Tonight been marked down on the calendars of Syracuse football for months and the first huge test of the Dino Babers era is finally here. The thirteenth ranked Louisville Cardinals have made the trip from Kentucky to the Carrier Dome for Orange’s first conference clash under the new head coach. This game is a chance for Syracuse to make a major statement of intent, but at the same time offers very little risk for humiliation or setback.
In fact, one could argue that the Louisville game is as much of a no-lose, no-pressure situation as a team in Syracuse’s position could possibly have. Yes, Syracuse has a clear defined goal and that is to get to six wins. A major upset win over Louisville would put the Orange at an unexpected 2-0 and make them that much closer to that goal. However, while there is more optimism and hope among the fans than there has been in recent years, there is still very little expectation.
Most major betting services have Syracuse around a fifteen point underdog in their ACC opener. If Syracuse pulls over the win, heads will turn all around the country and optimism will likely flow freely on the Hill. However, if Syracuse falls, as expected, it is hardly a significant set back. While Louisville isn’t the highest ranked team on the Orange’s schedule (Clemson and Florida State are ranked 2nd and 3rd respectively), this is game that has been marked down as an L since the schedule came out. Realistically, most Syracuse fans believe the Orange have eight very winnable games and that they will have to win six of those.
This game becomes more of a no-lose situation because it is the first of the major tests. If Syracuse comes up against Florida State in November needing a win to keep the hopes of a Bowl Game alive it will obivoiusly take a different meaning than this one. A Syracuse loss is hardly a setback. The only way that many will feel Friday night’s game is damaging is if the offense fails to score. It is hard to expect them to match what Lamar Jackson and the Louisville offense can do, but fans rightly hope they will continually show improvement as the season goes on.
It was only four years ago that Ryan Nassib and the Orange pulled off an improbable win against the undefeated Cardinals, led by Teddy Bridgewater. Eric Dungey will be hoping for some more of that magic tonight, but if the Sophomore is unable to match the result of four years ago, it is hardly the end of the world.