Despite some good advice to do otherwise, I think now would be a good time to keep it real. Specifically, keeping it real about Syracuse football.
Fresh off the spring game, fans are starting to get that itch that can only be scratched by sitting in a boiling Carrier Dome on a
Saturday Friday night in September. So, to be clear, my keeping it real doesn't mean anyone should temper their expectations for the upcoming season. I'm not here to rain on anyone's Orange parade.
In fact, just last week I wrote about how Syracuse's schedule isn't nearly as daunting as some have made it out to be. What's that mean? Doug Marrone and the Orange could be closer to 6 wins than, say, to 3 wins this season. Not BCS worthy, but still a decent enough season.
And therein lies the rub. The Syracuse Orange football program's ceiling on a year to year basis should be 8 or so wins. Occasionally the Orange could get to 10 wins and every few years the program may bottom out at around 4 or 5 victories. Yes, Syracuse has had success with legends like Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, Floyd Little, and plenty of other Hall of Fame talent. But, when you consider the entirety of the program, the average and mediocre really does outweigh the good.
I get putting a cap on Syracuse seems a little rough, but, just look at the way college football operates. Syracuse isn't Alabama or USC. They don't have the facilities, the financial aid, nor the the location to attract top tier football recruits. But with a over-the-top hard worker like Marrone, the Orange program can become a consistent winner and play in bowl games every year. 11 to 12 wins just isn't realistic.
A little bit above average, that's what Doug Marrone needs to do with SU. Get to a regular plateau of 8 wins, get to double digit W's every few years and avoid the dreaded 1 or 2 win seasons. The issue for Marrone, as he enters his fourth season at Syracuse, is that he really won't be able to truly re-establish the program for another 3 or 4 years.
If you look at the death of what we knew as Syracuse football, there are two known suspects. Paul Pasqualoni let the program rot from the inside out, then Greg Robinson came in and took a flame thrower to what Pasqualoni left behind. But there is another reason, another accomplice, as to why SU football fell off the face of the world. The death of the Big East.
In 2003 Syracuse was thisclose to heading to the ACC. The deal was effectively done until the Virginia Government got involved and forced the ACC to take Virginia Tech along with Miami. Of course, Boston College foolishly jumped ship too, but that really didn't matter. Since then, the Big East has done everything to survive. It's been a struggle, one that will ultimately lead to the conference morphing into something unrecognizable soon.
For Syracuse, a program declining due to poor leadership, a conference constantly changing it's shape was severely damaging. All of a sudden the Orange went from competing with the Hokies and looking up at the Hurricanes to getting beat by the Bulls and looking up at the Bearcats. Although Pasqualoni's neglect and Robinson's idiocy were the main reason SU football stopped breathing, the Big East's lack of direction certainly helped off the Orange. Recruits aren't exactly falling over themselves to play CUSA teams in front of 10,000 people.
So what's that mean for Marrone and the Orange ceiling now? If you accept that the cap on victories is 8, and you think Marrone is the guy to get the Orange back to consistency (Which I do.), you probably have to accept that won't happen until Syracuse gets comfortable in the ACC. The Orange will have to play out this season in the Big East, then make the jump to playing in a new conference with mostly tougher(ish) opponents. That type of change will take time to get used to.
Fans want 10 to 12 wins and national titles. While I do think SU can even sneak into a BCS bowl occasionally, a national championship would probably require some serious Jim Cantore style cold fronts passing through hell.
A level of consistency, however, can and should happen under Marrone. Respectability can and should be earned, if it hasn't been already. 8 or so wins on a regular basis will come, but not until SU and the ACC get comfortable, real comfortable, together.