Syracuse has played in 25 bowl games, which ranks 45th among all current FBS programs. In those years, the Orange has faced 73 ranked opponents, going 30-40-3.
On Saturday, Syracuse has a chance to beat a ranked opponent for the first time all year.
The last time the Orange failed to beat a ranked team in a season was 2015, Scott Shafer’s final year at the helm, and the one before Dino Babers took over. However, this year’s team has its sights set on a result far better than that of the 2015 squad, who finished 4-8 after starting 3-0.
Going into the season, and especially now after seven games, reaching a bowl game is obviously one of SU’s main missions. At 5-2, Syracuse is definitely in a great position to get there, no matter what happens against NC State.
If the Orange was to reach a bowl game without beating a ranked team this season, it wouldn’t be the first time it does that. In fact, the last Syracuse team to make a bowl game without a win over a ranked opponent was actually the last one to make a bowl game at all.
In 2013, SU lost to No. 19 Northwestern, No. 3 Clemson and No. 2 Florida State, but notched six wins elsewhere for a Texas Bowl birth (and victory).
This year’s team wouldn’t be the first Syracuse bowl-bound squad to not beat a ranked opponent, but it would still defy most of program history.
The Orange has beat a ranked opponent in 17 of its 25 years ending with a bowl game trip. Excluding that 2013 season, the last time Syracuse failed to beat a ranked team on its way to a bowl game was 1999.
Something also to note. This year’s team is already 5-2.
Through seven games in 1999, the Orange was also 5-2, but finished just 6-5 to reach the Music City Bowl. In that 2013 season, Syracuse went 3-4 in its first seven, and finished 6-6.
At 5-2 already, this year’s team has a chance to finish significantly better than either of those teams, even without beating a ranked opponent. All it must do is avoid suffering a late-season collapse, something both teams have done in Babers’ first two seasons.
In regards to the rest of the year, Saturday likely won’t be SU’s last opportunity to beat a ranked team, but it sure could be its most realistic. The Orange has No. 3 Notre Dame on Nov. 17 at Yankee Stadium, where a win will be tough but not completely far-fetched.
Again, Syracuse has an extremely high chance at becoming bowl eligible, even if it doesn’t happen Saturday against the Wolfpack. All told, making a bowl game would be a goal accomplished for the Orange, whether it beats a ranked opponent this season or not. That’s all Babers probably (and should) cares about.