Syracuse looked rough tonight. The 48-27 score was perhaps a bit misleading as it seemed as if Northwestern could have scored a lot more, had they chosen to keep throwing. There is plenty of wailing and gnashing of teeth by Syracuse fans tonight. But the Confidential just wants to remind Syracuse fans that they need to come in off the ledge. There are many reasons why.
First, what did you expect? Sure, the Confidential read how Syracuse fans verbally accosted the TNIIAM writer who justified a 4-8 season. However, that was a well-reasoned analysis of a team that lost:
- Its head coach (Doug Marrone) and most of the staff.
- Its QB (Ryan Nassib) to the NFL–without having allowed any real development of an understudy
- Its two best WRs on the team (Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales)
- Its two best OL (Justin Pugh to the NFL and Zack Chibane), as well as a third deciding not to return for a 5th season (Andrew Phillips)
- Two key defensive linemen (Brandon Sharpe and Deon Goggins) to graduation and a third to discipline (Markus Pierce-Brewster)
- Safety Shmarko Thomas to the NFL
That is a lot to lose. It just is. Anyone thinking that the football team would reload like the basketball team was looking through the lens of a fan, not through the lens of an objective college football fan.
Second, it’s been two games, against two very good opponents:
- Penn State was a mediocre kicking performance away from being 9-3 last year. In their final 10 games under brand new coach Bill O’Brien, the Nittany Lions went 8-2, with wins over Northwestern and tough losses to only 12-0 Ohio State and 10-4 Nebraska. They looked a bit beatable in Week 1 against Syracuse with their freshman QB, but looked even better Week 2.
- Northwestern was 10-3 in 2012, with losses @ Penn State, at home to Nebraska (by 1 point), and on the road in overtime to Michigan. And they looked outstanding in Week 1, overcoming injuries to defeat Cal on the road.
What other teams have played a tougher two set of opponents so far this year? Georgia (Clemson and South Carolina), obviously. Virginia (BYU and Oregon)… maybe. Buffalo (Ohio State and Baylor)… perhaps. South Carolina (North Carolina and Georgia)… maybe, but doubtfully. Anyone else? Needless to say, there was no tune-up for all these new players for Syracuse. While most teams had an FCS opponent or cupcake somewhere in Weeks 1 and 2, Syracuse did not.
Third, while the coaching staff for Syracuse has been unimpressive. Again… see #2 above. Moreover, let’s not ignore the similarities to the Doug Marrone era.
- Doug Marrone’s first game was against Minnesota. A Big 10 opponent that had won 7 games the year before. Using a transfer (sort-of) QB in Greg Paulus, the Orange almost pulled out the victory, but fell short. The final score was 23-20.
- This year, Scott Shafer’s first game was against Penn State. A Big 10 opponent that won 8 games last year. Using a transfer (sort-of) QB in Drew Allen, the Orange almost pulled out the victory, but fell short. The final score was 23-17.
- Doug Marrone’s second game required the team to travel to play a Penn State team that would go 11-2, losing its two games to teams that also won 11 games that year. They lost by 21 points–28 to 7. And it was 28-0 until Syracuse scored with less than 5 minutes to go.
- This year, Scott Shafer’s second game required the team to travel to play a Northwestern team that could easily win 11 games this year. They lost by 21 points, 48-27. Worse defense, but better offense.
Some might say that Marrone inherited a worse team. Really? Is Allen that much better than Paulus? Neither took too many snaps between High School and their 5th year. Jerome Smith and PTG are good backs, but so where Delone Carter and Antwon Bailey. And this year’s Syracuse team lacks a Mike Williams, go-to wide receiver. The only edge that could be given to the 2012 team is at LB. However, the 2009 team had LB’s Derrell Smith and Doug Hogue emerge late in the season as studs. But even if they were just learning the position in the first two weeks, keep in mind the other players on that defense included Mike Holmes, Max Suter, Arthur Jones, Chandler Jones, Philip Thomas, and Shmarko Thomas. The defensive cupboard was not completely bare. If anything, the DL and DBs were stronger.
Finally, as bad as Drew Allen has looked a times… he has had moments. But Orange fans also got to see some of the potential of Terrel Hunt. He may be the QB of the future for Syracuse. And that future might be sooner than later. Of course, you also have to like that the team never quit whatsoever. 34-7 halftime led to 48-27 finish. That means that Syracuse outscored Northwestern down the stretch, 20-14. Whatever the reasons and excuses, that is what a team must do after having such a stinker of a first half. Clemson gave up 70 points in a bowl game not too long ago. It is important not to let one bad game, no matter how bad, unduly influence you. Last but not least, 2-2 remains possible. A lot of teams with wins on the slate after Week 2, will end up 2-2 because their tough September opponents still loom. And last year’s team went from 0-2 to 8-5. Maybe the upside this year is lower… but no sense in ignoring history. So come on in off the ledge, Syracuse fans.