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Syracuse Football Roundtable: The Orange are Bowl-Eligible!

Welcome to the Syracuse football roundtable! This week, TNIAAM's esteemed panel celebrates the all-important sixth win of the season. WE ARE BOWL-ELIGIBLE, FOLKS!

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Obviously we're still waiting on our potential destination, but Syracuse is eligible to participate in a postseason game this year. So for that, we're thankful. This better not be the last roundtable of the season, though.

As is and will be the norm all season, we've opened the floor to the TNIAAM football wing to discuss this week's burning questions about Syracuse on- and off-the-field, the ACC and more. Join us below...



Matt McClusky: I'm not sold Syracuse will end up in a bowl. If the Pinstripe wasn't likely to be taken by Notre Dame I'd have more confidence in a December trip for the Orange, not to mention three extra weeks of valuable practice, but right now there's a real chance SU could be on the outside looking in -- similar to '03, really. But honestly, the bigger point is Scott Shafer's group battled and battled all season long and to even been in this position given blowout losses and several key injuries is a testament to a program clearly heading in the right direction.

Dan Lyons:


Sean Keeley: WOOOOO!!! There's something disturbing about being so excited about getting ANY bowl, knowing that we probably won't get anything better than the Pinstripe or Heart of Dallas. But, hey, beggars can't be choosers. And…WOOOOOO!!!

John Cassillo: EFFF YESSSSS!!!! I sat in a Long Island restaurant watching it all go down on my phone and screaming out loud as the Orange took home the victory. Just a few moments later, the entire bar erupted when Auburn performed their own miracle against Alabama. No one remembered my little outburst.

The BC game could not have diverted further from expectations overall, but what surprised you most?

TIS: SU's final, game-winning drive. I thought the final series was brilliant in terms of the plays called and the execution by the players. Hunt started with a fantastic and very difficult mid-range throw into tight coverage. We then proceeded to mix up the formations and calls to the extent that BC had to stop the clock for a timeout because their players were completely confused out there. The final throwback screen to Paris was a masterstroke... forcing an increasingly desperate Eagle defense to over-commit to the long side of the field, only to be taken completely out of position by throwing back across the field. Cue bedlam, and perhaps the best impromptu end zone dance by a lineman in NCAA history by our big #72: Ivan Foy.

MM: Hunt's ability to not only keep plays alive, which we've seen at times this season, but also his headiness. Take away the horrible interception and Terrel Hunt played like a legit no-questions-asked quarterback. He had command on his passes, he had the wherewithal to tuck and run, and he had the fake "clock-it" snap -- surprising everyone by rushing up the middle for the first down instead of spiking the ball and stopping the clock. Hunt showed how important this season has been for him in terms of growth in four quarters against a halfway decent Boston College team.

DL: It has to be how Hunt tore the Eagles up through the air, right? I'm sure people will talk about Andre Williams, but he came into the game banged up, and it was apparent on BC's first drive that he just didn't have it on Saturday, especially not with Shafer and Bullough drawing up 4-4 schemes to stop him. I'm not surprised that Hunt is capable of playing well, but that was a tremendous performance. If you told me that Hunt was going to drive down the field for a touchdown with two minutes left after catching a deflected pass for a 16 yard loss, I probably wouldn't have believed you, but here we are.

SK: Probably Terrel Hunt, who seems to really be putting it together. He's still got a lot of work to do but I can accept this season as part of his learning curve knowing that he has improved over the last two months.

JC: Since Hunt took over, this team's only been involved in two close games, and this time around (unlike last time), they actually pulled things out. I was shocked at how quickly this team rebounded from the crushing Pitt defeat, and how well Hunt played overall -- especially passing the ball. No one person is to blame for our passing woes all year, but it's games like this one that show how quickly they could be fixed.

Has George McDonald finally figured it out, or was that game simply a perfect storm of execution and poor defense by the Eagles?

TIS: I was really pleased with the game plan and it was by far our best-called ACC game for McDonald. He called a decent game against Pitt as well, but our execution didn't allow it to result in points or a "W." BC was off balance all day, and his use of Hunt both on the ground and in the air demonstrated to me that he really did know how to utilize the strengths of the team. I would give McDonald a grade of "C" on the year, but for me, he called an "A Game" against the Eagles, and should be congratulated for it as a result!

MM: I don’t know if McDonald figured things out, but I will say he at least showed more faith. More faith in Hunt as a leader in allowing the sophomore to make decisions on the fly, more faith in the offensive line by mixing up the play calling, and probably more faith in himself. For all his legend of recruiting, this has been a learning on the fly situation for McDonald and I’m sure it’s been a difficult transition. To me, from my vantage point, it looked like McDonald went all-in on Saturday and it worked to perfection.

DL: I think he's been getting marginally better as the season has gone along, and for whatever reason everything came together against BC. The team got very good receiver play for pretty much the first time this year, which definitely plays a role. That may beg the question of why Quinta Funderburk and Alvin Cornelius haven't seen the field to this point, but I don't like the overthink these things. I'm sure McDonald will have warts along the way, but there was definite developments, especially during the last two weeks, and he should only get better as he and the staff populates the roster with players that fit his system.

SK: Like Nate Hackett before him, I think McDonald has shown he can call a good game, but it's something different altogether to put together multiple good games. What happens when a defense takes away the things that worked in this game. Can he win with other tricks? That's the question.

