You can make the case Saturday’s game against Western Michigan is the most important game on SU’s remaining schedule. Two wins over the next two weeks puts the Orange at 3-2 before a mid-October trip to NC State. Let’s be honest, Syracuse isn’t losing to FCS Holy Cross.
There are a number of things we’d like to see from the Orange this week. A strong string of games could salvage what was once projected to be a double-digit win season.
- Strong Offensive Line Play: I get it, the unit was pretty much awful against Clemson. Let’s keep in mind that the Tigers regularly brought the house: the perfect strategy against a young offensive line with an inexperienced quarterback. Can they turn it around against Western Michigan? Step one would be getting Sam Heckel back at center. From there, Airon Servais can move back to tackle and give SU more experience on the outside of the line. This unit is young and it’s clear they’re going to need time to gel. With full-time ACC play looming, that clock is ticking.
- Consistent defense: After an awful showing against Maryland in week two, the Orange’s defense responded with a respectable showing agains the No. 1 team in the country. Syracuse intercepted all-world quarterback Trevor Lawrence twice. Frankly, the tackling was much better than many expected it to be. Outside of Amari Rodger’s sideline blast, there weren’t many egregious defensive mistakes. Dino Babers needs that trend to continue over the next few weeks.
- Keep the guys lose: There was so much hype surrounding this team going into the year. After a lackluster start, much of that hype has gone away. Let’s make one thing clear: the season is far from over. Sure, the Maryland loss was deflating, but there are plenty of chances to rebound. If the Orange can rally behind their effort last week, the remaining schedule could allow them to come close to achieving many pre-season goals.
Make no mistake: this is a big game for the Orange. The only thing more important than achieving these goals is winning the game.