Head Coach: Dino Babers
2018 Record: 10-3; 6-2 Conference
Bowl: 34-18 win over West Virginia at Camping World Bowl
Over/under 7.5 wins (O -135; U +105)
To Make 4 Team Playoff: +5000
The Syracuse Orange are coming off its first 10-win season since 2001 and its highest AP ranking since 1998. The Orange have to replace two starting linebackers and three offensive linemen, and it is hoping sophomore QB Tommy DeVito is ready to step in and take over an offense. Those looming questions have NCAA oddsmakers predicting a slight regression. The over/under is set at 7.5 wins at Bovada, but the Orange are gearing up towards something much bigger with its sites set on an ACC crown.
DeVito headlines the questions for this offense. He is a pocket-passer, and Syracuse is going to install a lot of deep screens for its running backs in this offense. Senior Moe Neal and junior Adbul Adams should leave defenses scrambling. The more Syracuse can utilize these two traditional backs, the better chance it has to open things up for DeVito’s arm and his downfield passing. The Orange lose both its starting tackles in City Conway and Koda Martin, and it loses LG Aaron Roberts. South Alabama graduate transfer Ryan Alexander should start at tackle, with sophomore Dakota Davis vying for a guard spot.
The OL will be needed to gel quickly to give the backs their chances. Neal averaged 5.6 yards-per-carry last year, while Adams transferred from Oklahoma where he had two TDs in his debut during OU’s bowl game. Adams averaged 9.2 yards-per-carry as a sophomore last season.
DeVito will air it out to Sean Riley and Nykeim Johnson. Riley is a three-year contributor and an excellent return man. Johnson had three TDs of 40-yards or more last season. Trishton Jackson transferred from Michigan State and should make an impact. Taj Harris is another outside receiver who will see some plays run for him. DeVito has a host of weapons if the OL can get the run game set up to match it.
Syracuse made positive steps last year as a defensive unit, limiting its points allowed to 27.0, down from 32.2 in 2017. The Orange DL is strong with senior edge rushers Alton Robinson and Kendall Coleman. Both are coming off of double-digit sack seasons. Junior Josh Black moves to nose tackle and will hope to fill the void of Chris Slayton, who graduated as a standout at the position. Syracuse’s secondary has some strong positions with Chris Fredrick at CB and Evan Foster at safety. Second-year players
Trill Williams and FS Andre Cisco will be huge, too, and Cisco is coming off a seven-interception season which saw him win All-American honors as well as winning the ACC Defensive rookie of the year. The LB unit is less certain, with seniors Ryan Guthrie and Kielan Whitner both graduating as two of the best performers from the group. Syracuse will lean on Lakiem Williams and Andrew Armstrong this season. There are some good underclassmen in the mix, too, including Juan Wallace, Mikel Jones, and Lee Kpogba. These positions need sorting out and defensive coordinator Brian Ward has a heady task during the preseason to figure out how it all meshes together.
Syracuse had one of the best special teams units last season. Andre Semyt and Sterling Hofrichter headlined those efforts. Both return. Semyt was a walk-on redshirt freshman who was a unanimous All-American and Lou Groza Award Winner. He nailed 30 of 34 field goals including three from beyond 50-yards (all three). Hofrichter is now a senior and averaged 42.9 yards per punt last season which ranked No. 2 in the ACC, and he set Syracuse net punting average record at 39.1 yards. Riley will be back to handle returns, as well.
Syracuse has its sites set on an ACC title, and it wants to make the Final 4. The lingering question will be whether or not it can handle Clemson. It won two years ago, and last year was a heartbreaking loss to the Tigers. The teams collide in Syracuse on September 14th, and it will be a season-defining game for both teams.
Prediction: 9 wins (over)