Do you believe? Does 50-7 against Central Connecticut make you think this installment of the Dino Babers Show also known as the Syracuse football team is better equipped to meander its way to a winning season?
The first win of the season (a convincing one, at that) sure puts the feel-goods in motion a bit. Eric Dungey not only started the game, but he finished it, too. And finished it by putting his mark on the ever-quickening pace of Babers’ offensive system with 328 passing yards and five total touchdowns. If Dungey finishes the next 11 games for Syracuse as well, it will go a long way in helping the Orange achieve some of the goals they have set for themselves.
But, we’ve seen this before, haven’t we?
Indeed, we’ve seen this each of the three seasons prior where Syracuse wins the opening game of the year. Winners of four straight season openers, Syracuse has managed just five conference wins and gone just 8-25 overall in the rest of the games on the schedule.
And the rest of the games on the schedule may be the biggest deterrent in Syracuse getting back to football relevance. LSU, FSU and a bunch of other letters on the opposing side of the marquee represent daunting challenges for the Orange. Defending national champion Clemson highlights a schedule with five teams currently ranked in the Top 25 and 11 teams that all played in a bowl game last season.
Could Syracuse reach bowl eligibility? Certainly. Adding wins against Middle Tennessee and Central Michigan in the next two games would put the Orange halfway to bowl eligibility before conference play begins. North Carolina State, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest and Boston College all represent winnable games in conference. Does Syracuse have another upset win like last year’s triumph over Virginia Tech (they didn’t look into YOUR heart!) in its arsenal? Is it possible a Florida State team without its star quarterback is ripe for an upset? Another signature win like last year’s one against the Hokies would lend itself to more believing.
What will define success under Babers? That will vary with the individual. A 6-6 record is certainly possible. The days of six- and seven-win seasons have already chased the last two coaches out of town (Doug Marrone of his volition, Scott Schafer…not so much). You have to go back to 2001 to find the last time the Orange have won at least eight games in the regular season.
The eight-win threshold would define success for the Orange football team. The days of being OK with six and seven wins are over. Mediocrity has existed for far too long.
Is there an outside shot at 8-4? Sure. But everything would have to go right for the Orange. Health, productivity and some luck, for starters. A .500 record seems more likely. While fans can be hopeful of a 6-6 mark that would equate to a two-game improvement over last season, don’t mistake improvement for success.
Believe? Yeah, I believe the Orange football program is heading in the right direction. But, with a strength of a schedule like theirs this season and the relative infancy of the Babers era still, I don’t believe eight wins is realistic. And THAT’S what will define success for this tough-to-win-over scribe…