With an ACC future (and figure that with upcoming conference reconfiguration developments combined with lawyers on both sides, SU will be competing in the ACC before 2014) now reality following as seismic a week as one could ever imagine in Orange Nation, a several day stretch that athletic director Daryl Gross forecast will be remembered by generations of Orange fans for decades to come, the focus is back on the field and the pivotal home game Saturday as a slight favorite over dangerous Toledo (1-2).
One of Doug Marrone’s game-week themes to his team and the media has been the fact that the Mid American Conference’s rising Rockets, thriving from a fertile state-wide recruiting base (58 players from Ohio) under Ohio native, third-year head coach Tim Beckman, have beaten a BCS team five straight years (wins from 2006-08 were under former coach “Toledo” Tom Amstutz).
SU is the last chance UT has to extend that streak after Colorado, Purdue, Michigan, Iowa State and Kansas have fallen victim to the Rockets in respective seasons since 2006, and Syracuse doesn’t want its name added to that BCS hit list for 2011.
Besides, if the program is going in the direction that we all think it is, then beating a MAC conference team in the Dome, no matter how good its reputation, is a must. No one wants to be reminded that it was only as recently as three seasons back that we had to endure defeats to a MAC opponent.
That, of course, was the end of the disastrous Greg Robinson era in which he finished an unacceptable 2-2 against the MAC, including the pathetic 2008 defeat to Akron in the Dome that officially sealed his fate, along with the previous season’s road loss to a mediocre Miami of Ohio team.
This year, three of Toledo’s four non-league games are BCS foes (even Toledo played a FCS team in New Hampshire), and with a close loss already to more talented Ohio State and a one-sided blowout home defeat against an even more talented Boise State team a week ago, Beckman has been busy getting his team back up emotionally to face the ‘Cuse.
The same holds true for the Orange in its preparations. It’s been a quick week following the early Sunday morning return from Los Angeles after SU acquitted itself pretty well against a USC team that has more and better talent across the board. SU will have to come ready to play with a target on its back.
Where the program stands in its rebuilding, beating BCS thorn Toledo as less than three point home favorites, MAC or no MAC, is another opportunity to make a statement and keep the goal of a 5-1 start (hasn’t happened since 1999) before Big East favorite West Virginia comes to rock the Dome Oct. 21.