Finishing up our series examining the most crucial stretches of the schedule for each Big East team.
Syracuse is last but not least.
Key stretch: at South Florida (Oct. 9), Pittsburgh (Oct. 16), at West Virginia (Oct. 23), at Cincinnati (Oct. 30).
Breakdown: Three of the Orange's first four games are against Akron, Maine and Colgate, so Syracuse has a great chance to be at least 3-1. That would mark the team's best start in a long time and give the players and fans a legitimate reason to start thinking about a bowl game.
Then things really get hairy. Syracuse plays three of its first four Big East games on the road, and its only home game is against the league's preseason favorite. The Orange have had no success against West Virginia or Cincinnati in years and will be heavy underdogs in Morgantown and in Nippert Stadium.
If Doug Marrone's team can't find a way to spring at least one upset in this stretch, it could find itself sitting at 3-5 and having wasted all the early-season momentum.
Prediction: I think Syracuse will be better this year and will be highly competitive. I just don't see how it wins any of the games in this stretch. Make it 0-4 to open the conference for the Orange, who will have to hope to rebound with three of their final four games in the Carrier Dome.
More key stretches: