Syracuse football is officially on fire! When's the last time someone wrote or said that and wasn't being sarcastic? As in, The Orange got pounded again, Syracuse football is on fire (sad trombone).
After winning five of its last seven games, including a thumping of previously undefeated Louisville and a comeback for the ages at Missouri, a school from the SEC for that matter, Syracuse football is officially on fire.
And next up is a relative cupcake in the form of the Temple Owls. A team sitting at 2-4 in the conference, a team with zero hope for a bowl game, a team already thinking of next season. And even though the game is in Philadelphia and not in the comfy climate-kind-of-controlled Carrier Dome, the Owls don't exactly have a dominate "home field advantage." Lincoln Financial Field, home for Temple, is usually a terror for visiting NFL teams (save your jokes, I'm a Philly fan, I know they suck this year), but is probably one of the worst home field advantages in the Big East. 10,000 butts in seats is a huge accomplishment.
So, 7 wins and a huge run to the end the year for Doug Marrone's team is all but guaranteed then, right? Well, not so quickly my acquaintance (copy right laws are a bitch)! We all remember last season, don't we? Syracuse crushes national ranked West Virginia at the Dome, needs just one more win to secure another bowl berth, proceeds to go 0 for the rest of the season. We've seen Syracuse football, be it Doug Marrone's or Paul Pasqualoni's, lose a game it shouldn't, especially after winning a big game the week before.
But this time, things feel different. All of a sudden Syracuse football is something of a force. The Orange could finish with five Big East wins for the first time since, hell, who knows? (2002) Syracuse is on such a roll it could actually be a dark horse in the ACC next year -- ignoring the losses of key players on both sides of the ball, including quarterback Ryan Nassib and star wideout Alec Lemon. Still, there is little doubt something special is happening with this team, with this program. And that's why Temple isn't the dreaded, "SU isn't good enough to build off of last week" type of game. No, it should be the dreaded "Trap game" good teams face throughout a season.
Let's break down this potential trap game bullet point style:
- Place - Lincoln Financial Field - Syracuse is going to go from a pretty raucous Carrier Dome two weeks ago, a senior night, "black out" Missouri Memorial Stadium, to....tumble weeds. They may not want to admit it, but sometimes road teams don't show up mentally because the atmosphere stinks. That's certainly in play here for Syracuse.
- Date - This Friday - Yes, Thanksgiving week teams usually play Friday games, but it still doesn't change the fact it's not an easy thing to do. The Orange played in Missouri late Saturday night, then have to travel Thursday. That's a tall order. Even Doug Marrone admitted the team is probably losing an entire days worth of practice time between travel and the Friday game. Not to mention Marrone said earlier this week half of the entire starting line up, defense and offense, is on the injury report. That doesn't mean 11 guys will miss the Temple game, but it does mean they are all losing one full day to recover. Could be a major story line.
- Time - 11 a.m. - What is this a MAC game? The Big East is so easily pushed around that it agrees to start games an hour before most undergrads even wake up. It's only an hour before the usual nooner, but even noon kickoffs normally require teams a little adjustment period. A few plays to get adjusted. I wouldn't be too surprised to see Orange players looking a little groggy as kickoff approaches at 11 in the morning on a Friday with only close friends and family in the stands.
Plus, while Temple isn't very good this year, it's also important to remember it's a program on the rise playing in a "new" conference. A transition year that hasn't been nearly as bad as its 4-6 record shows. And the Owls head coach Steve Addazio, a real football guy who was Syracuse's o-line and tight ends coach for four seasons, will certainly have his team ready to play.
In fact, that brings us to the next bullet point:
- This Is Temple's Bowl Game - The Owls can't play in a bowl game this season. Period. "But Matt, you incredibly handsome and smart man, the Owls are 4-6 overall, what if they win the next two games? Can't they make a bowl then?" Oh you observant, ignorant slut, the Owls aren't playing 12 games this year, they're playing 11. An old school number if there ever was one. Temple and Hawaii couldn't work out a date, time, amount of money, whatever, to play next weekend, so the Owls are done after Friday's game with Syracuse. Don't think that won't be posted in Temple's locker room all week (probably turned into a fake quote and tacked to a cutout of Nassib). This is the final game of the season, the defacto bowl game. And nothing would be better for Addazio but to beat his former team, sending the Orange to the ACC with an embarrassing final Big East loss.
There are a lot of intangibles going against Syracuse here, and we haven't even mentioned Temple's Montel Harris, who scored 42 points (7 rushing touchdowns) against Army last week! The Owls do have some talent here. Not enough to take down really good teams, but enough talent to make things hairy for the not-so good teams.
Which leads nicely to:
- Good Teams Overcome, Bad Teams Fall Apart - Is Syracuse really a good team or is it the same old Syracuse? A team destined for something bigger or the same team that follows the good with a whole lot of the bad? A program that's turned a corner wins, a program still figuring things out doesn't.
A lot of potential for doom here, with a lot of questions that need answers. Oddly enough, we'll find out a lot about Syracuse football on a Friday morning against, of all teams, Temple.