After a blistering, undefeated start that had fans and media alike drawing comparisons to 1987, it was a good time to be a Syracuse football fan. Now, after three straight losses, the Orange are showing their true colors. An overachiever who is talent-deficient across the roster. Raising the expectations of people after a strong start has now made the regression back down to the mean more painful now and in the future.
Syracuse’s preseason over-under win total was somewhere in the 4-5 range depending on where you looked. The Orange passed that by mid-October and were ranked in the top 15 shortly thereafter. Then, SU showed its true colors against Clemson, a game it should have won, handily. From there, the Orange have only continued to spiral, something that should not be unexpected.
The loss to Clemson was the perfect encapsulation of Dino Babers’ time as Syracuse’s head coach, the hope of a great half, or season (2018), and then the bubble-bursting reality that was the fourth quarter, that Babers’ team was not well-coached enough, not talented enough, or ready to win a game like that.
That blown loss was a reminder that Syracuse should have lost to Purdue if Jeff Brohm didn’t lose his mind on the sidelines to give SU good starting field position on its final drive. It was a reminder that the Orange could have lost at home to a bad Virginia team. It was a reminder that if NC State was not playing with a backup quarterback, it’s likely Syracuse loses that game too.
Syracuse got lucky, a lot, in the first half of its season, and that’s good! Luck is prevalent in sports and you need to get lucky to win and compete with the best. But, luck is not a strategy, and soon enough, SU’s deficiencies were going to show, and they did, big time. Notre Dame was a cold reminder that even if a team is having a down season, talent wins out.
Then, Pittsburgh was an even colder reminder of Babers’ struggles at the end of seasons, and on the road. His numbers in those scenarios are terrible. Babers has been Syracuse’s coach since 2016 and has only won in the month of November in two seasons, 2018 and 2019. The other five years he has no wins in the final month of the season.
So, this is all to say that the undefeated start was not a portrayal of what Syracuse could be, it was a false reality of what happens with a combination of luck, and opponents not having tape on a new offense. Obviously, there are positives to take away from this season and the Orange will be going to a bowl game for only the second time in Babers’ tenure in Central New York.
But, the raised expectations that came with Syracuse’s start have been bad for the program, and bad for the fans, because that is unrealistic. There are still doubts about Babers’ ability to create a sustainable program in the 315, and these three losses show he’s not even close to doing that. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Orange lost five straight after a 6-0 start, it might even be expected considering Florida State is a touchdown favorite in the Dome.
2022 has been a step in the right direction, but the way SU got to where it is now is not good for what Babers is trying to build. It is just another reminder that luck is not a strategy, and this program is no better than it was the last few years, it’s just another outlier season thanks to some early-year luck.