The Fizz breaks down how likely it is the Orange can make a bowl game this year.
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It hasn’t happened since 1999.
And in the nearly decade and a half afterword came years of turmoil, Saturday afternoons that featured empty Carrier Domes and general misfortune. Back in 1999 was the last time the Syracuse football team went to back-to-back bowl games. And the Orange, 14 years later, has a chance to finally accomplish the feat in its first year in the ACC. The Cuse sits at 4-4 and 2-2 in the conference and in prime position to finish the season strong, just Ryan Nassib and company did a season ago.
But Cuse Nation isn’t foolish. Its checked the ACC standings frequently, and many are asking if things are getting a bit crowded in the 14-team conference. Besides, the conference only has nine bowl tie-ins—that’s including the BCS National Championship game—and at this point in the season, six teams are already bowl eligible. Another four more are 4-4 or better (not to mention Wake Forest, who Syracuse would have an edge over, is still right behind the pack at 4-5).
History shows, though, that Syracuse’s aim for the six-win plateau is all that is necessary. Over the last five seasons, not one single BCS football team finished the year at 6-6 and was denied a bowl game. The only exceptions are Notre Dame in 2009 when the Irish turned down an invitation, and Kansas State in ’09 and Arizona State in 2010. Those years, the Wildcats and the Sun Devils did finish 6-6, but they played two FCS teams. Therefore, in order to be eligible for a bowl, they’d have had to win seven games.
The concept for Cuse fans, and the team, is simple. Win, and odds say you’re in. Syracuse faced a similar predicament in 2011. SU played Pittsburgh on the final weekend of the season with both teams featuring identical 5-6 records. There was no guarantee at the time that the winner would nab the last of the 35 bowls, but sure enough, after the Panthers took down the Orange at Heinz Field on December 3rd, they went bowling. Pitt, though, lost that year in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
Seventy teams will make bowls this winter and the Cuse could surely be one of them, as it needs just two wins. And it can do it against the likes of Maryland—which has been as up and down as any ACC team—or Boston College and Pittsburgh (both of which feature middle-of-the-pack run defenses that give up close to 200 yards on the ground per game).
Because there is a cluster in the middle of the conference, it wouldn’t hurt the Orange if certain teams lose in different situations. It certainly wouldn’t hurt if Florida State leaped Oregon and played in the BCS National Championship game. With the Panthers at 4-4 as well this season, it would help if one of Syracuse’s final wins were against Pitt (the Panthers still have to play #23 Notre Dame and #11 Miami as well). Wake Forest might fall right out of the bowl picture as well. The Deacs face the 3rd ranked Seminoles in a few days, and also play 6-win Duke and a tough Vanderbilt team on the road the last week of the year.
Boston College and SU have probably the easiest roads left on their respective schedules. There is a good chance that the final game of the season inside the Carrier Dome might be do or die for a bowl.
If Syracuse does finish 6-6, which the Fizz predicts, its destination in late December will most likely be the Military Bowl (vs. C-USA) in Annapolis, or the Belk Bowl (vs. the AAC) in Charlotte. Regardless of where the Orange ends up, a bowl berth would prove that the Cuse can compete with some of the best in the ACC.
And to do that Year 1 would be very special.
Posted by: Kevin Fitzgerald