This may sound crazy, but sometimes, close losses against top competition feel better than a blowout win against a team you should beat. You just don’t learn as much that way.
When it comes to college football, I get it. You want to start out good and build up confidence. Which is what Syracuse did in its Week 1 romp of Colgate. And that’s fine. New coach, new scheme, want to start off on the right foot.
But to play devil’s advocate, I want to point out a couple games during my Syracuse tenure that were losses. But they were good losses. I know, I hate that term too. We all want to win. But sometimes you have to lose a couple to win a bunch.
The first one that comes to mind is the season opener against Minnesota in 2009, also my first ever Syracuse football game. I know what you’re thinking. That loss set the stage for a 4-8 season. Not great, right? Well, it was an overtime loss, a game the Orange could have, and maybe should have won. It got the Doug Marrone era started and we learned that a previously moribund Syracuse squad could beat decent teams if they wanted to. SU couldn’t beat good teams, but it could beat decent teams. The Orange was a threat. Cuse had fight.
Two games later, Cuse beat a Northwestern team that finished 8-5 and 5-3 in the Big Ten. Not bad, right?
This all comes back to my non-college football example of this theory. Back in 2007, the Giants played the then-undefeated Patriots really tough in a regular-season loss at the end of the season. And then the G-Men beat them in the Super Bowl. And 18-1 was created.
Now back to Cuse. How about the 2012 season. SU just barely lost its opener to Northwestern, a good but not great team. Now, they couldn’t beat a better USC squad in the following game. But that Northwestern loss had everyone believing this team could hang. And they did, winning the Pinstripe Bowl at the end of the season against a more vaunted West Virginia team. (And proved Geno Smith wasn’t as great as everyone thought—sorry, Jets fans).
Now, continuing down recent history, let’s go to 2014 and 2015. Season starts off with some nice wins against some not so great teams. It looks good on paper. But not so much when the Orange have to face the really good teams.
Which brings us back to this year. I’m not saying the win against Colgate means nothing. I’m just saying this Friday’s game against a ranked Louisville team will give fans a much better sense of where exactly this team stands. It’s a long season, and we’ll be learning throughout it what Year 1 of Dino Babers’ scheme entails.
Who knows, maybe Syracuse will challenge my theory. And I hope they do. But I’d be surprised if the Cardinals exit the Dome with an “L.”