It’s been an up and down start to the season for Syracuse and head coach Dino Babers. After a devastating week two loss to a former coach, many were calling for Dino Babers to be on the hot seat. However, after two straight strong weeks, Syracuse now looks like a program on the rise. Recruits are raving about the future and Babers seems to have all the job security in the world. Now, it’s time to find out which SU is the real SU as Syracuse heads to N.C. State for its most important game of the season.
Why is a road meeting in week five against a mediocre ACC team more meaningful than a meeting against the defending national championship in the dome or a road trip to Death Valley? Unlike those marquee matchups, this N.C. State game is going to indicate the current state of Syracuse’s football program. Don’t get me wrong, SU going punch for punch with LSU last week helped the program. However, a win over N.C. State would show more. A victory this weekend would prove that Syracuse has gotten to that elusive tier it’s program has been chasing for so long. It would send the Orange from the ACC cellar to that respectable middle tier and give Babers job security for real.
After all, Scott Shafer didn’t lose his job because Syracuse wasn’t beating the Clemson’s and Florida States’ of the world. And let’s face it, no matter how you slice it, Syracuse is still a long way away from getting to that Clemson tier. It’s a long progression and the next step in that progression is a win over a team like N.C. State. If Syracuse starts picking off occasional wins over the NC State’s, UNCs, Duke’s and Georgia Tech’s of the conference, Dino won’t have anything to worry about. Syracuse will consistently make bowl games and continue to attract stronger recruits.
SU’s performance against LSU was one thing. But, at the end of the day, it was nothing more than a promising loss. This Saturday, Syracuse has a chance to really prove they have improved in Babers second year. A win over N.C. State would put a bowl game firmly in SU’s grasps. But, more importantly, it would show the SU program has finally taken that next step.