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It’s the Least Wonderful Time of the Year for SU Football

At this point, it’s fair to ask what’s not to like about Syracuse football right now. The Orange were projected to win three games this year, began the season as an underdog to a MAC team, and scraped together five wins in a season when they could have three or even four more wins with a couple of breaks here and there. SU played five consecutive games decided by one possession for the first time since 1994. So, five wins is not fool’s gold.

But now Syracuse is entering a challenge bigger than any ACC foe they have or will face this year. The month of November has a history of dominating Dino Babers-led Orange teams. SU is 5-14 in the final month of the regular season since Babers took over in 2016. That includes an 0-3 November run at the end of last season.

There are many reasons November has the best of Babers. Last year, the Orange were limping to the finish line. Quarterbacks Tommy DeVito and Rex Culpepper were injured, and true freshman Jacobian Morgan was forced into action. The secondary was decimated with injuries. Now pros Andre Cisco and Trill Williams couldn’t play in November. But, then again, maybe there is more to the November woes than meets the eye. 

Up until this year, the offense hasn’t had multiple threats. Sure, the pass game is stalling, but the Garrett ShraderSean Tucker duo is the best in the nation when it comes to running the football. The RPO isn’t really a run-pass-option as much as it is Shrader-Tucker run option. Both said earlier this year that they wouldn’t have as much success without the other. If the defense keys in on Tucker, Shrader takes off. After the win over Virginia Tech when he ran for 174 yards and tied the program’s single game QB rushing TD record with three, Shrader said there were only a couple of designed runs for him. Everything else was the benefit of circumstance.

All this to say the Babers blues in November are less likely now than ever before. There’s no good option for defenses, especially because Shrader proved an ability to sling it at a respectable rate with 236 yards in the air against the Hokies and his first career game winning touchdown pass. Now, the pressure is on the defense. 

It’s weird to say that the pressure is on the defense when they just held Boston College to six points last week. That’s the first time the Orange limited an opponent to six since 2019. Then again, the Eagles were playing with their backup QB and third string (a true freshman). In the final three games of the season (the month of November) this defense is going against some elite signal callers. 

Louisville’s Malik Cunningham is the Cardinals leading rusher and passer. The Orange have had some mixed results with dual-threat QB’s this season. Liberty’s Malik Willis was shut down. A few weeks later, Jordan Travis ran for 113 yards and threw for 131 with two touchdowns for Florida State. Then there’s Devin Leary, who Syracuse didn’t see against NC State last year due to injury. Even with a backup quarterback, the Wolfpack beat the Orange at home. The rematch this year is in Raleigh, and unlike last year when they turned he ball over twice plus a safety, Leary leads the ACC with only two interceptions thrown so the Wolfpack will have an easier time this go-around. Then there’s No. 25 Pittsburgh, led by Kenny Pickett, who is the best quarterback in this year’s NFL Draft. 

All Syracuse needs to do is go 1-2 in November to get to a bowl game, and that should be doable with the way the offense is playing. However, it does feel like a win down the stretch is somehow haunted when Babers and the Orange need it most.

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The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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