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Today at No. 116: SYRACUSE Coach: Scott Shafer (10-15, entering third season) 2014 record: 3-9, 1-7 in ACC; 7th place in Atlantic Division Look...

Today at No. 116: SYRACUSE

Coach: Scott Shafer (10-15, entering third season)

2014 record: 3-9, 1-7 in ACC; 7th place in Atlantic Division

Look back: A year after going 7-6 in his first season leading the Syracuse program, coach Scott Shafer’s team stumbled to a 3-9 record in 2014 thanks to a slew of injuries. While the Orange ranked No. 26 nationally in total defense (349.2 yards allowed per game), the team struggled on the offensive side of the ball.

Starting quarterback Terrel Hunt was sidelined with a broken fibula, backup Austin Wilson suffered a concussion and freshman signal caller A.J. Long missed time due to a nerve issue in his throwing shoulder. The Orange had to play freshman quarterback Mitch Kimble, essentially the fourth option, against Duke. A slew of other position groups were hit by injuries, with the decimated offensive line contributing to the difficulty protecting quarterbacks and keeping them healthy.

Syracuse opened the season with back-to-back wins over FCS Villanova and FBS Central Michigan. The Orange’s only other victory was at Wake Forest five weeks later.

Offensive starters returning: 6

Offensive starters lost: 5

Defensive starters returning: 3

Defensive starters lost: 8

Key losses: WR Jarrod West, WR Adrian Flemming, LT Sean Hickey, C John Miller, RB Prince-Tyson Gulley, DE Micah Robinson, DE Robert Welsh, NT Eric Crume, LB Dyshawn Davis, LB Cameron Lynch, 28 CB Brandon Reddish, S Durell Eskridge, S Darius Kelly

Top returnees: WR Steve Ishmael, TE Josh Parris, LT Omari Palmer, RT Ivan Foy, RG Rob Trudo, QB Terrel Hunt, QB AJ Long, DE Ron Thompson, LB Marquez Hodge, CB Julian Whigham, K Cole Murphy

Strengths: The injury bug forced Syracuse to rely on a variety of young players and the experienced they gained could be valuable this season. Dual-threat quarterback Terell Hunt returns after missing the final seven games of last season and should help bring stability to the offense. The Orange also can turn to AJ Long, who showed promising signs filling in for Hunt. Perhaps more important, the offensive line in front of them should be healthy enough to provide greater protection.

The defense lost a slew of playmakers, but defensive end Ron Thompson and linebackers Marquez Hodge and Zaire Franklin should be strong leaders for the group.

Weaknesses: The Orange ranked No. 113 out of 125 NCAA-recognized teams in total offense (329.9 yards per game) and No. 118 in scoring offense (17.1 points per game). While the injury issues should be resolved, it’s unclear whether the Syracuse front line is capable of supporting a more productive offense. The loss of top rusher Prince-Tyson Gulley and Adonis Ameen-Moore also could be a challenge. Syracuse’s elite defense also lost eight starters who combined for 203 starts, and the team will be counting on new faces to taking on bigger roles.

Syracuse won’t have much time for players to get on the same page, with the Orange’s schedule featuring eight teams that went to bowl games last season.

Outlook: Syracuse likely will face another bumpy year in the ACC thanks to a tough schedule and the loss of so many strong players on a defense that was one of the few bright spots for the Orange last season.

2015 schedule

Sept. 5 Rhode Island

Sept. 13 Wake Forest

Sept. 20 Central Michigan

Sept. 27 LSU

Oct. 10 at South Florida

Oct. 17 at Virginia

Oct. 24 Pitt

Oct. 31 at Florida State

Nov. 7 at Louisville

Nov. 14 Clemson

Nov. 21 at NC State

Nov. 28 Boston College

Vincent Rizzo

College Football / College Basketball Handicapper. 2011 won 74%, 2012 won 72% 2015 SPECIAL. CALL, 877.WIN.ATS9 EMAIL,V@VincentRizzoSports.com

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