First of all, congratulations to the Syracuse Orange football team for their thrilling 36-33 victory over Bye Week in 12 OTs this weekend. I'm pretty sure that sets some kind of record.
Unfortunately, because we played Bye Week twice this season, the win will not count towards our bowl eligibility. We'll have to do that the old fashioned way. Win real football games.
We've got two chances left to win one game and book our reservation at Beef O'Brady's (in theory). The first chance occurs this Saturday when the Cincinnati Bearcats come crawling into town, licking their wounds.
Like so many Big East frontrunners before them, the Bearcats seem to have fallen apart just as soon as everyone anointed them as the team to beat. It's like a virus that only affects whoever is in first-place. Good luck with that Louisville & Rutgers.
The Bearcats got beaten down by Rutgers this weekend, 20-3. It was Munchie Legaux's first game as a starter and it did not go very well at all. Without Zach Colloros at the helm, the Cincy offense sputtered. Unless Munchie can make some huge changes in the next few days, the Orange should have a good chance to contain him, and the potent Bearcat offense, as well.
Of course, there's a chance Legaux might not even make it to the SU game as the starter. Or he at least might be spliting some time.
For the Orange, however, it really comes down to not beating themselves. Turnovers, penalities, miscues, shoddy playcalling...all of it had added up and become too much for the team to overcome in recent weeks. Let's all hope the bye week was just what they needed to get it back together.
Doug Marrone is acutely aware of how bad things have gotten.
"We were a 5-2 football team that has just lost three straight games," he said, "and arguably you can say that we haven’t played well, (that) we’ve been playing worse as it has gone on."
Marrone also mentions that there are a lot of things he wants to look at and assess in the off-season, but that's still a ways away. In the meantime, it's all about being as physical as possible.
All of the coaches are paying close attention to the details in practice this week. We're at the point in the season when it's not just about finishing strong but also, subconsciously, auditioning for next year. Who's going to step up and prove themselves now when it matters most?
Scott Shafer isn't one to overreact. He just wants to see his defense do the little things correctly.
"Personally I won’t try to change anything," he said. "We’ll just try to do what we do better. It’s as simple as that."
And Nate Hackett knows the only team that's really beaten Syracuse this season is Syracuse (and maybe USC).
"I wouldn’t necessarily say there’s a blueprint. I think the blueprint is that we’re just not consistent. I really feel like we’re beating ourselves," he said. "If we are consistent and do those things (right), it doesn’t matter what they throw at us."
Finally, it's Senior Day in the Dome. And you better believe that these seniors want to end their home career by sending the Orange to back-to-back bowl games for the first time this millenia. For Doug Marrone, it's even bigger than that.
"And really it’s not about the winning records," Marrone said. "I go back to that first group of seniors on that 4-8 team, they did everything they possibly could for us to win. I think when you leave, and Coach Mac would say this all the time, what have you done to make it better for the people who are coming after you. And I think that’s important. There’s a lot of lessons to be learned when you talk to some of these players about what they’ve gone through. We do a lot of symposiums in the off-season of our older players' school up some of our younger players on common mistakes made, whether it be time management or just how they go about it when they think they have a lot of time here."