 29-51 throwing for 528 yards and six touchdowns in his two games thus far, and is known to use his feet, picking up 99 yards and two touchdowns himself. Syracuse will obviously need to zero in on him, show pressure, but not simply sell out on every play. Doing that would undoubtedly pull a safety from the middle of the field and leave a receiver like Marquez Valdes-Scantling wide open. We saw enough of that with Cardinals receivers a week ago.

On the Syracuse side of things, QB Eric Dungey needs to regain some of the confidence from the Colgate game that he lost in the Louisville game. USF has a tendency to put up a lot of points and shut down their opponent's offense, so the bottom line is Syracuse needs to find a way to score, early and often. If they can get some momentum going on offense, not get interrupted by incompletions, runs up the middle, and cramping timeouts, the Syracuse offense has enough talent and ability to have a great game. If they can't do that, then forget it. I think they can, but they fall short in an exciting game that comes down to the last possession with the Bulls winning 46-44.

This game kicks off Saturday at 3:30pm EDT in the Carrier Dome, and if you're not there for Homecoming, the only way you can watch is on the ACC Extra through the WatchESPN app. While you're watching that, if you want to see tweets from the future, check out myself and your other usual Twitter peeps. Brian is still in Hawaii, so don't expect any sass from him, but rest assured; he's saving it up for an epic trip to East Hartford for next weekend.

For those attending Homecoming, remember a few things: first, it's Homecoming, not Orange Central. Second, if you're at Happy Hour on Friday night, pour a little out for #RIPDarwins. Lastly, be safe, don't do stupid shit, and tip your bartenders well. Still clueless and/or looking for some nostalgia? Check out Brian's Guide to Homecoming from five years ago. Go Orange!

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We saw a lot of this on Friday night.

Any sane person knew that Syracuse had little to no chance of beating Louisville in the Dome last Friday night. And we all knew it would be a high scoring affair, at least based on the offensive performances of each team the previous week. But who among us saw a 62-28 drubbing as a realistic possibility? Well, probably people smarter than me. But that's what the Cardinals did to the Orange. Let's pass some judgment on Syracuse.

Clearly, the Week One matchup against Colgate overinflated our view of the Syracuse offense. Are they a pretty decent squad? Yeah, sure. But going up against some actual talent exposed some flaws. It was very promising to see Syracuse when it had momentum moving the ball in the hurry-up no-huddle. Unfortunately we only saw that a few times, and even then momentum would be stalled by a Louisville injury or cramp. More on that below. But at any rate, QB Eric Dungey was a more down-to-earth 25 of 51 for 255 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception. Many receivers got in on the action again -- this time around eight -- with Amba Etta-Tawo leading the way with eight receptions for 103 yards and two TDs. Steve Ishmael caught four, but you could feel the tension in the Dome that the fans wanted to see him more. The ground game had varying degrees of success, but I felt the coaches called the "run up the middle" play way too much. Is there something cemented into the playbook that every coaching administration must run up the middle?

This probably should be an F, but I can't make scapegoats out of a defensive unit that doesn't have the talent (or enough time) in Dino Babers' system. When you give up 62 points, you can't be proud of your performance. When you give up 30 first downs, 414 net rushing yards, 431 passing yards, (for a total of 845), and just can't seem to figure out how to defend what's being thrown (or run) at you, you're not gonna have a good time. But even putting all that aside, I think even a good or a great defense would have had trouble with this Louisville offense. Lamar Jackson is a beast on the field, and with so many options on how to run an offensive attack, you almost need an additional 11 defenders just to be able to defend anything that could happen. So, this was a bad defensive performance, but even David couldn't have beaten this Goliath.

Special Teams
With the Syracuse offense stalling so much, the punting game was needed to keep the Orange respectable in field position. Sterling Hofrichter didn't disappoint: 11 punts for 489 yards, which included a long of 61 yards, three inside the 20, and a touchback. Five of the eleven traveled more than 50 yards. Unfortunately, Cole Murphy wasn't as successful in his one field goal attempt at the end of the first half, missing from 55 yards as time expired. Quite frankly, the offense should have just attempted a TD there -- would have put the Orange within seven points at the half. Oh well, that's on coaching...

