Domination would be an understatement to describe Syracuse’s first two games. The Orange have routed Colgate and Western Michigan by a combined score of 113-7. Regardless of the opponents, that margin is very impressive. The going gets tougher when SU visits Purdue this weekend, and this game represents a major turning point for this season. It was pegged as a game Syracuse has to win in order to make a bowl game, and oh boy is that the case.
Remember the good feeling surrounding last season’s 6-0 start? Now remember the turmoil throughout that 1-6 stumble? Once the Orange lost to Clemson, and make no mistake they lost that game as opposed to the Tigers winning it, the dominoes fell from there. It’s hard not to be worried about something similar happened should SU lose this weekend. Purdue is not the final game that has been described as a potential must-win for a bowl game- Virginia Tech, Boston College, and Georgia Tech are a few others that come to mind. Syracuse’s performance this weekend could go a long way in determining how those other must-haves will play out.
It’s awesome that the Orange received votes in the Coaches Poll, but they have yet to get the attention of the AP Poll yet, in all likelihood due to the low caliber of opponents they’ve seen so far. Purdue is without question the first big test of the year for SU, even if the home team isn’t what it was a season ago. If you want to prove you’re legit to the national media, this is how you do it. If Syracuse is victorious, assuming there’s a win over Army next weekend in the future, you might have a shot at College Gameday for Clemson.
Finally, there’s been a ton of talk (as there usually is) about Dino Babers’ job security leading up to and throughout the first two weeks of the season. Barring another season-ending catastrophic collapse, a second consecutive 3-0 start could lock up his job for 2024 and beyond. The main complaint with Babers is his unproven ability to win consistently, which is justified considering he’s only been to two bowl games in seven seasons (and they weren’t in back-to-back years). It would be hard to justify firing Babers if he returns to a bowl game, and a win this weekend very nearly guarantees it.
Potential turning points in a season rarely come three games in, but in this case it might be true. A victory could set the course for the remainder of the season, get Syracuse on the national media’s radar, and answer some questions about the future of the program. Buckle up, because the stakes will be very high on Saturday night.