After a dreadful four-year stretch under Greg Robinson from 2005-08, Syracuse rebounded back to respectability under Doug Marrone. Under Marrone, the Orange earned two bowl appearances and had two eight-win seasons.
Marrone left for the NFL in January, and Syracuse chose to stay in house for his replacement. Scott Shafer, who served as the program’s defensive coordinator under Marrone, was promoted to head coach. Shafer has never been a head coach but has experience as a coordinator from stops at Western Michigan, Northern Illinois, Stanford and Michigan.
In addition to adjusting to a new coaching staff, the Orange will have a new starting quarterback and a new conference. The ACC is a tougher overall conference than the Big East/American, and Syracuse has two difficult non-conference games against Penn State and Northwestern.
What will Syracuse's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates:
Syracuse's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
8/31 Penn State (East Rutherford)
9/7 at Northwestern
10/12 at NC State
10/19 at Georgia Tech
11/2 Wake Forest
11/9 at Maryland
11/16 at Florida State
11/30 Boston College
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Syracuse finished 2012 with a 6-1 record over its final seven games, which included a victory over Sugar Bowl champion Louisville and a 38-14 blowout win over West Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl. But the offseason brought numerous changes to the Orange. Coach Doug Marrone left for the NFL, quarterback Ryan Nassib expired his eligibility, and standout left tackle Justin Pugh left early for the draft. New coach Scott Shafer is familiar with the roster after serving as the defensive coordinator for Marrone since 2009. Although Shafer’s familiarity with help Syracuse transition to a tougher conference, the Orange has holes to fill on the defensive line, and there’s a big question mark at quarterback. After Clemson and Florida State, the ACC Atlantic is up for grabs. If Drew Allen or Terrel Hunt settles into the starting job under center, Syracuse will easily outperform my 4-8 prediction. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Orange pull an upset or two, but the transition to a new conference, coaching staff and quarterback is a lot to overcome in one offseason.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
You really want to root for new coach Scott Shafer and Syracuse entering a new league with a new quarterback. But the schedule makers didn't do the Orange any favors. Road games with NC State, Georgia Tech, Maryland and Florida State all come within a five-game window as the calendar flips to November giving this team few chances at upsets. Non-conference games with Big Ten contenders Penn State and Northwestern offer as brutal a start to the season as any "BCS" conference team in the nation. Welcome to a bigger, faster, better league, Cuse.
Scott Shafer has plenty of familiarity with this team, as he served as Syracuse's defensive coordinator last season. That's why he knows better than anyone else the growing pains his offense could go through this fall. Running back Jerome Smith will certainly do his share, but with quarterback Ryan Nassib and the team's top two wide receivers gone, there's a lot of uncertainty on that side of the ball. The defense will be asked to carry the load early and often, and this unit will be tested right out of the gates with non-conference matchups against Penn State and Northwestern. There's also the transition from the Big East to the ACC, which is why I suspect the Orange will take their fair share of lumps early on, but will deliver a few of their own before the season's over.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Syracuse really lost a lot since last season. Rebuilding under a first-time coach without a veteran starting quarterback and franchise left tackle is always tough. Ryan Nassib and Justin Pugh started for both of Doug Marrone’s bowl teams at Syracuse. There may be enough pieces left — and added in the case of Oklahoma QB Drew Allen — for bowl contention, but another eight-win season is going to be tough to replicate. Syracuse must win its winnable games and then hope for feasible upsets against Penn State, Northwestern, NC State or Georgia Tech. Then again, Syracuse is good for one out-of-nowhere upset each year (ask Louisville and West Virginia). It wouldn’t shock me to see Syracuse go 7-5 and beat Clemson or Florida State.
John Cassillo, (@JohnCassillo), Atlantic Coast Convos
It's tough to really gauge Syracuse when we don't know who will be playing quarterback yet, nor do we really know what George McDonald's offense will look like. But I'm willing to bet they can pull out enough wins against the non-Clemson/Florida State Atlantic Division teams to get back to the postseason. The running game, led by Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley, should be among the best in the conference -- so long as the offensive line is up to the task, that is. If they can be as effective as they were over the second half of last season, and get slightly-above-average production from the QB spot, this is still a very competitive squad. Defensively, the linebacker corps. should guide the ship, though I have a feeling people are also severely underselling the experienced secondary, too.
Matt McClusky, (@MatthewMcClusky), NunesMagician.com
There is parity in college football! OK, so Alabama is once again the heavy favorite, looking for its third straight BCS championship. But for much of the rest of the college football world, the line between four wins and eight wins is as fine as ever. And Syracuse is a perfect example. Beat Penn State in game one and the Orange could finish the season with seven or eight wins. Lose game one and Syracuse could just as easily end up staying home come bowl season. But first, a lot of questions need some answering. The variables: A new conference (Atlantic Coast Conference) a new coach (Scott Shafer), a new defensive coordinator (Chuck Bullough) and offensive coordinator (George McDonald), and several new faces at key positions, including quarterback. So given that type of change, it would be perfectly understandable should Syracuse flop this season. But the schedule isn't too daunting (home dates with Wagner, Tulane, Wake Forest, Pitt, and Boston College are all more than winnable), and don't forget Shafer has been with the program since '09, meaning he should be more than capable of taking over the program on the fly. Bullough's defense is fairly loaded and Terrel Hunt (a sophomore who's raised some eyebrows in fall camp) or Drew Allen (an Oklahoma transfer) may not need to do much at quarterback given the incredible depth Syracuse has at running back (Jerome Smith is a rising star - and a real darkhorse in the Heisman race). Extreme transition or not, Syracuse is talented enough that it can sneak by Penn State in New Jersey and then edge the Panthers and Eagles to close the season with enough wins to find itself in its third bowl game in four years.
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