If there's anything that Syracuse Orange basketball and football teams lack, it's a true New York State rival. Unfortunately, we outgrew the Colgates and SUNY schools of the state while the St. John's rivalry is more of a Battle for NYC kind of thing.
The latest chapter in the rivalry should be a telling one as the No. 14 Orange (5-4) travel to Ithaca to take on the No. 5 Cornell Big Red (8-1) in a Tuesday night showdown. Rivalries and legacies are not defined by what happened in the tenth game of the regular season, but a win for the Big Red would be a clear shot to the bow of the mighty S.S. Desko that red is the new orange.
SU leads the all-time series 61-34-1 but Cornell took last year's meeting in the Dome, 11-6.
Both coaches are trying to downplay the significance of the game by noting that every game is important:
"We’re 5-4 and we’ve got five games left, so I think every game is big for us," SU coach John Desko said. "I think Princeton is a very good win for us right now, and to have a win against Cornell would be terrific for us. I mean they’ve only lost one game by one goal to the No. 1 team in the country, so when it all shakes out at the end of the year and they look at playoff teams, if you have a win against Cornell it’s a good one."
But the players can't help but let it be known that this game matters more than most:
"Ever since freshman year and since I got here, we've always had a big rivalry with Syracuse," said Big Red senior midfielder J.J. Gilbane. "Guys are always super excited about the game. Even as a freshman you know. Everyone talks about it; you see posters in people's rooms ... It's an upstate battle. Usually the game is on a Tuesday night and you'll see the stadium packed, more so than on a Saturday. That just goes to show how big a game it is."
While Tommy Palasek, Tim Desko and JoJo Marasco have played well, the Orange don't have a singular player that can match Rob Pannell. The Big Red Machine has been out with a foot fracture but he could do a lot of damage against SU's defense if he plays and SU needs to be ready for anything.
"You have to prepare knowing that he could possibly be there, that’s an option and we don’t know the status of his injury, so we just got to be prepared to play Cornell," Desko said. "If Pannell shows up, we’ll have a game plan for that, and if he doesn’t, then we’ve just got to be prepared with what we’ve seen on film these last few weeks."
The Big Red seem to back up their ranking across the polls, where they go as high as No. 3 (Efficiency) and as low as No. 9 (RPI).
The game will be televised at 7:00 p.m. EST on Time Warner Cable locally as well as on your radio dial at 99.5 FM. You can also watch online through Orange All Access.