Despite entering at 4-0, Syracuse clearly had doubters to prove wrong as 24.5-point underdogs against Clemson. Safe to say, it did just that. SU led for a majority of the game, but a masterful drive capped by a Travis Etienne touchdown robbed the Orange of one of its biggest wins ever.
With that said, there is plenty of positive to be taken away here. A win would have been surreal, but even on a more realistic note, not many teams can still march into Death Valley and play the way Syracuse did. The performance also has the Orange a mere 14 votes away from cracking the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2001.
So, with the way Syracuse has played through five games, would it be appropriate to increase expectations for this season?
The answer may not be as obvious as you think. Syracuse is 4-1, but its remaining schedule features four teams with winning records, two ranked opponents (one in the top 10), and a composite opponent winning percentage of .636 thus far. It should be noted that last year’s team that won just four games did so with a .627 opponent winning percentage for the season.
Not to say this team isn’t much improved, but we sure will get more clarification in due time. Even after the Clemson game, SU’s schedule isn’t a cakewalk, and after losing for the first time all year, it’ll be interesting to see how the Orange handles a bit of adversity. Let us not forget that this team lost its last five games last season.
All told, Dino Babers deserves credit where credit is due. He’s pushed all the right buttons thus far, helping reshape SU’s season outlook. Expectations surrounding his team should definitely be raised, and despite a loss, locker room confidence should still be high. A goal that started as just making a bowl game has become posing a legitimate threat in the ACC. However, for now, the focus is on Pitt, a game the Orange certainly should not lose.