Expectations have changed quite a bit since a few months ago. Syracuse has gone from dreaming of eight wins to chasing bowl eligibility with only four games remaining.
We have seen it done before. The Orange was 3-4 at this point in October last year. Yes, the current Orange are 3-5, but last year’s squad still had Florida State on the schedule. Regardless, the 2013 Orange won three out of its last five games to get to a bowl. There is no reason why Syracuse cannot at least come close to doing the same this season.
Syracuse has gotten through the meat of the schedule. Florida State, Clemson and Notre Dame are all in the past with Duke the only remaining ranked team the Orange still play at No. 24. N.C. State still does not have an ACC win this year and will be playing in front of a larger than average crowd this Saturday because of Parents Weekend. The Blue Devils are bidding to take the coastal division crown and head to the ACC championship game. However, their strength of schedule has been pretty weak, as they are in a division with a lack of ranked teams. Pittsburgh and Boston College round out the schedule with both trips on the road. Both teams are beatable at 4-4 and 5-3 respectively, with the Eagles being the bigger test.
Now enter Syracuse’s play the past few games. A.J. Long certainty did not take any steps forward against the Tigers this past weekend but he was up against a very good defense. Long’s real test will be the next four games. He has shown flashes thus far as a starting quarterback and will have an opportunity to face unranked, yet quality ACC competition before the season’s end. It is unfair to judge a true freshman against the Clemson defense in Syracuse’s first trip to Death Valley. However, the rest of the season will be a good test for not just Long, but also Scott Shafer to see if Long is the long-term answer for the Orange.
Another factor that will play a big role in gaining bowl eligibility is the defense. The defense did a great job of limiting Clemson to just 16 points and eliminating the big play like we talked about last week. They have succeeded in rattling quarterbacks the past two games with 3 interceptions. Tightening up coverage and avoiding injuries will be even more important with the news that Rodney Williams is out for the remainder of the season with a lower-body injury.
Gaining bowl eligibility was not supposed to be the ultimate goal coming into the season. However the Orange needs to adapt to the situation to avoid missing out on bowling in the postseason.
Posted: Zephan Mayell