Two weeks ago, we looked at Syracuse's results (2-2 to that point) in relation to previous seasons. After looking through the last 10 years, it appeared that the 2014 season was somewhere in the middle -- depending on your point of view. Well, now after two more losses, how is this season shaking out?
(The last 10 seasons' starts are ranked below -- obviously you could change the order here if you want, and in no way great first halves automatically mean great second halves)
1. 2011 Season (4-2)
Opponents: Wake Forest, Rhode Island, at USC, Toledo, Rutgers, at Tulane
See, right off the bat: perfect example of how strong starts don't always equal strong finishes. Moderate degree of difficulty in these first six games in 2011, however, the wins are close calls... and in hindsight, you see most of the writing on the wall. How the West Virginia Friday night blowout happens in the same season as the other 11 games, I still have no idea
2. 2010 Season (4-2)
Opponents: at Akron, at Washington, Maine, Colgate, at USF, Pittsburgh
The only thing that knocks this one down below 2011 is the degree of difficulty involved, and even then, it's almost negligible. Still, SU did not look great in either loss in the first half of this season (Washington, Pitt), and ultimately, those disasters knock it down a peg. You may recall how excited you were before that Pitt game, only to be crushed within a half or so of play...
3. 2006 Season (3-3)
Opponents: at Wake Forest, Iowa, at Illinois, Miami (OH), Wyoming, Pittsburgh
This was a bit of a tough slate, and the fact that Syracuse was .500 after six was equal parts positive and negative miracle. You look at the Iowa game, and 4-2 was a possibility. But you look at Wyoming, and 2-4 is also there for the taking. As a freshman, I marched confidently to the Dome with friends yelling "Shit on Pitt" before our 3-2 Orange took the field. Little did I know that would be the final high point of the 2006 season.
4. 2013 Season (3-3)
Opponents: Penn State, at Northwestern, Wagner, Tulane, Clemson, at NC State
Three nice wins, two bad losses and another another very close defeat. Looking at the schedule before the season started, most would have accepted a 3-3 record through six, so there's little to gripe about here. Where it could get dinged a bit are the blowout losses to Northwestern and Clemson, of course. But focusing on the positive aspects, the building blocks were put into place to get to 6-6 (something they barely pulled off, as you recall).
5. 2012 Season (2-4)
Opponents: Northwestern, USC, Stony Brook, at Minnesota, Pittsburgh, at Rutgers
Man, this started rough. But strength of schedule be damned, the 2012 team managed to pick itself up quite well en route to an eight-win campaign. Early signs were there this team would be good (close losses abound in these first six games), but it wasn't until the second half of the year that the offense finally came together. Might we see something similar in 2014? With the bulk of the tough opponents behind us, it's not worth discounting yet...
6. 2009 Season (2-4)
Opponents: Minnesota, at Penn State, Northwestern, Maine, South Florida, West Virginia
While we were incredibly positive about the way a 2-4 start can equal good things in the 2012 section above, this is the other side of that coin. A team a year away from a breakthrough slogs through the early portions of a tough slate and then stares down a tough road to end the season. This isn't EXACTLY like 2014, but you could find some similarities here, right down to the home-centric early games (and the backloaded road scheduled).
7. 2014 Season (2-4)
Opponents: Villanova, at Central Michigan, Maryland, Notre Dame, Louisville, Florida State
This story hasn't been fully written yet, and despite the disappointment in W-L record, Orange fans have full knowledge of how differently things could've gone (both for good and bad) and how the rest of the schedule presents some real opportunities. Making things more complicated is a change in offensive coordinator and QB, so it's tough to view these results as indicative of the rest of the season's... so far, anyway.
8. 2005 Season (1-5)
Opponents: West Virginia, Buffalo, Virginia, at Florida State, at Connecticut, Rutgers
This was a tough schedule to get things going in 2005, so at least view that for what it is. We know how this ends, but how it started could've been indicative of some better things to come. Alas, was terrible prelude for the disasters to come under GERG.
9. 2008 Season (1-5)
Opponents: at Northwestern, Akron, Penn State, Northeastern, Pittsburgh, at West Virginia
Another ROUGH slate to start the year, sure, but it had chances to be better if the Orange hadn't gotten blown out by Akron in the Dome. While we belabor Syracuse's ability to schedule themselves in a hole (which they do), this is not necessarily one of those times. It was a bad team in the final year of a bad coaching job. But losing to Akron at home... still unforgivable.
10. 2007 Season (1-5)
Opponents: Washington, at Iowa, Illinois, at Louisville, at Miami (OH), West Virginia
I'd make a case for this being the worst GERG season, and the worst GERG start, too. Sure they upset Louisville on the road, but they also almost blew a big lead in that game. And lost to Miami (Ohio). And were smoked by major conference teams to start the year, in a show of futility that told you everything you needed to know about the state of the program.
I mentioned this a couple weeks back, but it bears mentioning again: While these are interesting from a comparison standpoint, the last decade doesn't give us much to look at overall. The state of the program now is obviously very different from one it was under GERG, and with that in mind, results from his time with the program aren't THAT applicable. Marrone's certainly are, however, so it's also worth noting that all but one of the top seven seasons above were under Marrone or Shafer (2006 being the exception).
Any other thoughts? Bowl chances still look tough but are getting better at the same time, too. And we've been faced with difficult roads to the postseason before (and made it). Let's hope we can surprise everyone (ourselves included) yet again in this second half.