When the Syracuse Orange take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the 2013 Texas Bowl, they'll be playing in their 25th bowl game. When you think about, that's actually not that many given how long the bowl system has been in place, so it's best not to think about it.
Rather, let's focus on the 24 bowl appearances that came before this one and try to figure out how each one stacks up against the rest. Let's rank Syracuse football's 24 bowl appearances from worst to best. Clearly, this will be easy and universally-accepted.
24. 1953 Orange Bowl: Alabama 61 - Syracuse 6
SU's first bowl game was far and away its worst. Not only did they get absolutely decimated by the Tide, but iit was, at the time, the largest margin of victory in any bowl. Had Syracuse had any active African-American players on the roster, they might have won by forfeit. Alabama was under orders from its admins not to play if SU suited up any black players.
23: 2004 Champs Sports Bowl: Georgia Tech 51 - Syracuse 14
This game is the reason we hired Greg Robinson. End of story.
22. 1999 Orange Bowl: Florida 31 - Syracuse 10
In the build-up to this game, Syracuse became the poster-child for Big East courtesy bowl invites. No one thought the Orange belonged in the same building as the Gators. And they were right. I was there to witness the carnage live and let me tell you, the score, which isn't close to begin with, was not truly indicative of what a mismatch this was.
21. 1985 Cherry Bowl: Maryland 35 - Syracuse 18
This game literally killed the Cherry Bowl. Attendance for the Pontiac, MI game was so bad that it fell into million-dollar debt and folded after the game. After opening up with a 10-6 lead, the SU offense similarly folded and Maryland rattled off 22 consecutive points to win with ease.
20. 1959 Orange Bowl: Oklahoma 21 - Syracuse 6
Syracuse dominated the Sooners in every category, including total yardage. However, Oklahoma used three big plays to cruise out to a 21-0 lead in the first half, a lead they never relinquished.
19. 1997 Fiesta Bowl: Kansas State 35 - Syracuse 18
Another bowl game that many thought SU had no business being in, the Orange got off to a decent start but Michael Bishop threw three-straight touchdowns in the second quarter en route to an easy victory.
18. 1966 Gator Bowl: Tennessee 18 - Syracuse 12
Floyd Little and Larry Csonka combined for 330 rushing yards but it (somehow) wasn't enough. Tennessee led 18-0 at the half and held off the pesky Orangemen in the second half.
17. 1965 Sugar Bowl: LSU 13 - Syracuse 10
The unranked Orangemen were overmatched against the No. 7 Tigers. However, they jumped out to a 10-2 lead in the first quarter. Unfortunately, they wouldn't score again and LSU chipped away at the lead until they kicked a fourth quarter field goal to secure the victory. Here's an interesting anecdote about how Syracuse was invited (guess what, it had to do with race).
16. 1957 Cotton Bowl: TCU 28 - Syracuse 27
Down 28-14, the Orangemen staged a furious fourth-quarter comeback. They scored their third touchdown but saw their PAT attempt get blocked. Unfortunately for them, the two-point conversion did not exist yet and SU was forced to kick a PAT on the fourth touchdown with a minute left. They would lose by one point.
15. 1979 Independence Bowl: Syracuse 31 - McNeese St. 7
The 70's were a weird time for Syracuse football. The last bowl they'd been to was 1966. So when the I-Bowl came around against McNeese State, SU gladly took it. Look, we beat up McNeese State. It's not something we like to brag about. It's basically our slump-buster.
14. 1996 Liberty Bowl: Syracuse 30 - Houston 17
The forgotten bowl of the Donovan McNabb Era, Malcolm Thomas was the real star with a 201-yard performance. The Orange only led by two in the 3rd quarter but blew the doors off the place in the fourth for the win.
13. 1999 Music City Bowl: Syracuse 20 - Kentucky 13
Two 6-5 teams squared off for the right to be America's Music Citiest. James Mungro was the MVP as the Orangemen rallied in the fourth quarter to top the Cats. Take that, Calipari.
12. 2001 Insight.com Bowl: Syracuse 26 - Kansas State 3
WE got our vengeance against the Wildcats with a thrashing in Arizona, even if it was a much different bowl and a much different KSU team. Guess that's why we had to beat them twice to make up for it.
