Item: With already 40 bowl games including the College Football Playoff national championship game, there are 78 of the 130 FBS teams that go to a post season game each year. That’s a whopping 60% of the teams. What’s the harm in adding another one to the list? Let’s consider Saturday’s regular season finale for Syracuse against Wake Forest (12:30 p.m. ET / ACC Regional Sports Networks) to be this year’s bowl game, or as we dubbed it the “Snow Bowl.” Just like Hawai’i some years gets to host the Hawai’i Bowl, let’s consider this as SU hosting its own bowl game against a competitive Power 5 opponent that will happen to have an undersized crowd of supporters in the stands.
It makes us madder than, well, Lake Effect snow. If Liberty (6-5 with two FCS wins) and Western Michigan (7-4) end up going to bowl games this year, which is entirely likely, while Syracuse is sitting at home with either a 5-7 or 4-8 final record after defeating both of those teams this season, then we’ll come up with our own pacifying solution.
Even though the Orange have no one to blame but themselves for the Maryland (3-8) debacle and poor ACC record costing them back-to-back bowl seasons for the first time since 2012-13, we’ll simply think of this regular season finale against a division rival to be Syracuse’s 2019 bowl game, the “Snow Bowl” in Syracuse against a quality Power 5 opponent in the 8-3 Demon Deacons.
After all, didn’t Wake play near-by neighbor North Carolina in a non-ACC game back on Sept. 13? Well then, we can consider this league game against Wake to be a bowl game even with a majority partisan crowd of supporters. Let’s see exactly how Dino Babers and his staff prepare, and the players react with one last opportunity to go out with a bang.
One player in particular who has seen a complete contrast in his two seasons wearing orange is sophomore safety Andre Cisco. From tying atop the national interception list last year with seven and becoming the first Syracuse true freshman to earn First Team All-American honors during a 10-win, bowl victorious season, to missing three games due to injury this year, knocking his interception total down to four, the same number as the current win total.
“It’s disappointing, obviously,” Cisco said after the Louisville defeat about his sophomore season that will end up bowl-less. “It’s the goal coming into the year, after a year like last year. Where as a freshman, all I know is winning, flip-flopping to this is obviously tough. Just got to work through this last week.”
No matter the outcome Saturday, after four seasons, three with losing records, and the loss of not only the instructional period that 15 additional practices provide bowl-bound teams, and the positive momentum that overlaps between preparing for a bowl trip somewhere and the early recruiting signing period (Dec. 18-20), Babers has a lot to think about this off-season. Fresh in his mind is giving up 56 points to a Louisville team that is fleet and athletic, and uses it to its advantage.
“We need to evolve as well. What’s that old (saying), ‘if you don’t evolve you die?’ So, we need to evolve as well,” Babers proclaimed after the Cardinals track meet and in assessing the ups (2018) and downs (2016, ’17 and now ’19) of competing in the varied ACC and in particular the Atlantic Division.
“First time we rode through the league people were adjusting to us, (now) they’re playing us better,” Babers continued. “We need to stay with those type of offenses (Clemson and Louisville), and we need to keep evolving as an offense so it’s difficult for them to stay with us.”
For now, it’s the last “one week at a time” preparation for the 2019 Syracuse season, but let’s make this the postseason week. If there is any player on the current roster who personifies going through the program since 2016 (“Faith. Belief without evidence.”) it’s senior running back Moe Neal.
Not only was the North Carolina native the Mark Hoffman Award winner last season as the top running back, but he has played in all 48 games of his career and now is among the top ten rushers in school history with 2,462 yards.
“Very important. My last time strapping it up in the Carrier Dome,” Neal said when asked about his upcoming final game as an Orange player on campus. “There’s going to be a lot of emotions. I just want to go out on the right note, finish with a win.”
A victory we’ll consider capping a disappointing 5-7 season with a “2019 Snow Bowl” win.