Demerits here are for the previously mentioned FG attempt at the half, for the excessive running up the middle, and for just totally being mismatched against a superior team. Obviously that last part isn't this coaching staff's fault, and you can only do so much with what you have. The coaches just need to find a way to get more out of these defenders. Otherwise, word will get out about how easy it is to exploit the defense, and Syracuse won't see the winning side of a football game the rest of the season.

2.25 (C+)
Of course there was going to be drop-off from Week One, but, that was just really rough. It really sucks that the excitement we all felt after the Colgate game went away so quickly. And now, of course, the fan base feels hopeless, like the season is lost. But, as always, perspective is the key. Syracuse needs to face a true peer -- a program with similar talent who we can realistically compete with. USF much closer fits that bill, and with the game being in the Carrier Dome and it being Homecoming, Syracuse might just have a shot to showcase its abilities against a school on the same level.

Finally, much has been said about Louisville defenders cramping up at times inconvenient to the Syracuse no-huddle #OrangeIsTheNewFast offense. I was disappointed that the fans in attendance chose to boo these injuries; I thought we were better than that. Were the players faking it? If they were, it wasn't blatant (i.e. flopping). And I can attest how extremely hot and humid it was inside the Dome. But Babers and the Orange players brought good points -- why was it only happening to Louisville's defensive players, not their offense? Why was it not happening to Syracuse players? Was it conditioning? Was it improper hydration or lack of electrolytes? Or just flat out cheating? It's hard to tell, and we'll probably never know for sure. This is probably something we'll have to deal with all season. If Syracuse is good enough, then these things won't matter. That's the bottom line. But in the meantime, let's no boo opposing players who are down -- fake injury or not. We're better than that, Orange Nation.

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Cue the Crying Child...

The first loss of the Dino Babers Era got ugly.

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Louisville Quick Predictions

College logos have come a long way

Syracuse and Louisville both won their season openers, and by large margins. But for as electric and fast as Syracuse was, Louisville was able to drop 70 on Charlotte. So it's clear that in Friday night's ACC opener for both teams in the Carrier Dome, we're going to see offense. A lot of offense.

In game one, the Orange played what Dino Babers thought was an extremely slow version of its fast offense. He expects it to be faster. Louisville has been practicing with its defense being ready for a play every 16 seconds. Fair to say that Lousville is a more talented team than Colgate, so don't expect Syracuse to have as easy of a go of it this time around. But I also see Eric Dungey having the same sort of success throwing the ball to the several talented receivers he has at his disposal. Unlike against Colgate, look for the Orange offensive attack to be more balanced; getting some ground success with an up-tempo offense could really open the field up for some huge passing plays for Syracuse.

On the other side, Louisville has proved that its offense is a force to be reckoned with. The Syracuse defense showed great determination last week after giving up the early touchdown but then pitching a shutout the rest of the game. But against the #13/15 Cardinals, they've got their work cut out for them. Key to that effort will be containing QB Lamar Jackson, who last week connected on 17 of 23 passes for 286 yards, but also poses a scrambling threat having rushed 11 times for 119 yards. For Syracuse to have a shot in this one, they'll have to create some turnovers, take away scoring opportunities from Louisville. Plus, the Orange basically have to score on every single possession it has. Particularly in the Red Zone, those drives need to end with TDs, not FGs like they did last week. It should be an exciting game, but I see Syracuse falling short to a better Louisville team, 53-38.

This game is available on ESPN2 and WatchESPN at 8pm EDT, and is the only FBS matchup Friday night other than Maryland vs. Florida International, so we'll "literally" have the entire college football world looking at us. I'll be in the Dome as part of the Orange-out (because I always wear orange to football games) so follow along on twitter @jbren or on Snapchat and Instagram at jbren218. Brian is in Hawaii on vacation and hopefully doesn't decide to experience a 2pm Friday football game in lieu of sunny beaches and frozen adult beverages.

