Somehow, someway, Syracuse is ranked. At 5-0, the Orange are ranked #21 in the Coach’s Poll and #22 in the AP. Coming into the year five wins would’ve been a likely season total, and many wondered whether the Dino Babers experiment was flickering at the end. Instead, the Orange have a Cinderella season, great vibes, and a huge matchup against NC State at the Dome in 2 weeks. My how things have changed.
Smashing lowly Wagner by 59 points is not reason enough to believe the Orange somehow are a great team. But Babers has struggled to put a winning program together in his 7 years on the Hill and any Power 5 wins are exciting for SU right now. Victories over Louisville, Virginia and Purdue have been the measuring sticks SU can point to for progress.
The context for Babers’ success starts with the offense. The hiring of Robert Anae was a masterstroke, as the attack has looked far more coherent than most years of the Babers Era. It was a final Hail Mary to fix the supposed signature of Babers’ resume, the offense. But it worked and proved Babers can step aside from being the central decision-maker on offense and share the limelight. He allowed the accomplished Anae to take the reigns, and it clicked. It was a survival mode move, but it also showed humility.
The other big win for Babers has been the development of Garrett Shrader. The transfer world will only continue to move faster as the years go on. More frequently highly-touted, highly-talented QBs will become available. SU must become a place where quarterbacks can come and feel they can rejuvenate their careers. SU is unlikely to ever recruit a 4 or 5-star QB out of high school, and when it does happen (Tommy DeVito) it will be rare. New York doesn’t produce piles of big time college talent. But the portal can be a very desirable resource for it.
Michael Penix Jr. is at Washington. Bo Nix is at Oregon. Kedon Slovis transferred to Pitt. Jalon Daniels landed at Kansas. DeVito is in Illinois. Syracuse can be a destination for good quarterbacks that stall elsewhere, but there needs to be a reason to attract them. Shrader is producing those moments and speaking glowingly of his tutelage at SU. You want to fix a program quickly? Tap into the portal. Just ask Kansas.
There’s far more work to be done. Games against NC State and Clemson will be difficult. But how does SU turn around the program and make it a perennial winner? Fixing the offense and finding good quarterback play. And this season may have solved both problems.