Frankly, Syracuse football has not had many great moments over the last couple of decades. Aside from Doug Marrone’s decent years at the end of the Big East days in the early 2010s and Dino Babers’ one great season in 2018, it’s been more bad than good. But, 2022 at this point is the best thing to happen to SU since 1987 on the football field statistically. This team might not be better than 2018 or Marrone’s teams, but they’re 6-0 and none of the others were.
On Saturday, the Orange take on another undefeated team, 7-0 Clemson. The fifth-ranked Tigers are the class of the conference, and aside from a down year last season (they still went 10-3), have been in conversation for the College Football Playoff each year, and they’ve won two national championships in the last half-dozen years.
Since Syracuse joined the ACC in 2013, the Orange have beaten the Tigers once in nine tries. That one win came in 2017, a 27-24 Friday night field-storming in the Dome. In 2018, SU came very close to pulling the upset in back-to-back seasons but came up just short of a magical road win. It’s not hyperbole to say the effect that those two games had on the program was drastic, that it showed SU could compete with Clemson, and belonged in the conference.
But, then the bottom literally fell out on the program. Tommy DeVito turned out not to be the prince who was promised, and 2020 was rock bottom at 1-10 just two years after winning 10 games. Wholesale changes had to occur, with new coordinators and position coaches over the past few seasons coming into the picture. Babers had to learn from his failures to succeed again. It’s difficult to climb the mountain once, and SU did that in 2018. But, it may be even more difficult to climb it again after falling all the way back down to the bottom.
So, all of this is to say that if Babers and Syracuse get the job done on Saturday, and beat a Clemson team that is clearly more talented and better coached than them, it would be the biggest mark on Babers’ resume yet. It would prove he belongs as the SU head coach for the present and the future. It would prove that Syracuse is not a laughingstock anymore. It would prove that they belong in college football after years of being an afterthought.
The odds are slim, and Clemson is nearly a two-touchdown favorite in this game for good reason. Dabo Swinney is a phenomenal head coach, the roster is littered with four and five-stars, and it’s homecoming at one of the most difficult places to play in the country. But, that’s what would make an upset even more special and impressive.
The odds are not in Babers’ favor, but a win would do more for the program and the university than anything he’s done since he was hired before the 2016 season, it would impact recruiting, transfers, donors, and NIL. Everything about Syracuse football would change if the Orange can win one game. Good luck Dino, only the fate of the program rests on your shoulders this weekend.