Breaking Down the Buzz: Syracuse

By Chip Patterson | College Football/Basketball Writer

Texas Bowl MVP Terrel Hunt is a big reason for fan optimism in 2014. (USATSI)
Texas Bowl MVP Terrel Hunt is a big reason for Syracuse fan optimism in 2014. (USATSI)

Each Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the Eye on College Football examines what current hot topic the fans of one BCS team are obsessing over -- rationally or not. Today's team: the Syracuse Orange .

What they're talking about...realistic expectations for Syracuse in 2014. As we move from May to June, these last spotlights will focus more and more on fan expectations for the season ahead. Spring practice has completed and we won't receive many more meaningful team updates until the conference media days in July.

Fans are pouring over their team's schedule, counting up the number of likely, possible and hopeful wins, all in the goal of making it to a respectable bowl game. At Syracuse, the culture has changed after three bowl wins in four years and a share of the final Big East title in 2012. Even with a schedule that includes Florida State, Clemson, Notre Dame and Louisville, Orange fans are confident in a return to the postseason in 2014.

What they're saying is...anything less than 7 wins is a disappointment. Over at SB Nation's Syracuse site, Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician -- which, by the way, was the group responsible for sending approximately 700 Houston-area youth to root on the Orange in the 2013 Texas Bowl -- Sean Farrell started the annual expectation conversation on Tuesday. "What would make 2014 successful for Syracuse football?" he asked. Farrell suggests seven regular season wins (7-5) as a "good number to strive for," and the Syracuse fans weighed in with plenty of response.

Fan responses via SB Nation/TNIAAM comments:

-- Tough schedule notwithstanding, I think 8 wins is not an unreasonable expectation. It'd be nice if they could make it up to the next tier of bowls, too, i.e. the Gator, Sun, or Music City.

-- Would hope we nail a bowl win depending on the matchup. This really is a huge season for the program and we need continue this momentum. We bring back way too much to not improve leaps and bounds and have some headline grabbing wins. Including Notre Dame and Louisville in the group with FSU and Clemson that you seem to think is out of reach is nonsense. Last time UL came to the Dome we killed a Cards team with Bridgewater and Strong- and they now have neither. Notre Dame is hardly a championship squad, too. Those are the kinds of wins we ought to be striving for. The rest of the schedule is full of teams that we beat and then lost more this offseason.

-- Eight regular season wins is the goal, and the schedule's there to support it. If we make a bowl game at 6-6 or 7-5 again, fine. But at some point we need to move past that mark and elevate the program back up to the next level

-- A bowl bid. After that I'd say a winning regular season, vs. last years .500 mark, and a bowl win would be icing on the cake. But I think you have to start with a bowl game, if we get there its a good season.

-- In response: I think we can reach higher than that. 6-6 with a bowl game would be somewhat disappointing don't you think? Not crushingly bad, but less than we'd expect. I keep going back to 7 wins as the expectation, 8 as the goal, and 6 is disappointing.

-- My goal for the football team from here on out (until its achieved) is be ranked at some point throughout the year. I understand the ultimate goal is 7+ wins and a bowl game, which is a solid goal and attainable. BUT….I'm dying to see this team in the top 25. Even if its only for a week. I may shed a tear if that happens because how long ago were we ranked? We've won 3 bowls in 4 years…now its time to take it to next level.

What we think is...matching these expectations will take a strong showing in the Carrier Dome. Syracuse has an 8-3 record in the Carrier Dome, and that kind of home cooking will be needed if the Orange are going to enter the final two games of the season (at Pittsburgh, at Boston College) with a shot at eight wins. Syracuse will play Villanova, Maryland, Louisville (on a Friday night), Florida State, NC State and Duke in the Carrier Dome.

By our count that's one expected win, one expected loss and four games that could go either way. The Orange made a habit of wrecking dreams on Friday nights in the Big East, and those ghosts will be summoned when the Cardinals come to down in October. Duke could arguably be the toughest opponent in that group of four and we still don't know what to expect from NC State and Maryland yet.

There are plenty of reasons to get excited about Syracuse in 2014, starting with the return of quarterback Terrel Hunt and the promise of an up-tempo attack from offensive coordinator George McDonald. Hunt finished as the team's second-leading rusher (500 yards, seven touchdowns) after taking over the starting job midseason and there is a crew of capable backs looking to replace Jerome Smith, now in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons. The offensive line returns four starters, led by senior left tackle Sean Hickey, and the defense should be solid in the back seven. With defensive line and wide receiver as the only question marks, you can see why fans are unafraid of such a brutal schedule -- one our own Jerry Palm has ranked as the fourth-toughest in the ACC and No. 12 in FBS.

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