Browns, Chiefs to clash

Rich Fyle column

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

Will be Syracuse University football team be as good as the 10-win squad from 2018 this season?

No way.

Will SU be as bad as last season’s pitiful 1-10 effort?

No way.

Will SU find a way to break even at 6-6 this upcoming season?

OK, that seems possible.

Practice opens Friday for the Orange in preparation for the Sept. 4 season opener at MAC member Ohio University.

One thing that is working in favor for sixth-year head coach Dino Babers’ team is that the Orange has an abundance of returning starters to the fold — about 20 overall.

That’s an excellent start.

One of the Orange’s most effective weapons is junior Andre Szmyt, who’s on the Lou Groza Award watch list for the 2021 campaign as one of the nation’s premier place-kickers.

Szmyt, who won the award as a freshman in 2018, enters the season ranked third in SU history with 56 field goals made and is the program’s all-time leader in field goal percentage (.862), field goals per game (1.6), and ranks fourth with 291 career points.

Most of the Orange’s defensive front seven and secondary returns and that’s another good point. The Orange will look to improve on its scoring defense (32.7 points per game amongst the bottom 40 in FBS last season) and yardage against (almost 464 per game amongst the bottom 20).

Two-year starter Tommy DeVito is back at QB though he will be pushed by Mississippi State transfer Garrett Shrader.

The offense wants to reverse its poor numbers from 2020 — averaging just 17.8 points pg, ranked 117th out of 130 FBS schools, and 265.3 yards pg or sixth-worst.

SU must have some resemblance of order in its offensive line after a pair of injury-ravaged seasons, providing running room for Sean Tucker and pass protection so the QB can get the ball to WR Taj Harris.

The schedule features traditional ACC Atlantic Division foes, plus nonconference challengers Ohio (2-1), Rutgers (3-6) and Liberty (10-1).

Four of SU’s divisional opponents have a top-flight QB — Clemson (D.J. Ulagalelei), Boston College (Phil Jurkovec), Florida St. (McKenzie Milton, formerly of Central Florida) and Louisville (Malik Cunningham).

Athlon Sports and Lindy’s Sports magazines rank SU 86th and 91st, respectively, out of 130 FBS schools entering the season.

Being pessimistic, SU will go 1-7 in the division and 4-8 overall, but looking on the bright side, SU can go 3-5 division and 6-6 overall.

Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at rfyle@wdt.net

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