Article: It’s a bowl game or bust for the Orange 2021, with arguably the best young talent from one of the six rosters of the Dino Babers era (around 66% of the roster are students from sophomores / freshmen including red shirts in these classes). There is also a mix of experienced players on both lines and at quarterback, as well as a positive attitude that permeates the program.
Here are our annual pre-season predictions for each match in chronological order, starting with matches 1 to 6 (Part II takes place on Tuesday 24/8):
It’s rare for transactional college football news to air in the summer months, but that’s exactly what happened on July 14. Ohio football coach Frank Solich, the most successful coach in Mid-American Conference history, announced his retirement that morning for health reasons (cardiovascular problem), ending a career as a 55-year-old coach, the last 16 successfully executing the Bobcats program with appearances in the bowls in 10 of the past 11 seasons. Offensive coordinator Tim Albin has taken over seamlessly, so Syracuse’s coaches will have a pretty good idea of how to plan for the most crucial season opener of Babers’ six seasons. After a close game during three quarters, SU, behind Tommy Devito, would get a short late touchdown on a time-consuming run to fend off the pesky Ohio 31-20. (1-0)
Since then athletic director John Currie botched the hiring of Greg Schiano in Tennessee in November 2017, the Volunteers are just 16-19 overall, 10-16 in the SEC game, and on their second coach after Josh Heupel replaced Jeremy Pruitt during the offseason. The loss of Tennessee turned out to be by Rutgers gain, as Schiano built on his past successes, leading the State University of New Jersey to a mega-deal for his second lap from last season. The 33,000 fans who venture inside the newly air-conditioned dome for the 2:00 PM ET home opening are grateful for the comfort of the 75-degree day outside. For Orange Nation, aside from the same aluminum seats as the building and the giant video board are beautiful, the time to buy concessions has been drastically reduced, and there are even moderations for the toilets. On the pitch, it’s a grudge match. Tied at 27 with less than 2:00 to go, Andre Szmyt’s 37-yard field goal puts the Orange in the lead 30-27, then a Rutgers 4th and 1 play at the 45-yard SU line is stuffed by the linebacker Mikel Jones (No. 3 sports jersey this season) with less than 0:10 to go. (2-0)
One day, former Syracuse-area high school star quarterback Will Fiacchi (Marcellus) will likely fulfill his ambition to be a college football head coach. For now, he is in his fifth year at his alma mater as a coach of the Albany wide receivers and serves as the recruiting coordinator under Greg Gattuso. Fiacchi is the school’s all-time passing point guard (7,150 yards) after starting 35 straight games for the Great Danes between 2011-14. Against Syracuse, Gattuso wants Fiacchi to still be eligible as SU’s D-line overwhelms less-talented FCS member O-line, sacking UAlbany quarterback Jeff Undercuffler five times, and DL Kingsley Jonathan recovers a fumble for a score 5 yards in the third quarter in a 40-7 rout. (3-0)
As a member of the AFCA Coaching Council, Babers is one of 65 FBS school coaches who vote weekly during the season (7 of 14 ACC schools have voting coaches) in the USA Today Coaching Survey. For the first iteration of the poll this season, the preseason roster announced on August 10, Babers may have had a say in Freedom have received enough votes to place 30th on the roster (Liberty was 29th in the AP preseason poll released Monday). It’s been quite a program-building accomplishment for Hugh Freeze, and he has one of the best double-threat quarterbacks in the country with Malik Willis. The junior contributed 240 yards of offense in the Flames ’38-20 victory over’ Cuse in the Dome last season, the exact average Liberty points per game finishing 10-1 (the only loss was 15-14 v NC State). This year there will be four leader changes in the second half, the last to come when a tilted Devito’s throw lands in the hands of Liberty linebacker Rashaad Harding who runs 32 yards for a touchdown to silence the crowd. Friday night Dome in a stunning 37- 31. (3-1)
Related: Syracuse Football Is The Best Value In College Football
While the specific item has yet to be announced, there is no doubt that Florida State players will adorn their uniforms this season with a memorial to the great Bobby Bowden. The Hall of Fame and second-most successful FBS coach of all time died of pancreatic cancer on August 8 at the age of 91. Bowden made the Seminoles program a national powerhouse and coached against SU on campus at Archbold Stadium (1978) and The Dome (1989, 2004). Opening the 2021 ACC on the road in Tallahassee is as difficult a task as it is in the league for the Orange, who have never won in five previous meetings in the state capital of Florida since 1991. 2020 marked the third consecutive losing season for FSU, the first time this has happened since 1974-76, so the pressure is on second-year coach Mike Norvell to turn things around this year. After a scheduled 3-1 start (a loss to Notre Dame on September 5), the Seminoles, behind just enough attack from quarterback McKenzie Milton, will face a hot and tired Syracuse second-half defense en route to a 28-17 victory. (3-2, 0-1)
In a planning quirk due to external factors caused by the pandemic-plagued 2020 campaign, Wake forest will be making his third straight trip to the Dome this season, something that hasn’t happened since West Virginia played three straight years at Archbold between 1961-63. This game will mark a breakthrough for first-year wide receiver Damien Alford (No.82), who actually caught his only college pass last year in the Dome against the Demon Deacons (an extra year of eligibility due to COVID -19), and has appeared in four of Syracuse’s last five games of the season. Alford wowed his teammates this month in pre-season, and he’ll wow the home crowd with a pair of Devito’s first-half touchdowns to help give SU a 21-7 lead at the break. But Wake Forest isn’t folding (the teams have split the last six meetings), and it takes a Szmyt field goal and a short Sean Tucket touchdown in the final 6 hours to cement an orange 38-28 victory. (4-2, 1-1)
Be sure to check back next week as we reveal our predictions for Games 7-12!
For more Syracuse coverage, like our Facebook page, follow us @TheJuiceOnline and listen to our podcast.