Early Schedule Could Make/Break Orangemen

The Orangemen were slow out of the gate last season going 0-2 before finally picking up the pieces. This season, Syracuse wants to erase the mistakes and has an opportunity to finish with a 10-2 record.

The Orangemen were slow out of the gate last season going 0-2 before finally picking up the pieces. This season, Syracuse wants to erase the mistakes and has an opportunity to finish with a 10-2 record.

The first three games all are winnable with the opener in Utah against BYU. The game will prove a true test for the Orangemen's rebuilt offensive line and second year starter R.J. Anderson. Anderson doesn't have the safety net of 1,000 yard rusher James Mungro and will need to look to his receivers more. His 46% completion will be under the microscope. The weather out in Utah doesn't help much either according to head coach Paul Pasqualoni.

"Utah. It will be very, very hard. It's a tough place to play," Pasqualoni said. "We've never been out there, we've played them here but that's very much different. You know, new coaching staff, things are changing out there."

The high altitude has been a concern for many players, but it didn't seem to bother Clifton Smith. "Everybody's making a big deal about the altitude and that there will be less air higher up but I don't think it's a big difference."

Syracuse should roll over North Carolina and Rhode Island at home but Pasqualoni didn't look over them. "North Carolina is always going to have good players. They've done a fine job in recruiting over the years."

The first real test of the season will come in an away game against Auburn and then home against Pittsburgh. Two losses here, and the Orange will more than likely end up at 7 wins and 5 losses. Two wins and Syracuse could find itself in the hunt for second place.

"I went to Auburn to see the campus and to see a game so I know how the atmosphere is already down there," Walter Reyes said. "Once again, it was exciting last year to go on a bunch of trips and this year we have a great set of trips and we'll be very prepared and it will be fun."

Temple and West Virginia shouldn't pose much of a threat to Syracuse, but things start to get tricky in late October and all of November. The date to circle is November 9th against the Hokies. Syracuse upset the then fourth ranked Virginia Tech last year and the win propelled the Orangemen into the top 25.

"Luckily we have Virginia Tech up here in the Dome," Josh Thomas said. "If we go out and take every game one game at a time with the talent we have, I think we can be successful.

Tough conference games against the Eagles, and finally the powerhouse Hurricanes will leave the Orangemen with a sure loss in their final game of the season. But with the Orange playing at home, there is some cause for optimism.

"There are 90 guys in this room that are gonna be damned if Miami's gonna come in here and embarrass us in front of our home town," Joe Donnelly said. "That's not going to happen. The Carrier Dome is a tough place to play, it really makes a huge difference."

PREDICTION:
  • On the plus side: If Anderson comes into his own running the show and the offensive line isn't as shoddy as believed, the Orange can roll over Pittsburgh and Auburn en route to a 9-3 season.
  • On the down side: Inexperience and a question mark looming over the departure of Dwight Freeny could set Syracuse into tailspin at 6-6.

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