Syracuse is headed to its third bowl in four years, selected by the Texas Bowl to be played in Houston against Minnesota. Overall, this is a good landing spot for the Orange and Scott Shafer. SU gets to play a Big 10 opponent, the conditions will be good since it’ll be indoors at Reliant Stadium, and there’s a solid alumni base in Houston.
Speculation ran rampant over the past week over where SU could land. Yahoo! Sports had the Orange going to St. Pete for the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl, but Ohio and East Carolina landed there. Phil Steele put Syracuse in the Outback Bowl against North Texas, which seemed like the longest of long shots. Instead LSU and Iowa will play in Tampa (not even close there, Phil).
The Texas Bowl is always strongly attended. Since it’s inception seven years ago, it’s never had less than 50,000 fans. It’s a Friday evening, primetime window on ESPN and part of a bowl triple-header (sandwiched in between the Military Bowl and Fight Hunger). While SU does very little recruiting in Texas, it does have a very good alumni base there so Orange fans should show up. Playing against a Big 10 team instead of some middling non-BCS conference program also enhances the platform for SU. NFL stadium, good playing conditions, easy to travel to, big football state, primetime audience, Big 10 opponent. You have to like all of that.
This is actually where Daryl Gross’ salesmanship is an advantage. He’s been criticized for trying to sell anything that’s not nailed down on the Hill (and even stuff that is), and his constant shouting about being New York’s College Team gets people’s eyes rolling. But you can imagine him working the phones and selling bowl organizers on SU’s fan base and audience. That helps in situations like this year when SU is a 6-win team on the cusp.
All in all this is a good landing spot for Syracuse, and moreover establishes a bowl games as the annual expectation for the program. It wasn’t that long ago SU football was mired in the 2-win dumpster fire seasons of Groobers. Now six wins and a postseason berth is the trend, and that’s enormous for the brand of SU football.