Get ready for your Syracuse Orange to start growing into a national darling in college football. Some early love comes courtesy of ESPN’s Mark Schlabach who lists SU, alongside Notre Dame, Michigan and Arizona State, among others, as programs on the rise in 2011. Style points deducted since Schlabach introduces his handful of sleepers as “under the radar teams,” and includes two of the most storied football schools in the country. But who are we to quibble? We’re Syracuse football fans.
SU is certainly not in the national consciousness yet and as Orange Nation we’ll take the good pub wherever we can. It’s not that long ago, Syracuse was only worth talking about when discussing the nation’s saddest collapses (remember this guy?). Schlabach writes:
“Syracuse coach Doug Marrone turned the Orange into a Big East contender in only his second season.
Syracuse enjoyed its first winning season since 2001 and its first bowl game since 2004.
The Orange bring back 12 starters from last season’s team, including seven starters on offense. If quarterback Ryan Nassib can be more effective in the passing game, and if the Orange can find a capable replacement for departed tailback Delone Carter, they might be right back in the thick of the Big East race in 2011.
Syracuse plays three of its first four games at home; the road game is at USC on Sept. 17.”
It won’t be long before the media starts realizing how good Antwon Bailey is. He comes into the season as a top 5 back in the Big East and that’s based merely on spot duty behind Carter. Give him reps, make him the work horse, plow the trenches in front of him with a ground-based offense and peeps are gonna start raving about Bailey.
Nassib becoming more effective in the passing game is much less certain. Is he the quarterback that looked skittish in the pocket almost all season? Or the gunslinger that let ‘er rip on a bitingly cold afternoon at Yankee Stadium for 239 yards and three scores?
Nassib was recently ranked as the 6th quarterback in the conference, raising the ire of SU loyals. But really, does he deserve more respect than that? He only threw for 200+ yards in two Big East games last season, and one of those was in the blowout loss to Pitt when the Panthers went into the prevent defense for the entire 2nd half.
His TD/INT ratio was very good (19-8), although five of those scores came against Maine. He was not asked to carry the offense, but instead to take care of the football. Nassib did his job last season, but that doesn’t mean he’s in the top half of the league’s signal callers yet. There’s plenty of room for him to grow and a step forward for Nassib means the Orange will take a step forward as well. Either way, it’s just nice to see some media kisses blown towards SU. This is only the beginning, folks.