The preseason praise and high expectations were quickly met with midseason doubt and pessimism for Syracuse football. The Orange were predicted to be the second best team in the ACC heading into the year, but a blowout loss to Maryland in Week 2 changed the team and its outlook. SU continued to go 0-5 in conference play, only winning games against non-Power Five competition. They finally got their first ACC and first Power Five win on Saturday in a 49-6 shellacking of Duke.
Many people didn’t expect the Orange to beat the Blue Devils, especially by the margin that they did. But the doubters were proven wrong and now Syracuse finally has some momentum on its side. The win was not only important for the win column, but also the team’s confidence. Saturday’s contest has a big impact on the Orange and shows a lot about the team.
First, granted it’s crazy to think about, but making it to a bowl game is still not out of reach. SU is currently sitting at 4-6 with two games remaining. They need to make it to 6 wins to become bowl eligible, meaning they will have to win out. In order to do that, Syracuse will have to beat Louisville in Kentucky next week, then take down Wake Forest on Senior Day the following week. Before Saturday’s win against Duke, winning out was crazy talk, but if the Orange can play like they did against the Blue Devils, then they might actually be able to do it.
The Duke win kept Syracuse in the bowl conversation, and it also gave the defense a lot of confidence. The Orange held the Blue Devils to just 6 points, which is the fewest Duke has scored this year other than when they played Alabama in Week 1. The SU defense caused three turnovers, one fumble and two interceptions, plus sacked the quarterback four times. It was a big bounce-back performance for a unit that just lost its defensive coordinator. The great play also qualified Dino Babers decision to fire Brian Ward.
Just as the win helped the defense, it also helped the offense, especially the offensive line. The O-line has been far and away the worst unit for Syracuse this year, allowing an average of five sacks per game. On Saturday, however, they only gave up one sack. That type of play really helps the morale of a group that has been torn apart week-in and week-out.
Plus, the win impacts Syracuse’s future. If the Orange failed to win an ACC game this year, it would have had a detrimental impact on recruiting. Not to mention, Dino Babers might have left SU for a more glamorous coaching job like Florida State or Michigan. Now, Syracuse won’t have to deal with either of those problems, probably.
It was a surprising win, but a much needed one for Syracuse. It keeps this team and season alive. Now, the Orange need to use their momentum to tackle the final two games.