The 2015 football season was an up-and-down one for Syracuse. The Orange opened the season on a high note, rolling up a 3-0 record for the first time in 24 years, then gave LSU a strong effort at home. Following their bye week, though, SU came out flat at South Florida, dropping to 3-2. The next two games, at Virginia and at home to Pittsburgh, ended up as losses in part due to questionable coaching strategy that dropped Syracuse below .500. Florida State and Louisville then both trounced the Orange by 24 points in road contests, making it six straight SU losses.
With the Orange fighting for bowl eligibility, the team turned in a valiant effort, but it was not enough to upset #1 Clemson at home. The squad then made it eight straight losses when they got thumped in their final road contest at NC State and, two days later, it was announced that Scott Shafer would be relieved of his coaching duties following the home finale against Boston College. The Orange made a last stand, sending Shafer and the senior class out with a 20-17 win at the Carrier Dome that gave the team a 4-8 overall record.
One week after Shafer finished his tenure at Syracuse, the athletic department confirmed that Dino Babers would replace him as the head football coach. Babers came to the Orange from Bowling Green, where he spent two years amassing an 18-9 record and a Mid-American Conference title. Prior to that, Babers spent a pair of seasons at Eastern Illinois, compiling a 19-7 record.
Babers’ calling card is his uptempo offense, which is designed to get plays off as quickly as possible and put pressure on the opposing defense. Under his leadership, Bowling Green rolled up over 7,600 yards of offense last season and tallied 591 points in 14 games. In comparison, SU has posted 7,798 total yards and 532 points in the last two seasons combined. To put it bluntly, the Orange fan base may need some time to adjust to the new offensive scheme.
The fans will not be the only ones needing some time to get used to the offense. Babers has repeatedly stated that it takes until the midpoint of the second season for his offensive scheme to truly kick in and become second nature for the players. The 2016 season will be a mutual “getting to know you” phase for both the team and its followers. Hopefully, that offense will tantalize enough this season to make the full bloom worth the wait.
PREDICTION: With all the change going on with the Syracuse football program, expectations can be tempered. Throw in that the schedule includes two national powerhouses in ACC play and another top-ten non-conference foe and reeling in expectations makes sense.
Head coach Dino Babers has also repeatedly banged the drum to tone down the pressure on his first squad at SU, reminding the fans that it will take time and the offense generally kicks in around the midpoint of the second season. That is also a reasonable decision, as fans can get caught up in the gaudy numbers that Babers’ offense has put up in previous seasons at other schools.
It will take some time for the gears to really get going, but the Orange will be a much more fun watch this season. Quick three-and-outs and defensive failings will be aggravating, but they always are. Instead, just enjoy the change in scheme and the new, exciting offense that comes with it. It will not be the gaudiest set of numbers SU fans will see during the Dino Babers era, but 5-7 is a solid starting point.