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2021 Syracuse college football preview: Orange head into pivotal year for Dino Babers

Syracuse has not found much momentum after a breakout 10-win season in 2018 and are coming off a one-win performance last year.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange earned just one victory during the 2020 season, and a change could be in order depending on what happens with the program this fall. Syracuse broke out in Year 3 under Dino Babers with 10 wins in 2018 but followed that season by going 5-7 in 2019 and 1-10 last year. His much-maligned hire of Sterlin Gilbert as offensive coordinator has failed to stem the tide.

Syracuse will return a ton of players, so positional depth should be a strength with more players with significant college football experience as usual, but this is a team that struggled to get much of anything going last season as shown by their record.

Expectations are going to be low for this team in 2021, and Syracuse should be thrilled if they find themselves in a bowl game at the end of the year.

2020 Season Review

  • 1-10, 1-9 ACC (14th)
  • Allowed at least 30 points eight times, scored at least 30 one time, beat Georgia Tech 37-20 at home

2021 Talent

2021 247Sports Composite Ranking: 55
ESPN Returning Production: 80% overall (26th): 83% offense (26th), 76% defense (45th)
Returning Talent Index: Negative, 9th in ACC
Returning starters: 9/11 offense, 10/11 defense
* All rankings out of 130 FBS schools

Key Player

Quarterback: Tommy DeVito (Junior)

The quarterback position was a major issue in 2020 for a variety of reasons, not always the fault of the QBs. We’re going with Tommy DeVito to be the starter heading into the season, but that is not a guarantee with Garrett Shrader transferring in from Mississippi State. DeVito did not have much time to throw last season and played in just four games. He is not the running threat that former four-star Shrader is, so there’s a good chance we will see both on the field in 2021.

Offense (non-QB): RB Sean Tucker (Freshman)

The Orange are very deep at running back this season with plenty of experience at the position. Sean Tucker took advantage of increased playing time last season as a true freshman and rushed for a team-high 626 yards with four touchdowns. Syracuse has lots of options in the backfield, but Tucker appears to be a star in the making and should emerge as the leading rusher.

Defense: LB Mikel Jones (Sophomore)

The defense transitioned to a 3-3-5 scheme in 2020, and the Orange did fine considering they changed their system in a pandemic year. There is reason to expect an improvement for a group that is led by linebacker Mikel Jones, who contributed to eight turnovers to lead the country last season. Syracuse will look to be opportunistic and give their offense the help it will probably need in 2021.

Team Stats Projections

2020 SP+ final: 111st overall: 120th offense, 97th defense, 6th special teams
2021 SP+ projection: 95th overall: 99th offense, 73rd defense

Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

To win national title: +200000
To win ACC: +10000
Win total: 3.5 (Over +105, Under -134)

2020 Against The Spread: 6-5-0
2020 Point Total: Over 6-5-0

2021 Syracuse Schedule

2021 Syracuse Football Schedule

Date Opponent Time (ET)/TV Spread/Total
Date Opponent Time (ET)/TV Spread/Total
Saturday, Sep. 4 at Ohio 7:00 pm/CBSSN Cuse -1
Saturday, Sep. 11 Rutgers 2:00 pm/ACCN
Saturday, Sep. 18 UAlbany 12:00 pm/ACCN
Saturday, Sep. 25 Liberty 8:00 pm/ACCN
Saturday, Oct. 2 at Florida State TBA
Saturday, Oct. 9 Wake Forest TBA
Friday, Oct. 15 Clemson 7:00 pm/ESPN
Saturday, Oct. 23 at Virginia Tech TBA
Saturday, Oct. 30 Boston College TBA
Saturday, Nov. 6 Open TBA
Saturday, Nov. 13 at Louisville TBA
Saturday, Nov. 20 at NC State TBA
Saturday, Nov. 27 Pitt TBA