Item: As unlikely as it seemed only a couple of weeks ago, following two straight ACC wins for just the second time in four conference seasons, and with four games to play to get perhaps a minimum of two victories to lock up a post-season bowl bid, the Syracuse football team heads into its open week with a little momentum, a ton more experience playing the schemes on both sides of the ball, and relishing the new-found national media attention that came with the Dino Babers post-Virginia Tech viral video and subsequent Sports Illustrated feature on an offense that’s producing “a game that’s faster than you’ve ever seen on turf.”
If there was ever a reason, and in this case a season, in which you can easily point to why there are too many bowl games to justify any sort of reward for a team having a strong year, and by that definition finishing at least at .500, it’s 2016 with 41 bowl games (the two College Football Playoff semifinal winners meet in the championship game) opening up spots for a total of 82 teams.
That’s 82 teams out of 128 FBS schools (65%) that are going bowling, and as of the games played prior to the week of Oct. 24, only 76 teams had records of .500 or better, meaning if the season ended today six teams with 5-7 records would be selected based on having a top five Academic Progress Rate (APR) score.
Besides sitting at 4-4 overall, and with some momentum heading into an open week that Babers said on this week’s ACC coaches teleconference was well-timed for his team “to heal, (while also providing) time to work with our twos and threes (on the depth chart) and turn it into a little bit of a spring practice and help the underbelly of our team continue to develop,” there’s a lot of highlights for any bowl committee member to be excited about.
A progressive offensive philosophy that snaps more plays than virtually anyone, and uses all four downs to move the chains. Check.
An offensive that has shattered school passing and receiving records as if they were standing still in the record book from game one, with Eric Dungey and Amba Etta-Tawo among the current conference players of the week. Check.
Knocking off a Top 25 ranked team for the first time in four seasons. Check.
When it’s back to work in November there’s the two division heavyweights in Clemson and Florida State mixed in with the “50/50” games against N.C. State and Pittsburgh, with two victories leaving no doubt of playing a 13th game, and maybe even one win turning the trick.
“We really needed the bye,” Babers said during Wednesday’s teleconference. “A lot of times when you have a bye, you start off the next game (Nov. 5 at Clemson) a little bit slower, but we really needed the time to heal. We need our guys to get some rest. We need to go out and do some coaching. Our players need to work on their studies a little bit, then we need to come back together and get ready for the last third of the season.”