<
>

Is Syracuse at the bottom of the ACC in 2015?

SB Nation has its 2015 season preview for Syracuse up, and while certainly there’s still some time for the Orange to improve before the first game kicks off in September, the big takeaway here is: It’s going to be ugly.

On the upside, Syracuse returns four starters on the offensive line and has had a very good (albeit underrated) defense in each of the past two seasons. But even those positives come with an asterisk. Syracuse’s best lineman is gone, and virtually every significant starter on D is, too.

And regardless of that defensive turnover, so many of the questions still revolve around the offense, as SB Nation notes:

Syracuse finished 2012 with one of the hottest offenses in the country and ranked 32nd in Off. S&P+ for the season. It fell to 88th in 2013, then 110th last year.

Now, it’s important to remember Syracuse shuffled through quarterbacks and offensive coordinators last season, so it’s no surprise the numbers were bad. But the problem is, the numbers were really bad. And while a healthy Terrel Hunt offers a glimmer of hope, there’s also this: In his career against Power 5 teams with a winning record, Hunt has averaged 5.7 yards-per-attempt with three touchdowns and 12 INTs.

Check Athlon’s recent ACC preview or our ACC power rankings, and there’s widespread agreement that Syracuse is at best marginally better than Wake Forest and, at worst, the black hole of the conference. Jockeying for position with rebuilding Wake Forest isn’t exactly a spot anyone wants to be.

SB Nation goes into much more detail on the struggles the Orange are likely to endure, and it makes a rather substantive case for a four to five-win campaign. So what are the odds we’re all wrong?

Looking at the schedule, it’s tough to see. If Hunt struggles and the defense needs time to rebuild, a 2-10 season seems possible. If all goes right, the offense looks better and the defense doesn’t miss a beat, 7-5 wouldn’t be impossible.

But it’s tough to find too much enthusiasm even for the high-water mark. It was just two years ago that Syracuse got to seven wins, but there was a lot of bad football played since then, and many of the most crucial players in that run are gone. That seven wins would even feel like a momentous achievement speaks to the perception of the Orange at the moment.

Even compare Syracuse to Wake, and things don’t look great. The Deacons’ defense was pretty good last year, too -- only they return key talents like Ryan Janvion, Brandon Chubb and Marquel Lee. The ugly stats at Wake last year were expected during a rebuild, while Syracuse’s problems presented an image of a program headed in the wrong direction. On the recruiting trail, Wake inked its best class in years, while Syracuse checked in at No. 63 in ESPN’s final rankings.

In other words, what Syracuse needs as much as health at quarterback and answers on D is an injection of excitement. Maybe that comes from Hunt or emerging receiver Steve Ishmael or talented defensive end Ron Thompson. Maybe the recruiting brings some long-term prosperity, like the addition of Rex Culpepper this week. Maybe something magical happens and Syracuse pulls an upset over LSU at the Dome in late September, setting off a run of wins we never could've predicted. Maybe.

Right now though, it’s tough to find a lot of enthusiasm for the 2015 Orange or to develop a cohesive explanation of why the numbers are all wrong.