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Another Coach That Doesn't Know The Rules

This guy definitely abides by the rules.
It's not terribly surprising that a majority of college football fans think they know the rules. What is surprising is when coaches, who get paid millions of dollars a year to coach a sport, don't know the rules. And they're the first to complain when their team is flagged. When Dino Babers cranked up the tempo of the SU offense, Bobby Petrino, coach of the Louisville Cardinals, seemed to think Syracuse was violating the rules by doing so. NOT SO FAST MY FRIEND.
Most of you know that I am a football official in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In Massachusetts, high schools play under NCAA Football rules. We also use CCA Mechanics, which are the college official mechanics. So needless to say, when a coach flat out accuses Syracuse of cheating, this was in my wheelhouse. Petrino accused Syracuse of playing too fast, saying that it was illegal for Syracuse to snap the ball before the chains were set by the officials. Well, obviously this is wrong, and stupid, and ignorant. Kind of like the some of the things Petrino has done in his private life. 
Pretend you've never read the NCAA rulebook (most of you). You've watched a bunch of games. At some point, even if you haven't seen Syracuse this year, you've probably seen a team play with a no huddle offense. Now, you might know that when a team gets a first down, the clock stops. The purpose of this is technically to reset the chains to denote the 10 yards needed to achieve another first down. However, if you've ever watched the clock, you notice it's usually only stopped for a few seconds. Then the referee winds his arm, blows the whistle, and the ball is ready for play and the clock continues to roll. This happens many times, every game. So, unless you don't watch college football, anyone should know that the clock is only stopped for a few seconds. Again, the theory is that this is for the chains to move and reset. However, if you've ever seen a game in person (I assume Petrino has seen a few in person) you'll notice that as soon as the ball is spotted by the Center Judge (or the Umpire), the ball is declared ready for play and the Referee blows his whistle. They don't actually wait for the chains to be set.
The ACC Coordinator of Officials Dennis Hennigan, who is a former on field Referee and actually a lawyer in the Syracuse area, said:
Assuming that the offense does not substitute, the officials will allow the offense to snap the ball when the officials are in position, and when the "box", i.e., the down indicator, is set. The officials do not wait for the chains to get set. Both the box and the chains move upon the direction of the officials.
And not only that, but the officials have to blow the whistle to signify that the ball is ready for play. Syracuse is not able to snap the ball legally unless the Referee blows his whistle signifying that the ball is ready for play. If Syracuse does snap the ball before the whistle is blown, a 5 yard delay of game penalty is assessed. For as much grief as ACC Officials have gotten in the last few years, they do at least know when the teams are able to snap the ball.
So there you have it. Syracuse's offense isn't break the rules. And not only that, but it's common sense that if the officials are letting the players snap the ball, it's legal. And now you know some of the rules of NCAA Football better than one of it's highest paid, most crooked coaches. As always, send rules questions or any other game related things along to @BH_Orange44.

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The Dino Babers Era begins with a win! 

At his introductory press conference back in December, Dino Babers invited us to close our eyes and imagine an up-tempo offense that doesn't huddle, that keeps a defense on its heels & winded, that executes with precision, and that scores a lot of points. That was the brand of Syracuse Football we were being sold. The biggest question was how soon would Babers be able to showcase that type of play on the field? The answer was: game one. Of course, game one was against FCS team Colgate from just up the road. And after the game, Babers admitted it's the slowest this offense will ever play, comparing it to watching paint dry. Nonetheless, Orange fans saw a marked improvement over last year, and can only imagine the offense getting better and harder to beat going forward. For last Friday's purposes, the offense (and the rest of the team, frankly) did everything it needed to do to beat its opponent, Colgate, 33-7.

