You know, for all of the issues, real and perceived, that the 2014 Syracuse Orange football team has right now, we're really only one game off of our expected path.
If you look back at the season predictions we all made, almost everyone was in the 7-5/8-4 camp. And if you look at the way the season was broken down, there were three very obvious four-game mini-seasons inside the whole shebang.
Season 1: The Non-Conference Starter
I think it's pretty fair to say we were all expecting no worse than 2-2 but hoping for 3-1. We ended up with 2-2. Wins over Villanova and CMU, losses to Maryland and Notre Dame. You could make a case that perhaps we could have won one of those last two but that's a case usually made while forgetting we didn't really deserve to win the first game. So just take the 2-2 and move along...
Season 2: The Gauntlet
Louisville, FSU, Wake Forest & Clemson looked scary on paper before the season started and I don't think there's a sane Syracuse fan who realistically thought we'd do any better than 1-3 here. Maybe 2-2 if you talked yourself into a Louisville lame duck performance. Oddly enough, a win over Clemson seemed more possible when it was all said and done, but we ended up 1-3 all the same.
Season 3: The Bowl Qualifier
We pretty much knew the season would be decided in this final four stretch of games. Not just for obvious reasons but because almost all of them seemed winnable, at least in theory. And since we knew we weren't going to come out of the gauntlet unscathed, we knew that a good chunk of our wins were going to have to come out of this final four.
So as we enter this final lap against the N.C. State Wolfpack, Duke Blue Devils, Pittsburgh Panthers and Boston College Eagles, it's probably a good idea to realize that, at 3-5, we're not THAT far off from where we thought we'd be. It doesn't feel like we're where we should be, especially with five losses in six games, but we're here nonetheless.
Three wins in fours games. That's what we need. Sounds daunting. But it also sounds doable. NC State and Pitt seem to put a new team on the field every week, capable of doing great things and terrible things. Boston College is good but they're very beatable. As for Duke, we get them at home and they've shown that they're more "ACC Coastal good" than "actual good."
Dreams of eight wins are dead. Hell, dreams of seven wins seem ludicrous. But at this point, I'm pretty sure you'd settle for 6-6. As if you have a choice. But hey, six wins gets us a bowl game and lots of much-needed practice time. That's what matters at this point. We don't have the right to complain about bowl placement or standings...it's just about winning the final season in the 2014 season.