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ACC Season Preview: Syracuse

By Carlos Pineda
SouthernPigskin.com
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Syracuse concluded its membership in the Big East by winning six of its final seven games in 2012 and earning a share of the conference title.

Coach: Scott Shafer (first season; 0-0 overall)

2012 record: 8-5 (5-2, t-first in Big East)

Looking back: Syracuse concluded its membership in the Big East by winning six of its final seven games in 2012 and earning a share of the conference title. Its reward was a 38-14 drubbing of former conference-mate West Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl. The Orange made quite the turnaround in four years under Doug Marrone, who took the Buffalo Bills head coaching job in January. Prior to Marrone, Syracuse went 10-37 under Greg Robinson. Scott Shafer (former Syracuse defensive coordinator) takes over as the team makes the transition to a new league.

Offensive starters returning: 5

Defensive starters returning: 6

Top returnees: Jerome Smith, RB; Jay Bromley, DT; Dyshawn Davis, OLB

Key losses: Ryan Nassib, QB; Alec Lemon, WR; Shamarko Thomas, SS

Strengths: The Orange return five starters on offense, including running back Jerome Brown, who started 12 games and rushed for 1,171 yards and three touchdowns. Partnering up with Brown is Prince-Tyson Gulley, who added 830 yards with nine touchdowns. The Syracuse offense averaged 187 rushing yards per game, which ranked 40th nationally.

Weaknesses: Syracuse's offense put up some big numbers last season. The team averaged 30 points per game, passed for 289 yards per game and averaged 476 yards of total offense. A big contribution to that was the play of quarterback Ryan Nassib, who passed for 3,749 yards and 26 touchdowns. His favorite targets: Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales combined for 136 receptions for 1,952 yards and 15 touchdowns. Replacing  the trio, along with an inexperienced defensive line, will be a tough task as the Orange start in the ACC.

Outlook/Prediction: The Orange made significant strides during Doug Marrone's stint as head coach and it now rests on new head coach Scott Shafer to build on that success. On paper, the ACC provides a tougher conference schedule than the Big East did and Syracuse will have a tough time becoming bowl eligible.

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 vs. Penn State (MetLife Stadium) 3:30 pm. ABC/ESPN 2

Sept. 7 at Northwestern 6:00 p.m. Big Ten Network

Sept. 14 vs. Wagner 4:00 p.m.

Sept. 21 vs. Tulane

Oct. 5 vs. Clemson

Oct. 12 at NC State

Oct. 19 at Georgia Tech

Nov. 2 vs. Wake Forest

Nov. 9 at Maryland

Nov. 16 at Florida State

Nov. 23 vs. Pittsburgh

Nov. 30 vs. Boston College

Previous ACC Season Previews

Boston College

Clemson

Duke

Florida State

Georgia Tech

Maryland

Miami

North Carolina

NC State

Pittsburgh

Carlos Pineda - Carlos Pineda is a featured writer for Southern Pigskin. He covered the UCF Knights football team for Florida Today in 2010. Carlos' work has been published in the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Miami Herald, Orlando Sentinel and Orlando Business Journal. He attended the University of Central Florida. Follow Carlos on Twitter @CarlosFPineda.