I really wanted to give an A+ here, but that would be symbolic of a perfect performance, which this was not. But it's a well earned A, and certainly gives them room to improve to earn that A+ later on. 25 first downs, 554 all-purpose yards (437 passing, 117 rushing) with an average of 6.8 yards per play. The Orange was 8-18 in third down conversions (not good) but was 3-3 in fourth down conversions. Syracuse only had to punt three times. That's how high octane this team was. Eric Dungey had a monster performance on 34-40 passing for 355 yards and two touchdowns. Grad transfer Amba Etta-Tawo made his presence known immediately, with 12 catches for 210 yards and a TD (and Erv Philips "chipped in" 14 catches for 87 yards and a TD). In fact, in all, six receivers caught the ball. The ground game was less effective: Moe Neal led the way with 68 net yards on nine rushes. Babers, recognizing the Colgate front line was just having itself a day, decided to go with the passing game since that's what was working. We'll see a more balanced approach in the future, but obviously Babers likes to go with his hot hand and won't force something that isn't working. Seems to be a good approach to coaching.

Maybe this grade would be lower, and it definitely would have been if I was writing this immediately after the game. The way the defense crumbled on Colgate's opening drive -- allowing a Raiders TD -- seemed to portend what could be an abysmal defensive season. But then the defense put on its big boy pants and went to work, shutting out Colgate for the rest of the game, holding Colgate to 11 first downs, 45 yards on the ground, 98 in the air, and ten punts. So, obviously a great effort. But watching the defense in person just seemed to be very frustrating to me; like, I couldn't get over it when they missed a tackle or blew some coverage. Hopefully they get better at that; or I get better at coping with it particularly when the net result is only giving up seven points the entire game.

Special Teams
In the field goals department, Cole Murphy was a perfect 4-4 with a long of 41. Unfortunately the other three tries (and makes) were stalled offensive drives inside the red zone. Not his fault, though, and he did his job. Murphy was also good on kickoffs, averaging 62 yards per kick while only getting two touchbacks. On the punts, with Riley Dixon in the NFL, our new punted Sterling Hofrichter picked up where Dixon left off, with three punts for 136 yards, a long of 47, with one inside the 20. Hopefully he's not called on a lot this season, but when he is, it's nice to have a boot to rely on.

Babers delivered on what he promised. You have to appreciate the prep work that went into teaching this no-huddle offense and actually getting it to work. Also, big props to the conditioning coaches, who made sure the players were physically prepared to run plays at that speed. And as I mentioned above, Babers shied away from the running game when he saw how dominant the Colgate front line was. I'm paraphrasing him here, but why keep on trying to do something you know isn't working, when you have another tool that is working just fine? Adapting to what's actually happening in the game is important for success, and Babers had no problem abandoning what might have otherwise been his gameplan on offensive plays in lieu of the heavy reliance on the passing game we saw.

3.75 (A-)
Pretty much as good a start to the season and to the Dino Babers Era as you could hope for. Not only was it a win, but it was a very well-rounded, team win. As a Syracuse fan, you have a lot to be excited about. You know this season is going to be daunting, given the schedule we're working with. But after Friday's performance, you know this team just won't roll over and die -- they have a very real possibility of stealing a game they should otherwise win. Hell, some bowl projections have Syracuse in. Maybe my 6-6 prediction isn't that crazy after all? Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves. One game down, eleven more to play (hopefully more).

And of course, that next one is the traditional Week 2 ACC matchup. Last year it was Wake Forest. Doable. This year it's Louisville. So... we'll see about that! Stay tuned!

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Cue The Smiling Child...

Ahh happy children. Someone won their season opener.

