2013 will be a season of new beginnings for the Syracuse Orange football program. A new coach, a new quarterback, and–most importantly–a new conference are what awaits the team this upcoming season. Following their departure from the Big East (soon-to-be the American Athletic Conference), the Orange and new head coach Scott Shafer will need to be ready to compete in the toughest division of their new conference.
Upon their admittance into the ACC, Syracuse was placed in the Atlantic Division. This just happens to be the same division that is home to the conference’s two powerhouses at the moment, the Florida State Seminoles and the Clemson Tigers. For this reason alone, the path for the Orange to possibly make a run at an appearance in the ACC Championship Game in their inaugural season seems more than rocky.
While it is quite a jagged road that would lead the Orange to Charlotte, make no mistake about it, it’s by no means impossible to navigate through neither.
Even with the loss of their ultra-talented–and recent New York Giants draftee–quarterback Ryan Nassib, incoming Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen, if the hype is justified, should be a more than suitable replacement. Total up an effective Allen with the explosive Jarrod West handling the wide receiver play-making duties and the impressive running game returning from last season and the Orange offense can become mighty deadly as time goes on.
If there is any sort of Achilles heel that may hamper the Orange’s chances of ultimate success in their first ACC campaign, it will probably be the play on the defensive side of the ball. While not exactly overly-impressive a year ago, the team already has to deal with the loss of leading tackler, safety Shamarko Thomas. Coaches hope that junior Durell Eskridge can fill that void effectively.
The 2012 Syracuse run defense was not a think to admire neither–something they will need to improve heavily on if they do wish to contend with the Florida State’s and Clemson’s of the world.
Speaking of those two, the Orange have contests scheduled with each this upcoming season. They welcome Clemson to the Carrier Dome on October 5 and then later take a trip to Tallahassee on Nov. 16. As is expected, these two games should give us an indication of not only where Syracuse sits currently in their new home, but also how far they need to go.
As far as the rest of the Orange’s 2013 ACC schedule, it actually looks quite manageable, should the team consistently progress on the improvements it began to showcase during the spring game. I’ve looked up and down more than once, and altogether, an 8-4 season isn’t necessarily out of the question.
No matter how many jokes one may be compelled to crack about Syracuse–and believe me I’ve heard quite a few–keep in mind that this is a football team that last year took the eventual Sugar Bowl Champion Louisville Cardinals to the woodshed in the Carrier Dome 45-26. Clemson fans may want to keep that stat in mind before they start taking slight jabs at the Orange leading up to that October contest in the Dome.
Do I expect the Orange to walk in this season, shove aside FSU and Clemson, and immediately pronounce themselves the new kings of the ACC Atlantic? No, not by any means. But, at the same time, this isn’t a team that should be ignored nor pushed to the side neither. Just as last season, they can strike at any moment and leave you wondering why you even doubted them in the first place.
If you don’t believe me, again, ask Charlie Strong and Louisville.