Coming off a 28-20 win over Boston College, the Orange enters its bye week at 4-4 on the season with its bowl window still open. But the season has been quite the rollercoaster. Despite being riddled by injuries, Syracuse has stayed afloat and needs just one more win to have a shot at the postseason. This week, SU gets some much needed rest with Clemson in its sights. After eight games, the Orange’s record is pretty much what you would have expected it to be. However, the path to 4-4 was not as orthodox as many would have thought with wins over ranked opponents and losses to inferior teams.
Offensively, the team is rewriting the single season record book. Quarterback Eric Dungey ranks second in the nation in passing yards, while wideout Amba Etta-Tawo sits in the same spot in the receiving department. Syracuse as a team has the 10th most yards in the country, but it is not necessarily translating that yardage into points. The Orange has been held to just 26.6 points per game, ranking 83rd in the nation. Instead of touchdowns, the Orange settles for field goals. Unfortunately, Cole Murphy leads the nation in missed field goals, which stunts potent drives. If Syracuse wants to close out the season on a high note it needs to turn possessions into seven instead of three to hang with tough opponents.
Of course, the injury bug has taken a large bite out of the offensive line. SU has been without multiple starting linemen for a number of games and have tried to fill those round holes with square pegs. That unit has allowed the most sacks in the ACC and also has failed to open up holes for a struggling running team. With a tough stretch of games left to close out the season, the Orange needs to get healthy in the trenches with some very formidable defensive lines upcoming.
It seemed like defense was going to be the reason why Syracuse might peak at two or three wins this year. But as of late, the defense has seemingly come together despite a depleted secondary. The linebackers, notably Zaire Franklin and Paris Bennett, have stepped up big time and provided leadership and energy that the rest of the team has fed off of.
In the final phase, Syracuse has been up and down. There are games where the Orange dominates in special teams coverage and gets good kick and punt returns, but there are others where SU leaves its lanes and gets burned for kick return touchdowns. In the kicking department, Sterling Hofrichter has progressed steadily and has made some jaw dropping punts with his unconventional rugby style approach. As for kicking, Murphy’s struggles have been documented and the coaching staff should give a hard look at instituting some job competition in practice.
Overall, Syracuse’s current record should qualify Dino Babers’ first season as a success. The first year coach has already matched Scott Shafer’s 2015 total and has the Orange right where its fans should have expected the team to be. The remaining four games come against very talented teams, and will show good this team is.