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Colgate Quick Predictions

No Hoodoo here.
Syracuse opens another new season with another new coach. This time though, Syracuse is starting with a huge advantage. Syracuse is starting with a guy who has already been a head coach. And a successful one. But will that translate to wins right off the bat?
Syracuse opens in their (now) traditional way, by playing an FCS school. This year, it's nearby Colgate, a short trip east on the New York State Thruway. While not playing very recently, Syracuse does have a long football history with the Raiders. As fun as all that is however, let's not forget Syracuse is a P5 school, and Colgate is Colgate. It would be one thing if this was App State or even maybe Villanova or Towson. But it isn't. It's Colgate. They might keep it close early, and even cause some problems with a trick play or two, but Syracuse's depth, size, and the fact that they will be playing no huddle, throwing as many offensive plays at Colgate as they can, I can see the majority of the Colgate team sucking wind in the 4th. I think Syracuse won't have to pass much tomorrow as the Running Backs will find success pounding the ball. But I think Eric Dungey will get loose and make some solid throws, including at least one home run. Defense will of course bend, and maybe bend a lot, but they shouldn't break, giving Babers a chance to see who he really wants to have on the field for Louisville. But either way, Syracuse is winning this game. And hopefully no one gets a season ending injury this time. Syracuse over 'Gate 41 to 17.
This game is available online at WatchESPN at 7:00pm. John will be in the Dome. I'll be watching somewhere, somehow. And it will be glorious either way. Because football is back.