11. 1990 Aloha Bowl: Syracuse 28 - Arizona 0
Marvin Graves powered the offense and the SU defense made quick work of the Wildcats in the blowout win.
10. 1989 Hall of Fame Bowl: Syracuse 23 - LSU 10
No. 16 SU vs. N0. 17 LSU made for a good matchup. The Orangemen chipped away each quarter and basically kept the Tigers caged all night. Wikipedia notes that "the loss marked the beginning of a dark period for LSU football." So that's nice.
9. 1993 Fiesta Bowl: Syracuse 26 - Colorado 22
Colorado took a 7-6 lead into halftime. And then the Orangemen came alive. David Walker ran in a touchdown. Then Marvin Graves did the same. And then Kirby Dar Dar ran a kickoff back 100 yards for for a score to make it 26-16. Colorado would score once more but miss the extra point, the second-such miss of the game.
8. 1991 Hall of Fame Bowl: Syracuse 24 - Ohio State 17
No. 16 Syracuse and No. 25 Ohio State got started with a strong SU attack thanks to Marvin Graves. The QB passed and ran for a score to make it 14-0. OSU battled back but Graves hit Antonio Johnson with a 60-yard bomb to seal a 24-17 victory.
7. 1989 Peach Bowl: Syracuse 19 - Georgia 18
SU trailed 18-7 before quarterback Mark McDonald came off the bench to replace Bill Scharr. He engineered a dramatic comeback that ended with a John Biskup field goal with 25 seconds left to win the game.
6. 1961 Liberty Bowl: Syracuse 15 - Miami 14
Miami led 14-0 at halftime but Ernie Davis's touchdown run and a late touchdown pass by Dave Sarette to Dick Easterly helped bring the Orangemen back. A two-point conversion was the difference-maker. It was Davis's final game for SU. He ran for 140 yards to go with his score.
5. 2012 Pinstripe Bowl: Syracuse 38 - West Virginia 14
The Orange returned to the Pinstripe Bowl for the second time in three years and this time they'd play the hated Mounties. WVU fans, coaches and even coaches wives joked beforehand that the game would be a cakewalk. They were correct. The Orange shut down Geno Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley score three touchdowns as SU cruised and Doug Marrone went out a winner.
4. 2010 Pinstripe Bowl: Syracuse 36 - Kansas State 34
I put this Pinstripe ahead because of what it signified. The first bowl game since Greg Robinson decimated the program, it felt like a BCS bowl. The first-ever Pinstripe saw SU cement its connection with NYC in the midst of a snowstorm. Everyone remembers The Salute (and forgets Marcus Sales's taunt in the 2nd quarter), but what most forget is that it was actually a great back-and-forth game that came down to the last moments.
3. 1987 Sugar Bowl: Syracuse 16 - Auburn 16 (T)
The most controversial one on the list, I think. Where do you put a tie? In this case, I think it's still high because Syracuse did everything they could to win this game, it's not their fault it ended that way. The team was undefeated headed into the contest and Don McPherson fought off a stingy Auburn defense to keep SU in the game. If only Pat Dye had any balls whatsoever, at least we'd know one way or another if we were the better team that day. Clearly, Pat Dye thought we were.
2. 1996 Gator Bowl: Syracuse 41 - Clemson 0
Certainly not the closest or most exciting bowl game Syracuse has ever played, but, c'mon, we won 41-0. That's not a blowout, that's a decimation. That's total domination. That's just ooooogly. The game also seemed signify the beginning of Syracuse's next great era, the McNabb Era. That didn't come true, but then again it kinda did. Regardless of how SU fared in the "better" bowls over the next couple seasons, they could always point to this one as proof how good they could be.
1. 1960 Cotton Bowl: Syracuse 23 - Texas 14
Not only was it Syracuse's first-ever bowl victory but it just so happened to seal the deal on Syracuse's first and only National Title. Ernie Davis and Ger Schwedes powered the running game that made Syracuse so potent that year. And in spite of the racial tensions and issues that surrounded the game, the Orangemen prevailed amidst a hostile crowd and brought the National Championship trophy back to Syracuse.