After some initial hope and success in the ACC, Syracuse football needs a wake-up call.
Syracuse’s last bowl game came in 2013 against Minnesota. The Orange defeated the Golden Gophers in the Texas Bowl, 21-17.
Four seasons without a bowl berth is bad enough, but 2013 was also the same year Syracuse joined the ACC, leaving the Big East. SU split its conference games to go 4-4 that season and finished 6-6 to earn a bowl berth.
Since then, the Orange has failed to win more than two conference games or four games overall in a given season. It is starting to seem like that first year of success might just have been beginner’s luck. The last three seasons might indicate Syracuse is not truly ready to compete in the ACC.
It’s time for Syracuse football to get back to a bowl game.
Current head coach Dino Babers was hailed as a game-changer when he arrived from Bowling Green in 2016. His tenure to this point is highlighted by some marquee victories, most notably against Virginia Tech and Clemson, but he is 8-16 over his two seasons with the Orange.
While the consistency is nice, 4-8 each year is not enough to cut it for what is supposed to be a major college football program. It takes time to turn over a program and there is no doubt Babers needed some to revamp the team to fit his system. This will be year three, though.
He has put together back-to-back recruiting classes ranking just outside the top-50. Babers should have at least built the foundation of his new team. It might not have all the finishing touches quite yet, but the base should be complete by now.
There is not quite a bowl-game mandate on Babers as he enters the 2018 campaign but, make no mistake, failing to qualify for a bowl for a fifth straight year would be a disappointment.
The reason a bowl game is needed goes well beyond Babers proving his worth, although that is a major component. The fan base for Syracuse has slowly faded over the past few seasons. Since 2015, the Orange has posted three of the four worst attendance averages in Carrier Dome history for football. The lone season that falls outside of the grouping is Greg Robinson’s swan song in 2008.
SU needs to do something to show fans it is time to come back to the Dome and supporting the team is worth it. The next generation of Syracuse fans needs something to create buy in for the team. Until it happens, the Dome will continue to be only half-full.
Right now, it seems like Syracuse is unable to keep up in the ACC. Over the past two seasons, against the collective of Pittsburgh, Wake Forrest, Boston College and NC State, the Orange is 2-6. Syracuse fans every year believe those four games are winnable. The first step to build some long-term success in the conference for the Orange must be taking care of the other middling teams.
Picking up those big wins once a year is fun, but it does not build a program. Winning those games against other mid-tier college football programs is what is going to bring Syracuse back from the brink of obscurity. 2018 is a crucial year in determining how close the Orange is to making that happen.