JC: That was the best game he's called all season, and it came at just the right time. You probably recall last week and many other weeks when we could very easily deride McDonald's play-calling as a farce. But the BC game was different. I don't know if he's "figured it out." I just know that he figured it out when it mattered most. Now build on that.

Is the constant "Syracuse football is rebuilding" narrative officially dead, so long as we make the postseason?

TIS: No! I want the constant "Syracuse is rebuilding" narrative to continue... I'd like next year to be another year where we are under the radar, being derided by DABOs as a lower-tier ACC program, only to crush teams and leave opposing fans shaking their heads at how their team could lose to such a "s**tty team." I like having a chip on my shoulder, thank you very much.

MM: Honestly, Syracuse football will never truly be out of the "rebuilding phase." There are just too many variables and hurdles. But I will say that Syracuse is at least out of that 2 or 3 win total period that Greg Robinson dragged the program down to. For whatever it's worth, Orange fans can at least step out into the open at the start of every season and think, What bowl game could SU end up in this season? and not be laughed at. There'll still be clunkers of seasons, but six wins isn't some mythical number anymore. I don't think that means rebuilding is over but I do think it means better football days are here.

DL: Unfortunately, I don't think so. It probably should be, but until Syracuse does something huge on a national scale and/or breaks into the Top 25, I don't think the casual college football fan will notice.

SK: No. We're still in the "any bowl will do" phase of the rebuilding process but that will only be acceptable for so long. The big narrative for Syracuse Football now is consistency. Can we put together back-to-back eight-win seasons? Can we climb to nine wins? Can we get to the point where going to a bowl isn't even a question anymore?

JC: We're no longer considered a "rebuilding" program, though win or lose a bowl game, we're very likely to inhabit the "middling" tier until further notice. That's an upgrade, I suppose, but the only thing that moves the conversation further is winning a lot more games. That starts with recruiting, and has to include smart scheduling as well. Despite three .500 or better seasons in the last four years, SU is still largely 0-for-2 on those elements.

The rivalry with BC is officially "back" now, right?

TIS: Well, we're cleaning BC's clocks in the Orange Eagle (25-9 as of now), so maybe they aren't really worthy of this rivalry thing (prays that BI Interruption reads this). In all seriousness, I don't think it is "back", but that game was a great step in the right direction! Emotions were high on both sides at the final gun and you could tell from both teams that the result meant something. If we can keep up this level of competition over the next few years, we'll be in true rival mode.

MM: Ah! Maybe in five or ten years Boston College will be a real "rival" to Syracuse, but otherwise, even after a close and exciting game last weekend, the Eagles are nothing more than a divisional foe. It makes sense that B.C. will fill that rivalry void, becoming Georgetown to Syracuse's...well, Syracuse. But I'm not there yet, there have been too many "blah" games between the two. Hell, how many years passed without them even playing each other? And no really gave a damn. I'm sure I'm the odd man out on this, but B.C. just doesn't do it for me.

DL: @If Scott Shafer keeps being a big meanie during his halftime interviews and on the sideline, definitely.@

SK: Oh yeah. If you don't think they want to beat us next year, you're nuts. So is the ACC if they don't make this the last game of the year for SU & BC every year.

JC: Most definitely. It should've been back all along. But if it took a game like Saturday's to get the majority of both fan bases (especially Syracuse's) to buy in to this being the real deal, so be it. May Josh Parris's name live on with Diamond Ferri's and others in the annals of this not-so-storied series of contests between the two schools.

What bowl game do you see the Orange getting slotted into when the dust clears next weekend?

TIS: I honestly don't know where we'll wind up. I know there is legitimate concern that we are shut out of a bowl given supply and demand, but I just can't see us being left out. My dream would be that John Swofford punishes Maryland in some way, and sends them far from Annapolis, allowing us to slot into the Military Bowl. But, look, I'll honestly take anything that will give our team the extra practices.

MM: It seems like it'll either be the Beef Bowl or no bowl for Syracuse. But personally, I'd like to see the Orange back in the Bronx. We know the crowd will show up, we've seen how cool Yankee Stadium (this version of it) can look for football, and I don't mind the Pinstripe becoming Syracuse's "thing." New York's College Team (TM Daryl Gross, PHD) could own New York's College Bowl. It's not like the Orange Bowl is calling, anyway.

DL: Everyone seems to be pointing at the Heart of Texas, and I'm cool with that. A new locale for our team, who I'm sure will be fine not going to NYC for once, a really awesome venue in the Cotton Bowl, a beatable opponent, and it's not Birmingham or Shreveport. Sure, there are sexier match-ups than Rice or Middle Tennessee, but at 6-6 and on the brink like Syracuse is, I'm not gonna worry too much about that.

SK: A lot of people keep saying Heart of Dallas but I don't know about that. Just seems like a weird fit even if it's a matter of filling space. I have this weird feeling we're going to end up in the Beef O'Brady after its all said and done. But who the hell knows.

JC: Personal bias is begging for the Poinsettia Bowl down in San Diego. But realistically, the Heart of Texas Bowl or Little Caesars appear the most likely destinations for the Orange. Regardless of where we play though, it's not a bad thing. Remember it was only five years ago we were just praying to sniff the postseason. Until we do this on a regular basis, we're no above any bowl game.