Orange Watch: ACC flexes its bowl game muscles with Syracuse on outside looking in

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Five of Syracuse’s six fellow ACC Atlantic Division members won their bowl game this year, with Clemson now eyeing the national title

Item: The ACC went a robust 8-3 in the just concluded bowl schedule, beating teams from four different conferences (SEC (3), Big Ten (3), Big 12, and AAC), and only the Orange, Duke and Virginia were absent from the fun. With the college football season winding down to next Monday night’s CFP championship game rematch at Tampa between Clemson and Alabama (8:30 p.m. ET / ESPN – plus other ESPN channels with niche coverage), the Tigers will not only look to plant the conference flag down as the best in the country, but also look to put the cherry on top of their eight year program building under Dabo Swinney by becoming the first team to the win the title the year after falling in the championship game since Florida State in 1999.

It’s hard to argue that the ACC isn’t the best top-to-bottom conference nationally in basketball, lacrosse, and who’s not to say now football for that matter (the SEC had one more bowl team than the ACC and is 6-6 in the bowls), and that has not bode well for Syracuse during this 2016-17 sports calendar.

Not only was the football team among the aforementioned one of only three in the league not to go to postseason play, but there’s the potential of losing ground on the recruiting front to the likes of Boston College, N.C. State, and Wake Forest, all bowl game victors.

» Related: What would the reaction be if a Syracuse player sat out a bowl game?

The basketball team, sitting at a mind-boggling 8-6, 0-1 heading into tonight’s home game against 11-2, 1-0 Miami (7:00 p.m. ET / ACCRSNs), will be fighting for each of the remaining 17 games to preserve the ongoing NCAA record 48 year streak of not having a losing season, while the lacrosse team, about to get underway with pre-season practice, is gunning for its first national title of this decade, wondering perhaps if it’s an omen that the championship weekend is returning to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., site of the last 2008 and ’09 championships.

While SEC football programs recruit more talented athletes through and through by benefit of natural geography to go along with 80 plus years of football tradition, the ACC has been gaining ground quickly since the last round of conference expansion, and by sharing that same core southeastern recruiting base along with 60 plus years of tradition of its own, it’s no surprise that an ACC team has played for the national title in three of the last four years, and four out of five if you count quasi-conference football member Notre Dame.

Now what about ‘Cuse football, and how to help ensure that SU has its best shot at not missing out on going bowling next season?

Part of the equation has been taken care of with the out of conference schedule. FCS member Central Connecticut State (2-9 this past season), Middle Tennessee State (8-5 and lost big to Hawai’i in the Hawai’i Bowl) and Central Michigan (6-5 and blown out of the Miami Beach Bowl by Tulsa) should be half the wins necessary paired with the challenge of the LSU road game, leaving Syracuse needing to find a minimum of three more victories in league play – one more than this past season.

Next is recruiting to stockpile talent to play in Dino Babers’s schemes, and has been clearly evident in many of the bowl games and most clearly in the CFP semifinal games, you need speed and depth at every position on the field no matter the unit.

With Clemson not going anywhere anytime soon from the ACC Atlantic after squashing the injury-riddled Orange 54-0 this past season, let’s start first with a hearty recruiting class come national letter intent signing day in four weeks, and then perhaps by schedule luck the Clemson game in the Dome next season will occur “somewhere (in the second year) between games four and six,” Babers’ self-proclaimed time line for his fast-paced offense hitting its stride.

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Brad Bierman

About Brad Bierman

Now in his fifth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.

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