Syracuse is off to its first 4-0 start since 2018, and with Wagner, who hasn‚Äôt won a game since 2019, visiting the Dome Saturday, odds are SU is about to be 5-0 for the first time since 1987. Those seasons both ended with double digit wins, so for this team to be in the same conversation as those two is already an accomplishment and not something most people, fans and prognosticators alike, expected.
The question is though, do Syracuse fans feel like this team is different from what they‚Äôve been used?
One way to approach this is to look at attendance numbers. In week one against Louisville, SU drew 37,110 fans. In last year‚Äôs home opener, week 2 against Rutgers, the Dome hosted 31,941. There are external factors that could contribute to that disparity, such as a primetime game against the Cardinals compared to a mid-afternoon game against the Scarlet Knights. However, it‚Äôs hard to argue that there wasn‚Äôt more excitement surrounding this season compared to last, even at the very beginning.
Maybe the best comparison is last year‚Äôs Liberty game and Friday‚Äôs against Virginia. Both happened in week four on Friday nights in late September. The Orange were 2-1 going into their matchup with the Flames-the game that marked the beginning of the Garrett Shrader era-and drew 29,942 fans. On Friday, with SU 3-0, the attendance number was 34,590. That‚Äôs still only 71% of the Dome‚Äôs capacity, but is almost 5,000 more than a nearly identical game last year, which featured former Flames‚Äô quarterback Malik Willis who was considered a potential first round pick at the time.
The real test will come in week seven against current No.10 N.C. State. Last year, Syracuse hosted a ranked Wake Forest team in week six with a 3-2 record coming off a heartbreaking 33-30 loss to Florida State, and got 38,554 fans. If the Orange blow past that number against the Wolfpack, then we will really know that Syracuse fans have bought in.
You can also approach this question anecdotally, and the answers are similar to the ones you get when looking at attendance. Fans have bought into this team relative to last year, there‚Äôs no doubt about that. The energy is palpable in the Dome, in regular conversation, and on social media. The Dome is always loud, but it was shaking against Virginia and Purdue.
People are excited, and rightfully so. From the lows of 1-10 in 2020, Dino Babers has built what is already his best team since 2018. It‚Äôs hard not to be fired up about that, and it shows. But, there is a caveat for many fans. Let‚Äôs see what happens against N.C. State. It‚Äôs one thing to beat average-to-below-average ACC teams like Louisville and Virginia. It‚Äôs one thing to beat a UConn team that is one of, if not the, worst team in the FBS. It‚Äôs even one thing to beat a solid Big Ten team in Purdue. That‚Äôs given fans hope and gotten them excited. Assuming Syracuse gets past Wagner and is 5-0, then beat the Wolfpack, people will be all in.