Yeah, you read that right.
After the gut-wrenching loss to Northwestern, SU is playing for far more than a football game. It’s playing for recognition, recruiting clout, brand power, and a chance to re-emerge on the stage of college football’s better-known programs.
With an actual win, all of those things would be achieved in a heartbeat. With a respectable loss, SU can still pull away most of those perks.
Doc Gross wasn’t crazy when he partnered against his former employer, and committed Syracuse to a contest against one of the best teams in the country. It’s in NYC, SU’s most treasured home away from home. The game is on national television, with key recruits expected to be in attendance. He wasn’t pulling opponent’s names from a hat. Gross knew that win or lose, SU would benefit from playing this game.
The Fizz’s Kevin Fitzgerald broke the news earlier that Ebenezer Ogundeko, Augustus Edwards, Laray Smith, and Austin Wilson are all anticipated at MetLife. You have to assume they don’t expect Syracuse to win this game, but would be thrilled if the Orange pulled off a major upset. But they’re still going to be there, to watch the Orange draw fans from all over the NYC metro area and play under the bright lights of an NFL stadium and countless TV cameras.
What EO and Smith will see on Saturday is that SU still has the brand power to be part of games against college football elite, on national TV, in one of the most important places to play football in the country. The Orange will take on Notre Dame in ’14 and ’16 at MetLife too. The message Gross and Doug Marrone hope to implant in the heads of recruits is, “I want to be part of this.”
But Marrone actually has to coach this Saturday in this daunting matchup, and his focus is more on the on-field weapons that USC still has – like QB Matt Barkley, the anticipated #1 overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft.
“I was one of those people that were hoping that [Barkley] would go on and move on and go to the NFL. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I’m happy he came back.”
Marrone probably still has nightmares of last year in SoCal, when Barkley picked the Orange apart (26-39, 324 yards, 5 TDs, 0 INTs). There’s a chance Barkley will do the same this year.
While a monumental upset would be nice, Marrone needs to avoid getting slaughtered. There’s no reason SU should be Savannah State taking an 84-nil beating by OSU. Make it close, make it a game in the second half. Most of all, make it obvious to the people watching that the SU players believe they are playing to win. Cliché, sure, but Marrone should probably sneak “the bigger they are, the harder they fall” somewhere into his pregame speech.
It’s a huge challenge this weekend, but that just means there’s a lot to play for Saturday. In many ways – exposure, recruiting, building the NYC brand – Syracuse is already a winner.
Posted: Jake Moskowitz