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Guess who's back!
Hey, it looks like it's time for another ACC Football Preview. Giddy up. 2016 is here and football is starting. We couldn't be more excited to be publishing our latest preview. Enjoy!
Brian's Season Preview
Syracuse vs. Rhode Island: For the past few years, Syracuse has started the year with an FCS game. This year is no different. What I'm hoping is different, is the starting QB not getting injured in the first game of the season. No Hoodoo here though. Colgate isn't beating Syracuse.
Syracuse vs. Louisville: L'ville seems like it's much better than anyone thought they would be. However, Syracuse has a history of playing the Cardinals tight, especially on a Friday night. Cards will be just too much for the new staff to handle in game 2 however. Syracuse is 1-1.
Syracuse vs. South Florida: At this point, I'm honestly not sure what to think of USF. I like SU's chances being at home. And this is Syracuse's Homecoming game. Because it is Homecoming and I think USF will be worse this year than last, I'll take the Orange at home. And, of course, the University of South Florida is not in South Florida.
Syracuse at Connecticut: I'm chomping at the bit to see this one. Syracuse has waited a long time to give it to UConn on their home (air?)field. Syracuse has managed to handle the non-conference basketball games they have played. Not it's time for football. I sat through the lean years. This time, I think Syracuse is going to beat UConn at home. I'll take the Orange in a grudge match where I will personally unleash years of pent up frustration, hoping that all those people I know that are UConn alums will somehow feel it deep in their soul. UConn... U SUCK!
Syracuse vs. Notre Dame ("neutral"): MetLife will be full of both Notre Dame and Syracuse alumni. Both sets of fans will want to see their team win. While an upset by Syracuse is possible in this one, Notre Dame has too much talent to allow a Syracuse win, even if they try and phone it in. Syracuse will probably keep it close so your heart breaks, but hey, if Greg Robinson can beat Notre Dame, so can Dino Babers.
Syracuse at Wake Forest: I just don't see the logic of picking Wake Forest over Syracuse to finish better in the ACC. I also don't see how anyone could pick against the Orange in this one. Syracuse has beaten Wake Forest for the last 3 years. This year will be no different. If this is a 12:30 game like John thinks it will be, I can't wait to be on the West Coast and be weirded out about pre-noon football.
Syracuse vs. Virginia Tech: In 2002 I saw the greatest college football game I have ever seen in person. Syracuse beat #7 Virginia Tech in Triple Overtime in the Carrier Dome. It isn't 2002. Hell, it isn't even 2010. Virginia Tech may have a new coach, but this isn't the year Syracuse gets a win against the Hokies again.
Syracuse at Boston College: You beautiful bastards did it. You lost all of them. Every single ACC game last year in football and basketball. I like Steve Addazio, but he isn't getting it done. And he hired Coach P to the staff. He's the D Line coach, which I know he's good at. But still. No good friends. BC is starting to be so sad it isn't even fun to beat them anymore. Wait... no that's not true. It's still awesome. Superfrauds.
Syracuse at Clemson: Clemson might finally win the National Championship this year. So... yeah.
Syracuse at NC State: I can't seem to ever be able to tell if NC State will be good. Basically whatever I predict for this game, NC State tends to do the opposite. So by that logic I should say Syracuse will win this because I think NC State will. But whatever. NC State is winning this game.
Syracuse vs. Florida State: I'll be at this game, which of course means that SU will look pretty good in the first quarter, and then slowly fade as FSU takes over. Story of my life the last 10 years.
Syracuse at Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh is another program on the way up. James Conner is an awesome story and I'm super happy for him. I'd like to beat Pitt, but not in the way i crave it against UConn and Georgetown. But hey, the good news is that Syracuse always plays Pittsburgh tough. At least in the Dome. And this is in Heinz. So I guess I'm picking Pitt.
So I'm calling 4 wins. Which I think is reasonable for a first year coach, and where the offensive side of the team is right now. Not too bad I would say. And it's not like there isn't any possibility of the team getting a couple upsets and making a bowl. It's there. Barely. But hey, you gotta start somewhere.
John's Season Preview
Welcome to my fifth annual game by game preview for Orange::44. I only know it's fifth because this template is a copy & past job from last year, which claimed to be the fourth. Anyway, as per usual, this year's iteration of the Orange carries with it a lot of questions, a lot of unknowns. Out with the old (Scott Shafer) and in with the new (Dino Babers). There's a solid group of returning players, yet a daunting schedule even for the best of teams. So this is Probably gonna be an "expect the worst but hope for the best" kind of season. Here's my best guess which, at best, will be way off:
Syracuse vs. Colgate: Dino Babers has gone out of his way to do what every coach in his situation would do: talk up the FCS team you're debuting against. Smart for two reasons: if you beat them, then you beat what you talked up was a good team; if you lose to them, you lost to a team you talked up was a good team. Simple logic, really. Orange is the New Fast, and Colgate is red, so we've got that going for us. The good news for the Dome attendees is that the Syracuse forecast for Friday is a high in the low to mid 70s, so the Dome won't be the hot sauna is typically is for these season openers. Let's start the Babers Era with a win.
Syracuse vs. Louisville: "Another year with a random ACC game early in the season. And it's fine that it's Wake Forest." That's the copy and past from last year. This year, Wake Forest is Louisville. Yet there's no mistaking the difference between the two. The Cards should be decent this year. The Orange have two things going for it in this one: Syracuse seems to love (and do well) playing Louisville in the Domeon Friday nights; and it's early enough in the season that maybe Syracuse has its shit together more so than Louisville. I mean, who knows? But I'll just say the Cardinals probably win.
Syracuse vs. South Florida: Game 3 is Homecoming. Remember, that's the correct and only name. Speaking of wrong names, the University of South Florida is still in Tampa, which is not in south Florida. Maybe, just maybe, Syracuse figures out a way to win this game. I think a well coached team that executes as it should, should win this game. We should probably know if Syracuse is that kind of team by this game. The optimist in me picks Syracuse, and finishes the September home slate 2-1. 
Syracuse at Connecticut: First, let me premise this preview by stating that I might be traveling to Rentschler Field for this game. Second, I've always hated UConn. Mostly in basketball, but unfortunately things in football haven't always gone the way of the Orange, especially in East Hartford. But hey, the Huskies are having a great time in the Big East, no, Conference USA, no, the American Athletic Conference, or maybe hopefully the Big 12, ha but whatever. Let's stop being polite, and start being Real. The Real World: Storrs. A bunch of losers. Syracuse improves to 3-1.
Syracuse vs. Notre Dame ("neutral"): Syracuse was marketed as New York's College Team because of this outrageously long contract to play home games at MetLife Stadium. And then Syracuse said Nope, No More. So this is the last of that. Geographically, this should be a Syracuse home game. But Notre Dame is America's College Team, and America trumps New York (that was a verb before Donald's family changed from Drumpf). Bottom line is that some legal issues among some Fighting Irish players won't deter the rest of the team from beating the Orange. Also, I won't be in attendance because I'll be in San Francisco watching the Giants & Dodgers battle it out at the end of the season. Fancy pants.
Syracuse at Wake Forest: This game is destined to be a noon-thirty on the ACC Digital Network. I'll be in Portland, Oregon prepping for my sister's wedding. Brian will be there too. We'll huddle around either my phone or his with some mimosas at 9:30am local time. We should, in theory, see a Syracuse victory.
Syracuse vs. Virginia Tech: This will be Virginia Tech's first trip to the Carrier Dome since Frank Beamer retired. It'll be weird. But this isn't the era of Michael Vick, or lollipop sticks in the turf. This is 2016. Could this go three overtimes? Sure. But probably not. Could Syracuse win? Sure. But probably not.
Syracuse at Boston College: Boston College's coaching staff has an Orange tint (or taint?) to it. Quite frankly, I don't think that's good for either team. The Eagles had exactly zero ACC football wins last night (same number in basketball as I recall, too). God only knows how bad they'll be this year. By all accounts, Syracuse should be the better team, and should definitely win this game. So let's go with that. Otherwise we'll all hate ourselves. Let's also pour some out because the schedule makers at the home office and/or ESPN put this game in October instead of Thanksgiving weekend. Like, I thought BC was our designated rival, and we were supposed to play our designated rival the last weekend of the regular season, which coincides with Thanksgiving weekend. But, what do I know? I guess this is why I'm just a simple country lawyer. 
Syracuse at Clemson: Clemson was good last year. Clemson will be good this year. Likely undefeated and #1 coming into this game. It would no doubt be easy for the Tigers to overlook Syracuse, but honestly I don't see Dabo Swinney letting his players do that. Especially at home. Give this one to Clemson.
Syracuse vs. NC State: Syracuse returns to the Carrier Dome for the first time in almost a month to play this game. The season opener for basketball will be right around this game, so look for the Syracuse fan base to be out in full force, loud, and cheering on the team. I give the win to Syracuse anyway, but in a tight game, Syracuse wins with its home field advantage. Oddly enough, this gives the Orange six wins on the season. Bowl eligible on November 12? Sure. I won't be right, though. But we can dream.
Syracuse vs. Florida State: This will be Senior Day, the final home game of the season. An already bowl eligible Syracuse team would certainly be riled up for this one, as would be the fans in attendance. But all that mojo isn't gonna will a win out of Syracuse.
Syracuse at Pittsburgh: If this is our new annual end of the season rivalry game, then I'll be a little sad. Let's just assume it's not. Anyway, Pittsburgh is a fine city, and the football team more often than not has Syracuse's number. Even when Pitt's not very good. This game probably doesn't have bowl eligibility implications, but it probably has seeding implications. For at least one of the teams. Syracuse doesn't play well in Pittsburgh, and the weather will probably be horrendous, and the field will probably be in horrible condition because that's just what always seems to happen. I guess that all spells a win for the Panthers.
Another year, and another annual preview totally devoid of any actual football analysis. It looks like I'm predicting a 6-6 regular season, which is good enough to send Syracuse back to the Pinstripe Bowl. It's been several years, and even the Syracuse advertising is gone from Yankee Stadium, so the Steinbrenner family will love to have some Orange back in the Bronx!

(Please note that I was neither drunk nor high at any point while composing this preview. Crazy, maybe.)

So there you have it. John says 6-6 and I say 4-8. John is a bit more optimistic than me, but hey, hope springs eternal in the Salt City. I look forward to what this new staff and these kids can do. And like I said, it's not like upsets are unheard of. Stay tuned for football coverage all season long as we return with our usual game previews, postgame report cards, and the dreaded crying child.

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