Item: While technically still eligible for a bowl bid as crazy as that sounds, we’ll follow the assumption that Syracuse (4-7, 2-5) will lose to a red-hot Pittsburgh (7-4, 4-3) team as a more than three touchdown underdog when the two tangle in the regular season finale Saturday afternoon (12:30 p.m. ET / ACC Network). An Orange defeat would be the 13th in the last 16 meetings between the schools, SU would fall to 1-7 all-time at Heinz Field, and the Orange would finish with an identical 4-8 overall mark as 2015 – the final year of the three season Scott Shafer run. While attendance this year only increased a fraction despite Babers enthusiastic greetings to fans from day one almost a year ago, there’s no doubt the program is going in the right direction to be competing for a more talented recruiting class the next 11 weeks up to the February national letter-of-intent signing day, needing to build quality depth to the roster.
Following tonight’s hoop game against South Carolina State in the Dome (7:00 p.m. ET / TWC in select markets – ACCN Extra) there’s a rare football/basketball game conflict on Saturday not only with the aforementioned football finale at Pitt, but the basketball team’s first game against a major conference school coming against South Carolina at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center (2:00 p.m. ET / ACCN Extra) wrapping up the Brooklyn Holiday Hoops Invitational, and tipping-off likely late in the first half of the football game.
Depending how the SU-Pitt game is going up to that point will likely determine just how many Orange eyeballs will be turning back and forth or just concentrating on Brooklyn hoops.
While the final W/L records may end up the same, along with a season ending injury to Eric Dungey for a second straight year and other assorted injuries to key players on both sides of the ball necessitating the rush of true freshmen, redshirts, and sophomores onto the field, Babers and his staff stayed true to building the foundation of their offensive and defensive philosophies no matter what the scoreboard read.
“There’s a good will about this football team, I think they really want to be good,” Babers said Monday at his weekly press conference.
“From a coaching standpoint, when you’re in the ACC and you’re playing with the upper echelon part of that conference, it reinforces exactly what I’ve always known, you need big people to play this game, you need people who are exceptional athletes, who really, really, really want to be fantastic football players. I think we have a lot of that on this football team, and I think we need to go out and get a lot more (of those types of players).”
That will be imperative this off season with a 2017 schedule that includes road games at LSU, Florida State, Miami, and Louisville, along with a home date versus Clemson, to have the best shot at not extending a likely three season streak without a bowl game invite.