Syracuse Football: Why Liberty might be Orange’s toughest opponent left

Syracuse football (Mandatory Credit: Dennis Nett/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports)
Syracuse football (Mandatory Credit: Dennis Nett/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports) /

Before the season started, the only preseason ranked Syracuse football opponent was Clemson with Boston College and Liberty both receiving many votes. And while I don’t put much weight in a system that ranks teams who’ve never played a game yet this season, many still use it as a guide of who they think will be successful.

I’m more of a wait until they play a few games first at least and then see guy myself, and as we stand now in late September, Liberty is the team I’m actually the most worried about left on the football schedule.

While normally FSU and Pittsburgh are deemed threats, and I honestly take no opponent lightly when the game starts, in terms of the toughest opponents, their struggles likely rule them out (though anything can happen in sports).

Louisville also took a loss to Ole Miss and played a close one against UCF, which are no slouches so I won’t by any means consider that (or any game for the matter) any easy win, but I’m not sure they’re the toughest team on the schedule either.

Syracuse football faces a daunting task at home versus Liberty.

So what about Clemson? When I posted a poll on Twitter asking if Liberty was the Orange’s toughest opponent left to face, 80% of people who voted chose no and one person responded that Clemson was still elite.

And while I’m not sure elite is a good word to use right now after struggling most of the game against Georgia Tech, Clemson has stumbled slightly in the past only to turn around and win the championship anyway, so only a fool would rule them completely out. I’m curious to see how they rebound and I also like Syracuse’s odds at home this year too (of course I always do when SU plays anyway).

Boston College looks strong so far too. They are 3-0 so far and one might look at their schedule and wonder if that’s the reason but to be fair, many teams have lost against lesser opponents.

Also 51-0, 45-28 and 28-3 are fairly impressive scores to win with even against “lesser” opponents and anyone who has been a Syracuse football fan for more than five minutes knows you never rule out a Boston College team against the Orange, even with their quarterback Phil Jurkovec possibly out for the season. I do wonder though with him possibly out for the season, how will Boston College do when the competition gets stronger.

And after saying all of that, as I said before, I think the toughest opponent left on the Syracuse football schedule might just be Liberty University. While it’s easy to rule them out because they’re not a “Power Five” conference team, this is a program led by a former SEC coach and a possible Heisman candidate at quarterback. Liberty, like Boston College, is 3-0 and while they maybe haven’t played a “tough schedule” yet, they have been impressive in their victories except for a close win at Troy.

As previously mentioned, Liberty is led by former Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze, who is also the high school football head coach of Michael Oher as featured in “The Blind Side.” He may have left Ole Miss amid a scandal but he was successful there and is building a strong, reputable football program at Liberty University.

And now while at Liberty, he’s recruited a top-tier quarterback in Malik Willis, who transferred from Auburn, an SEC team, himself and who has Heisman buzz already after a very good season last year and is showing signs he may be even better this season. Also, a guy to keep an eye on in this game might be defensive lineman Kendy Charles, who had 3 tackles, 3 tackles for a loss and 3 sacks against Old Dominion.

If Syracuse football can win at home on Friday night against Liberty, I think this could be a stepping stone to a special season. If they somehow lose, I’m not going to rule the season as over just yet, though if it’s a blowout and/or a penalty fiesta, I may lose a little faith in that goal.

Malik Willis is a legit dual-threat quarterback who can beat you on his feet while also throwing an accurate pass as well, so he will need to be contained by Mikel Jones or one of the defensive linemen like Cody Roscoe, or get a breakout game from Kingsley Jonathan if Syracuse football wants to stand a chance.

I also think Syracuse football will need a balanced threat on offense and not merely count on Sean Tucker to carry it. In fact, if Taj Harris is healthy or other receivers step up, I wouldn’t be shocked to see 100-yard games from Tucker again as well as Taj or Damien Alford even.

The truth is, right now I look at the schedule that is left and I don’t see any games Syracuse football can’t win as long as they play a well-balanced game and limit penalties that cost them points or possessions.

I also look at that same schedule and think it’s too early to judge but as of this week, Liberty is the one opponent right now I’m most worried about, and we play them next without more time to see more from them.

While Clemson and Boston College might prove to be equally intimidating later down the line, I’d actually be more comfortable playing them this week than I would Liberty (and one advantage Syracuse has in all three is that all three of those games are at home in the Carrier Dome).

So under those Friday night lights this week (and a new massive scoreboard), we will see and learn a lot about this Syracuse football season and team altogether and see if Liberty is legitimate or that team many people seem to think is “beneath Syracuse.”

I for one am ready to see Syracuse football rise above and bring that drive and passion they showed against Albany that led to more of a blowout than many expected and “upset” Liberty.

Let’s Go Orange!!!

dark. Next. Syracuse Football: Sean Tucker is running wild on the record books