For some reason (a word that starts with m and ends with -oney, which already runs intercollegiate athletics), the college football powers that be are letting 5-7 teams into bowl games this year instead of canceling them all together. Texas A&M had to withdraw from the Gator Bowl because of a COVID outbreak within the program. Instead of ruling the game a “no contest,” like what’s going on in the hoops world, the Gator Bowl extended an invite to 5-7 Rutgers.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like COVID is going anywhere during CFB Bowl season, which might lead Fizz Nation to wonder if Syracuse might get that same invitation. The Orange certainly turned heads early on in the season, taking down Malik Willis and Liberty on a prime time stage before faltering in ACC play. Sean Tucker is a legitimate Heisman candidate next season, which also serves as a great draw for neutral fans. Most pundits would stick SU on a potential shortlist of teams waiting in the wings to fill bowl slots.
The recognition of a bowl game is nice. The revenue, even better. However, a postseason contest could turn into a disaster for Dino Babers and company. Here are three reasons why Syracuse shouldn’t enter a bowl game:
The Orange played their last game about a month ago. It didn’t end well. A month is a long time to be away from the game of football. No pads, no hitting, no contact. There has to be a ramp-up process for athletes to get ready for the grind of a football game. That’s why spring ball, fall camp and daily in-season practices exist. Players are away from campus right now, celebrating the holidays with their families and taking some time away from the game. Some have even moved on from football altogether! To ask them to pack up all their things, return to campus, and perform against a team who has been practicing and preparing for a bowl is a really tall task. The offense would not have its usual chemistry and the defense would be unprepared for an opposing scheme. Everyone would be out of shape. SU would enter at a distinct advantage.
After an injury-filled season, the SU players were probably told to stay away from contact for a little bit. What happens if Tucker, after an improper ramp-up, goes into said bowl game, carries the rock 25 times, and suffers an injury? What if Garrett Shrader goes down on a freak play? What if Mikel Jones ruins his draft stock because of a knee issue? These worries are what cause a lot of prospects to opt out of bowl games, and while there aren’t a ton of Syracuse players who are bound to play on Sundays, the Orange have to consider the ramifications of entering a game with a depleted roster (as over 15 players have entered the transfer portal) and a crew that needs to produce in 2022.
The Narrative Around Dino
There are a lot of different ways this bowl game could go, if Syracuse makes one. SU could do the improbable and win, fight its tail off and drop a close one, or get ran out of the stadium. A loss wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. A win would be amazing. One has to wonder, would Dino Babers make another questionable coaching decision on national TV? Do his past blunders in ACC play get brought up as the broadcasters say, “Well, Syracuse should’ve made a bowl, but Andre Szmyt went out and missed a field goal?” Regardless of how you feel about SU’s head coach, nobody can support some of the in-game decisions that occurred this year.
A lot of people around the program think 2022 is Babers’s year to put up or shut up. This “bowl berth” would give the “keep Dino” crew a lot more ammunition, but the “fire Dino” crew could always fire back with the 5-7 record and the fact that earning a bowl opportunity and fudging a gifted game are two very different things.