Syracuse football has to wait until six weeks into the season for its ACC debut.
In that span, they get tests out of the gate from Big Ten foes Penn State (neutral site) and Northwestern (road) before its home openers against Wagner (FCS) and Tulane (C-USA).
Then there’s a bye and ACC-favorite Clemson stepping into the Carrier Dome.
“Hopefully those four games will prepare us to play one of the better teams in the nation,” first-year Orange coach Scott Shafer said, “and maybe the best college football player I’ve seen in a long time playing quarterback for them.”
As a former defensive coordinator, Shafer says Clemson is the type of team that will leave him sleepless come game week.
“They are a hell of a frickin’ team,” Shafer said. “They scare the hell out of you as a coach, but it’s a challenge you relish and a challenge that you look forward going into. We’re not scared of anybody at Syracuse – never have been – sign ‘em up and go after them and compete.”
The Orange took a share of the Big East title on the way out with an 8-5 mark, drilling West Virginia 38-14 in the Pinstripe Bowl as well. They return six starters on offense and defense, but lose their top passer (Ryan Nassib – 3,749 yards/26 TDs-10 INTs), top-two receivers (Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales – 1,952 yards) and top-two tacklers (SS Shamarko Thomas, 88 tackles; LB Siriki Diabate – 77).
Shorthanded a bit, Shafer says he’ll make plenty of use of the underdog card this season.
“Knowing that they got more stars to their name than we do, we may not be as big,” he said. “We may not be as fast, but doggone it we’re going to play a style of football where we’re knocking the hell out of people and playing a hard-nosed game against everybody we play against.
“And that’s going to be the key to our success until we can continue to improve our talent pool as move into this ACC.”
Shafer says the formula for victory hasn’t changed over the years.
“It’s going to come down to who plays the most physical style of football. Take care of the football, time of possession, physicality,” Shafer said and paused before adding with a smile: ”Score more than they do.”