Item: After an always welcome scheduled break during the course of a season, it’s still hard to believe from the preseason rankings way before this year’s volatile ACC Atlantic Division play, that it leaves the Orange with the better record (4-4, 2-2) than Florida State (2-5, 2-4). When the teams meet Saturday in Tallahassee (12:20 p.m. ET / ACC Network), it also sets into motion the final four week frenzy to seek bowl eligibility.
Winning outside of the Dome in ACC play has proved more elusive than not for Syracuse football since the 2013 debut.
At 5-11 in five seasons and now with a two/two split left home and away in four competitive division games, there’s no better time than the present for a road win against a flailing FSU program, beset with the early September loss of its starting quarterback, one less regular season game postponed due to Hurricane Irma not helping to extend its nation’s best 35 year consecutive bowl appearance streak, and coming off a 35-3 one-sided defeat at Boston College last Friday night.
As he assessed his team Monday during his weekly press conference, head coach Dino Babers traced the rise and growth of already matching last year’s win total with a month to go, from the crazy 76-61 loss to Pittsburgh in last season’s road finale.
Babers spoke to the retuning players-only during part of his postgame agenda at Heinz Field, last November, planting the foundation in their minds for his expectations for the program moving forward.
From winter workouts to spring ball then summer’s preseason camp, Barbers’ mantra to the players rang out: “What you do speaks so loudly, that I can’t hear what you’re saying.”
“They were saying the right things; they weren’t doing the right things,” Babers added in making sure his message was getting through clearly. “And I think I have a (current) team of guys that are doing the right thing.”
On Saturday afternoon the exam to pass is beating Florida State for only the second time in program history, dating back to the dazzling Floyd Little-led 1966 domination of the Seminoles 37-21 at Archbold Stadium.
As the program’s positive direction is getting noticed nationally, so is Babers, much to the consternation of an Orange Nation not in the mood to even be thinking of another rebuild with someone new if Babers were to be courted by a larger Power 5 program with a bigger budget.
On Monday, Babers quickly put the topic to rest.
“I don’t even talk about stuff like that during the season,” he said. I think (John) Mr. Wildhack has been unbelievable. Love him as a boss (Orange AD). And, he’s a very honest guy, which is refreshing.”
“But, no, I don’t talk about that kind of stuff during the season,” he continued. “Our whole goal is based off what’s going to happen Saturday (at Tallahassee). Trying to stay focused on being 1-0 this weekend.”
That same weekly approach has resulted from the low of an inexplicable loss to Middle Tennessee State and then turning heads by knocking off big dog Clemson and taking Miami to the limit, enabling Babers to clearly sense the opportunity to go out with a bang this season.
‘We’re a strong group. I think we’re tightly wound,” he suggested Monday.. It doesn’t mean we’re going to be successful in November. It doesn’t mean we’re going to be unsuccessful in November. But I think if we stay together, no matter what happens by the end of this (Nov.) month, I think we’ll be better for it. I think I have a team that will stay together.”