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2021 Syracuse Orange: Is Slight Improvement Enough to Save Babers?
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

2021 Syracuse Orange: Is Slight Improvement Enough to Save Babers?

The Orange are coming off a miserable 1-10 season in 2020 and three years removed from a 10-win season and a second place finish in the Atlantic Division. The misfortunes since that season has Head Coach Dino Babers feeling the heat in the seat of his pants going into 2021. The offense has a couple of skill players with lots of upside and the QB returns. Defensively, the Orange were a mess last year giving up over 460 yards per game. Ten starters are back but that might not be a good thing considering the results from last year. The best returning player might be the kicker Andre Szmyt and that isn’t a good thing at all.

Offense: Syracuse returns 2-year starter Tommy Divito at QB so there is experience at that important skill position. He will be pushed by Mississippi State transfer Garrett Strader and it will be interesting to see who wins that battle. Freshman Sean Tucker is a back with a ton of promise and WR Taj Harris has 135 catches and 10 touchdowns in 34 games. The offensive line was a disaster last year but transfers Chris Bleich and Willie Tyler should help out and all starters from last year are back. So, all is not gloom and doom on this side of the ball.

Defense: Sophomore LB Mikel Jones is back and he was a mainstay last year. The front three returns its trio of starters led by McKinley Williams. The secondary is the major question mark as 3 NFL caliber players currently on pro rosters must be replaced. They will be young and inexperienced and that doesn’t bode well for the Orange.

Non-Conference Schedule:

9/4 at Ohio

9/11 Rutgers

9/18 Albany

9/24 Liberty

At a glance the non-conference schedule is not too daunting but Syracuse isn’t that good. The opener at Ohio won’t be easy as the Bobcats will be eagerly awaiting a home game with a Power-5 school. Rutgers is next and they will be in the dome and it is a must win as is Albany in week 3. The game against Liberty will be tough as the Flames are coming off a record breaking season and have 20 starters back for an encore. A 2-2 record would be good after these 4 games.

Conference Schedule:

10/2 at Florida State

10/9 Wake Forest

10/15 Clemson

10/23 at Va Tech

10/30 Boston College

11/13 at Louisville

11/20 at NC State

11/27 Pittsburgh

They miss Miami and North Carolina from the other division and that helps. The home games include winnable games against Wake Forest and Pittsburgh. They will have a fighting chance against Boston College and they upset a superior Clemson team on a Friday night a few years ago but don’t expect lightning to strike twice. The road schedule includes difficult games against Florida State, Va Tech, and NC State and a possible win at Louisville.

Summary: There are a few plusses for Syracuse going into 2021 and the offense should be improved. The defense needs to step up and make significant improvement. The kicking game is sound. The first 4 games are crucial in setting the tone for the rest of the year. If they can win at least two of them it might be enough to keep them playing hard. A couple of conference wins are certainly possible but will a 4 or 5 win season be enough to save Dino Babers’ job?

Predicted Finish: 7th Place in the ACC Atlantic Division

Overall Record: 3-9

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