I have a bad feeling. In my gut.
Yeah, that's a good starting point.
Actually, let's go back about six weeks, the preseason, before Syracuse took to the MetLife Field to battle Penn State.
Ahhh, August, a simpler time. That late summer of two-thousand-and-thirteen, when the world was a better place, a time when there was hope that Drew Allen was the Oklahoma Oracle and we assumed Scott Shafer's experience and give-em-hell attitude would combine to lead Syracuse to six or seven wins, maybe.
But then Allen struggled and Shafer struggled and Syracuse...lost.
Of course, Terrel Hunt is now the quarterback, and Syracuse did rebound, winning two of its last three, but in a lot of ways I feel like, sitting a few days before the Orange travels to Raleigh, October 12 might as well be August 30. This game against the Wolfpack mirrors Syracuse's game against the Nittany Lions.
And I guess that's where my gut comes into play. Again
Way back in August I thought Syracuse was going to lose to Penn State. I wasn't exactly all-in on 2013 (I was, however, all-in on Allen. I was wrong.) Basically I kept thinking the following:
- Drew Allen's first game as starting college quarterback
- Scott Shafer's first game as head coach
- The MetLife factor (Put that in the Dome and SU wins. Period.)
- The unknown factor of a Penn State team in flux
And now? Substitute Allen for Hunt (like Shafer did, aayyooo!) and Carter-Finley Stadium for MetLife, and all those fancy-dancy bullet points still apply. And like back in August, I have a bad feeling about this game for the Orange. In fact, given what we've seen so far: the bad, the changes made, the good, and the ugly (the Clemson game), I'm not so sure 2013 is going to end well for the Orange.
What to make of Syracuse football, 2013? Sure, Penn State was a missed opportunity, and Northwestern and Clemson are light years beyond Syracuse, and Wagner and Tulane are, well, Wagner and Tulane. But what does that all mean?
Basically, over a month into the season, Syracuse still resembles a team just finishing up Fall camp, with way more questions than answers. Yeah, Shafer has more experience and Hunt has a few games under his belt, but I don't think anyone knows what this SU team is truly capable of doing.
But guess what! We're sure as hell about to find out.
(Who's ready for more bullet points? I knew you were!)
- Four of the next five are on the road
- One of those roadies is at No. 6 Florida State (Yikes!)
- Everyone one of those teams has a better record than Syracuse
Dubious, thy name is Matt.
Dubious because, with problems creating a big play and problems stopping the big play, I'm thinking Syracuse can't go on the road and beat a halfway-decent opponent, which is what I consider N.C. State. (I know, I know, Wake Freaking Forrest just beat the Wolfpack, but still...) And if Syracuse does drop this game to the Wolfpack, it might as well kiss a bowl berth goodbye. Georgia Tech and Florida State aren't going to be any easier, and I'm not ready to throw Maryland out just because it was trounced by a Seminoles team that may end up in the BCS. A couple of months ago I wasn't sure Syracuse could beat Penn State, now I'm wondering if expectations should be lowered.
Didn't think Saturday was so important, did you? October 12 could ruin your late December. The Belk Bowl is on the line, people!
But fear not. Here is where I turn the whole column around and get everyone back on my side. This is the point where I remind of the good and tell you the bad we've seen may only be the low points, the learning points, of this potentially still fun season: If today feels like August then everything is still in front of Syracuse. Despite how I felt in late August, Syracuse came thisclose to beating the Lions. So a bad feeling about Saturday doesn't rule out the Orange winning, and then eventually ending up in a bowl.
The potential for six, or more, wins, the possible bowl trip, the crowning of
Allen Hunt as the next Big Thing.
The last six weeks are a time to put everything together, finally. Maybe George McDonald will throw some wrinkles into the offense, and maybe the starting quarterback will do things we all hope, and maybe Shafer's influence will finally allow the defense to get some big stops, especially in the secondary.
It's all there, waiting.
Yet, all potential aside, I think we've seen a lot so far, which is actually to say we haven't seen much. Which is why I still have that same old bad feeling, you know, in my gut.