At the bye week, the Syracuse Orange football team is 4-2. It's an extraordinarily ugly 4-2, but 4-2 nonetheless. We could sit here and spew plenty of negativity. If Wake Forest hadn't pulled their (in hindsight) healthy QB, we likely wouldn't have come back to win. We only beat FCS Rhode Island by 7. We beat Toledo with the benefit of a horrific PAT call. And it took a last second FG to beat Tulane. These near-losses make Orange fans all over nervous (or maybe throwing and breaking things), but there's more to look at to truly understand how we should feel about this team.
Looking at least year's football team, they went 7-5 in the regular season, and after the Pinstripe Bowl, we lost a large group of experienced impact seniors (Doug Hogue, Delone Carter, Derrell Smith, Andrew Lewis, Damon Merkerson, Mike Holmes, etc).
Now, let's quickly compare this year's Non-conference to last year's. Last year, SU played Akron, Washington, Maine, Colgate, and Boston College. This year we played Wake Forest, Rhode Island, USC, Toledo, and Tulane. By my estimation:
Wake > BC
Tulane > Akron
USC > Washington
Toledo > Maine
URI = Colgate
And I think there could be a strong argument made that URI is better than Colgate. That's a unanimously more difficult out of conference schedule than the Orange played last year. Last year, SU went 3-2. This year, with a less experienced team and a tougher schedule, they went 4-1. It wasn't a strong 4-1, but I'll remind you of SU Alumnus Al Davis' quote "Just Win, Baby!" Winning pretty is the goal, but for now, an ugly win is better than a loss.
Now, we're at the bye week, with two weeks to deal with all the issues that have plagued this team. There is time to get healthy (Chan Jones, Phil and Shamarko Thomas, I'm looking at you). Every time a Doug Marrone coached SU team has had extra time to gameplan, the result has been a victory. His first season, we played Akron after the bye. Last season, he had the bye before defeating USF, and then extra time before the Pinstripe Bowl. I'm not saying we'll beat West Virginia (I don't think we will), but this team will come out of the bye better than they went in, that I'm sure of.
Finally, let's look to the Big East schedule. Last season, SU went 4-3 in conference. I look ahead at the schedule this year, and see winnable games. Louisville has lost to Marshall and FIU this season; UConn has losses to Western Michigan, Vanderbilt, and Iowa State. Those are road games, but games SU can win. I see USF and Cincinnati coming to the Carrier Dome, and I think this team is good enough to win one of those two games. Then, I see Pitt and West Virginia, likely two losses, but two games we can be competitive in.
There are negatives, Ryan Nassib hasn't developed the way SU fans would like. The receivers haven't been consistent enough. Bailey may or may not be an "every down back." The defense laid an egg against Tulane. But let's look at it this way:
If SU wins 2 games out of Louisville, UConn, Cincy, and USF, they'd be bowl eligible. If they pull out an extra win or a win against Pitt or WV (unlikely), they'd match last season's win total. With a young and injured team and a fairly difficult schedule...6-7 wins would be a great job by Marrone.