When Syracuse’s schedule was finalized in the offseason, the Purdue game always stood out as one that would be the season’s first challenge after the Orange opened the season with contests against Colgate and Western Michigan, which they won convincingly.
In last year’s matchup, SU staged a dramatic comeback to beat the Boilermakers 32-29 in what was a game that Purdue kind of handed to them after committing more unsportsmanlike conduct penalties that anyone could count to set up the Orange with prime field position to score the go-ahead touchdown on a beautiful pass from Garrett Shrader to Oronode Gadsden.
Those two are the Orange’s two best players, full stop, but the big question going into this week is the status of the preseason All-American tight end, who injured his ankle in the Orange’s 48-7 throttling of the Broncos last weekend. Without Gadsden, SU would be relying on wideouts who have either been inconsistent in their careers or have never played in a game like the Orange are about to on Saturday.
All of Syracuse’s big wins in their seven-victory campaign in 2022 came at home, notably the Purdue game, and the Orange’s victory over NC State to get them to 6-0 for the first time in decades. Winning on the road, especially in primetime, is a much different challenge and obstacle to overcome than winning in the Dome.
Over the last two seasons, SU is 4-6 away from Central New York, which isn’t terrible, but two of those wins were against Ohio and UConn, not the best competition, so for all intents and purposes Syracuse is more like 2-6 against power conference opponents on the road, which would be a .250 winning percentage, not great.
Specifically, in last season’s road losses, the Orange had a chance to win at Clemson, but could not close the deal, played an embarrassingly ugly game against Pittsburgh, and lost a shootout to Wake Forest, all three very different games, but the same result, a loss.
That’s just against ACC teams, as Syracuse has not won a road game against a Big Ten opponent since 2006 versus Illinois. The Orange have only been to Ross-Ade Stadium once in program history, where the Boilermakers won 51-0 in 2004. Now, Saturday should not have a score close to that at all, but it’s just a subtle reminder of this program’s history away from home.
Babers has won there before when he was at Bowling Green, but winning a night game on the road on national television is not something he’s done at Syracuse in his eight years, and Saturday is a huge test to see if the talent he has and is developing in Central New York can prove to the country that it is ready once again to start a season strong and be a “national” name, not just a pesky underdog.