After winning four games in each of Dino Babers’ first two years at the helm, Syracuse exploded in 2018, going 10-3 with the only losses to College Football Playoff Semifinalist Notre Dame and the ACC Championship Game participants, Clemson and Pitt. They did that with freshmen playing a significant role at quarterback, receiver, and in the secondary, so this team has pieces to build around for years to come.
Now, to be fair, was Syracuse a legitimate ten-win power five quality team? Probably not (The Orange finished 42nd in the CSD Prime rankings), but with an ACC that was falling apart around them, someone had to take advantage, and it just happened to be Syracuse.
Eric Dungey was a solid hand at the helm during his time leading the ‘Cuse offense, racking up 9,000 yards over four years, but countless injuries that led him to miss a ton of time prevented him from taking that next step. His heir is Tommy DeVito, a highly touted recruit for a program of Syracuse’s caliber. When Dungey expectedly got injured last year, DeVito showed flashes, especially in a double-OT thriller against North Carolina, but was inconsistent overall (51%, four touchdowns, three interceptions).
DeVito’s receiving corps loses a key piece in Jamal Curtis but possession receiver Sean Riley, sophomore Taj Harris, and slot man Nykeim Johnson are back after combining for nearly 1,900 yards last year. The Orange also add a Michigan State transfer, Trishton Jackson.
RB Moe Neal was a pleasant surprise at the running back spot last year, rushing for nearly 900 yards on a 5.6 yards per carry average. He’ll be backed up by Oklahoma transfer Abdul Adams.
Up front just two guys with significant starting experience at ‘Cuse return, although the Orange do bring in South Alabama transfer Ryan Alexander. A pair of highly touted redshirt freshman should challenge for playing time as well in Carlos Vettorello and Qadir White.
To put it all together this team also brings back All-American / Groza Award Winning kicker Andre Szmyt, who knocked in 30 of 34 field goals as a freshman. With Dungey gone and a rebuilding O-Line, this offense might take a step back, but I have faith in DeVito to say it won’t be a collapse.
Most of the key pieces are back on the defense, although the linebacking corps does lose two key guys, the top two tacklers on the team in fact. Ryan Guthrie and Kieland Whitner combined for 207 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 17.5 TFL, four PBUs, and two picks. They will be missed, but a lot of talent returns otherwise.
Senior ends Alton Robinson and Kendall Coleman are a killer duo, combining for 20 sacks and nine TFL last year. The secondary returns everyone including third-team All-American safety Andre Cisco (11 PBUs, seven picks as a freshman). Evan Foster and Christopher Frederick provide some veteran leadership (combined eight PBUs, four picks) to the room.
I am worried about the linebacking corps, where all three spots feel up in the air, but the talent is there on the other two levels to prevent significant regression.
The schedule shapes up pretty nicely for ‘Cuse, but losing Dungey and with the holes in the linebacking corps and on the offensive line there is a wide range of outcomes as the model is still unsure about Cuse, an absurd eight of 12 games are projected within six points. I don’t think another ten-win year is completely off the table, but it would surprise me. This feels like a solid seven or eight-win bowl team, but with a talented group of sophomores, they could be one to watch to rise even further in the near future.
|Date||Opponent||opp. rank||Proj. Margin|
|10-Oct||at NC State||35||-4.1|
|26-Oct||at Florida State||34||-4.2|
Average Projected Record: 7.2 wins, 4.8 losses (4.1 wins, 3.9 losses)