Lacrosse season just came to an abrupt halt at Syracuse and basketball is never far from the minds of Orange fans, but what about football? Yes, practice is over three months away, but the first summer session is on the horizon. So, what’s the harm in dreaming a little based on what Babers has gotten out of his teams in his previous two stops? After all, “a cold drink and a cool breeze in the hammock” time is getting close, too.
One person not spending much time in his hammock is Dino Babers, who is headed toward his second season at the helm of the Syracuse football program with a bit of symmetry behind him. The head coach attests his offensive scheme will click for the team around the midpoint of the second season and has witnessed it at his previous stops at Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green.
That makes this curious party wonder about expectations and if anything can be gleaned from those two previous “second seasons” under Babers. Now, there is obviously a list of variables as long as my arm that would affect any attempt at math, so projecting the production for the 2017 Syracuse football team based on what Babers’ Panthers and Falcons teams did is a fool’s errand. But…
First, here are Eastern Illinois’s per game stats from the 2012 and 2013 campaigns with percentage change listed after:
Points: 36.5 – 48.9 – an increase of 34.0%
First downs: 25.3 – 26.2 – an increase of 3.6%
Rushing yards: 136.0 – 219.2 – an increase of 61.2%
Rushing touchdowns: 1.9 – 2.3 – an increase of 21.1%
Passing yards: 334.9 – 376.3 – an increase of 12.4%
Passing touchdowns: 2.8 – 3.8 – an increase of 35.7%
Interceptions: 1.3 – 0.7 – a decrease of 46.2%
Total yards: 470.9 – 595.5 – an increase of 26.4%
Total plays: 84.3 – 80.0 – a decrease of 5.1%
Yards per play: 5.6 – 6.9 – an increase of 23.2%
And, here are Bowling Green’s per game stats from the 2014 and 2015 campaigns with percentage change listed after:
Points: 30.0 – 42.2 – an increase of 40.1%
First downs: 22.2 – 27.8 – an increase of 25.2%
Rushing yards: 173.0 – 180.0 – an increase of 4.0%
Rushing touchdowns: 2.1 – 2.4 – an increase of 14.3%
Passing yards: 259.9 – 366.8 – an increase of 41.1%
Passing touchdowns: 1.2 – 3.4 – an increase of 183.3%
Interceptions: 0.9 – 0.6 – a decrease of 33.3%
Total yards: 432.9 – 546.8 – an increase of 26.3%
Total plays: 78.8 – 81.1 – an increase of 2.9%
Yards per play: 5.5 – 6.7 – an increase of 21.8%
That repeated use of the phrase “an increase of” (thanks, copy and paste functions) practically makes you salivate thinking about the improvements the SU offense could make in 2017 (in addition to that cold drink). Boosting the passing game to around 375 yards a game with some additional pick-up in the ground attack leading to averaging somewhere north of 30 points per game sure sounds like a pleasant uptick, especially when considering the tough slate in front of the Orange.
Last season, Syracuse ranked 90th in points scored at 25.7 per game. Getting to 30 points per game would place them around 60th in the nation. The Orange ranked 42nd last year with 440.9 yards per game and a jump close to what Babers’ offenses did in his two previous stops would put the Orange among the nation’s leaders. That would also lead to similar heights in yards per play.
(No, I don’t want to think about the defense right now. I will note, however, based on how aggressive Babers has been about bringing in defensive talent in the form of junior college players and fifth-year transfers, he is well aware of the need to improve on that side of the ball, post haste. The return to health of some contributors will help, as well.)
Looking at individual players, it’s hard not to imagine Eric Dungey being a star in this offense (duh) with a full season of action. The quarterbacks who posted those giant offensive numbers under Babers in his previous second seasons as a head coach are the Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois) and Matt Johnson (Bowling Green).
Garoppolo posted video game numbers, finishing with 5,050 passing yards with 53 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 14 games. Johnson was almost as impressive, collecting 4,946 passing yards with 46 scores and eight picks.
Dungey averaged over 300 passing yards per full game (he left the Clemson game before the end of the first quarter) with 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season. With his experience under Babers in his pocket, Dungey could easily throw for 4,000 yards and 30 scores in a full season. Johnson posted his gaudy numbers at Bowling Green after playing just one game in the previous campaign, so expecting Dungey to take a giant leap forward is not unreasonable.
Of course, these numbers are not guaranteed and dependent on lots of those aforementioned variables. But, they sure make for a nice afternoon in the hammock.