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Syracuse Football: Not A Rivalry, Not Now Anyway

Maryland and Syracuse: proximity a rivalry did not make.

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

I'm not sure Vegas could even come up with a reasonable over/under for how many times Syracuse's game with Maryland will be classified as some form of "rivalry." It'll be in print, Online and said way too much to even hazard a guess, I'd imagine. Most people just assume SU and UM have some notable history together.

And they're wrong.

(Save for, of course, the '85 Cherry Bowl II: The Cherrying.)

The Terrapins and Orange men aren't rivals. Hell, the two aren't even acquaintances. The six scheduled games featuring the two teams in the '80s felt like something evolving before it was shot dead. And prior to last season's game in College Park, Syracuse and Maryland went nearly 20 years without playing.

All games
2013/11/09  Syracuse   20  -  Maryland    3 W                      
1994/11/19  Syracuse   21  -  Maryland   16 W                      
1991/09/14  Syracuse   31  -  Maryland   17 W                      
1988/10/01  Syracuse   20  -  Maryland    9 W                      
1987/09/05  Syracuse   25  -  Maryland   11 W                      
1985/12/21  Syracuse   18  -  Maryland   35 L    !! Cherry Bowl !! 
1984/09/08  Syracuse   23  -  Maryland    7 W                      
1983/10/08  Syracuse   13  -  Maryland   34 L                      
1982/10/02  Syracuse    3  -  Maryland   26 L                      
1981/10/03  Syracuse   17  -  Maryland   17 T                      
1978/10/14  Syracuse    9  -  Maryland   24 L                      
1977/10/08  Syracuse   10  -  Maryland   24 L                      
1976/09/25  Syracuse   28  -  Maryland   42 L                      
1975/10/04  Syracuse    7  -  Maryland   24 L                      
1974/10/05  Syracuse    0  -  Maryland   31 L                      
1973/10/06  Syracuse    0  -  Maryland   38 L                      
1972/09/30  Syracuse   16  -  Maryland   12 W                      
1971/10/09  Syracuse   21  -  Maryland   13 W                      
1970/10/10  Syracuse   23  -  Maryland    7 W                      
1969/10/11  Syracuse   20  -  Maryland    9 W                      
1968/09/28  Syracuse   32  -  Maryland   14 W                      
1967/10/07  Syracuse    7  -  Maryland    3 W                      
1966/10/01  Syracuse   28  -  Maryland    7 W                      
1965/10/02  Syracuse   24  -  Maryland    7 W                      
1961/10/07  Syracuse   21  -  Maryland   22 L                      
1959/10/03  Syracuse   29  -  Maryland    0 W                      
1956/09/22  Syracuse   26  -  Maryland   12 W                      
1955/10/22  Syracuse   13  -  Maryland   34 L                      
1939/11/30  Syracuse   10  -  Maryland    7 W                      
1938/10/08  Syracuse   53  -  Maryland    0 W                      
1937/10/23  Syracuse    0  -  Maryland   13 L                      
1936/10/24  Syracuse    0  -  Maryland   20 L                      
1935/11/28  Syracuse    0  -  Maryland    0 T                      
1921/10/08  Syracuse   42  -  Maryland    0 W                      
1920/11/13  Syracuse    7  -  Maryland   10 L    

The strange part about all of that up there? The average score in the "series" happens to be, Syracuse 17.6 Maryland 15.7. Sounds close! But looking at the scores, you can tell that's skewed by some blowouts and a few too many shutouts. In reality, only eight times in 35 games has a final score been within a touchdown or less (just once since '82). Not exactly the most competitive of contests.

And even still, with no real concrete facts behind them, people will casually call Syracuse vs. Maryland a rivalry game. "Syracuse faces an old rival in Maryland at the dome this weekend." "Maryland on the road at rival Syracuse on Saturday." Blah blah blah. It's not so much this game in particular that seems to get my goat, but it's the concept of "rivalry" being thrown about so frequently that bothers me.

If playing a game against another team three times in twenty years is a rivalry then what the hell is Ohio State vs. Michigan?

But here we sit, days from the Terps and the Orange kicking off at the dome. Moments away from someone mentioning the "R" word about the game.

And, getting over my hatred of that overused description, I have a bigger lingering issue here: Why don't Syracuse and Maryland just play more often starting now? Screw branding, it does make sense, right? We've all heard that the "power five" conferences want to schedule more games with each other, and we know Syracuse hasn't backed off playing big names over the years. And how about the fans? Sick of seeing "home" games in Jersey? I doubt Maryland would command that type of rider.

Back in September of 2011, when Syracuse's lifeboat was safely paddling toward ACCland and away from the sinking S.S. Big East, some of us figured a regular date with Maryland would be in the offing. Obviously, the Big Ten, in its endless pursuit of mediocre football, had different plans. But there's no reason that, after 2019 back in College Park, the two teams can't schedule more games against each other. I would think there's more buzz behind the Terps for Orange fans than, say, the Bulls of South Florida, right? (Syracuse just scheduled a home-and-home series with USF starting next season.)

The fact that it's now, again, a non-conference game gives it a little more juice even. Like it's not just an amalgamation of conference realignment, but rather could be a creation of genuine intrigue. And since it'll likely already be called a rivalry anyway, the two might as well play as often as possible -- attempting to live up to perception.