Preview 2017: Syracuse & Dino Babers Get A Free Pass
With a brutal schedule and a rebuilding program, Syracuse gets a free pass this year.
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Syracuse and head coach Dino Babers, you get a free pass this year.
With two straight 4-8 seasons and just three winning campaigns since 2001, it’s been a long, long time since Syracuse football was a factor. So what’s one more season of mediocrity to throw on the pile?
The Orange should be better in Year Two in the Babers era with 19 starters back, but it’ll continue to be a work in progress. That’s okay if there’s a reason to get jacked up for what’s next.
Not to look way too far ahead, but Babers should have a killer team in 2018, with just three seniors expected to start this season on defense and only three others likely gone from an offense that should finish among the top ten in the country.
So with all the experience, and all the firepower, and all the upside, what’s the problem this year?
It’s bad enough that Syracuse is stuck in the Atlantic Division along with Clemson, Florida State and Louisville, but it also has to face Miami from the Coastal on the road. Throw in the road date against an improved NC State squad, the trip to Tallahassee to face the Seminoles, and a date in Papa John’s to deal with the Cardinals, and the conference slate is absolutely brutal.
Oh yeah, and just to have a little more fun, there’s that cupcake game at LSU just before the ACC fun kicks off. In all, Syracuse has to face 11 teams that went bowling last year.
And Central Connecticut State. Babers, you don’t get off that easily. You need to beat the Blue Devils.
So while it might not seem okay to shoot for another losing season, think of 2017 in terms of trying to get to the level that really matters. Going to a bowl game is nice, but if and when Syracuse turns into a program to be feared again, it’s going to need to be a lot stronger defensively, while the offensive fireworks need to be amazing enough to overcome the killers in the league.
Of course, the ACC will still be there in 2018, but it’s possible Babers might just have the right O and the right formula to be another Louisville. Florida State and Clemson will always be terrific, but there’s no Syracuse can’t be in the mix for big things once the recruiting classes catch up to the schemes.
The D that gets back ten starters needs a pass rush. It needs to be far, far better against the run, and it has to come up with more timely takeaways. There’s all-star talent at linebacker, and there’s upside at defensive tackle and safety, but this group’s job will be to hold serve.
It’s okay for the Syracuse defense to be bad, but it can’t be in the discussion among the worst defenses in the country.
No, 2017 is about whether or not the offense can go from great to warp-speed. With nine starters back – again, most of them relatively young – the offense that finished 11th in the nation in yards has to figure out how to turn the yards into points.
Syracuse came up with on of the all-time great yardage seasons in school history, but barely averaged 22 points per game before cranking out 61 in the season finale against Pitt.
This is the hope year. This is the season when Babers’ O fires up the fan base and shows something important is happening.
And maybe, if this all works, the Orange could be a year too early and start winning now.
And then Syracuse can become the team other ACCers have to freak out about.