The Orange are 2-2. They could be 1-3. They could also be 4-0 in some alt-reality where Syracuse doesn't repeatedly shoot themselves in the foot. But unfortunately, our real circumstances are 2-2, with a suspect offense and a questionable defense, plus a growing pile of key injuries. Doesn't sound encouraging? It may not be. But how does it stack up to recent starts for the Orange? In case you've forgotten, they have really struggled to get going in the last decade...
(The last 10 seasons' starts are ranked below -- obviously you could change the order here if you want, and in no way did early starts automatically mean solid seasons)
1. 2010 Season (3-1)
Points For: 129; Points Against: 65
Opponents: Akron, Washington, Maine, Colgate
We said it then, and it still holds true now: this sort of schedule is how you set yourself up for a postseason berth. No, this wasn't Doug Marrone's most talented team, but this start created a ton of momentum for what would be the program's definitive "turnaround" season.
2. 2011 Season (3-1)
Points For: 107; Points Against: 111
Opponents: Wake Forest, Rhode Island, USC, Toledo
Easy proof-point to how a fast start also doesn't necessarily spell out a sure-fire successful year. SU's controversial win over Toledo ended up generating a ton of awful karma for the Orange, who turned a 5-2 overall start into a 5-7 disaster. The scoring margin through four games also foreshadowed the pain a bit, too. This is another ideal early schedule, however.
3. 2013 Season (2-2)
Points For: 150; Points Against: 88
Opponents: Penn State, Northwestern, Wagner, Tulane
This one's controversial, because who knows that this team could've done with Terrel Hunt under center against both Penn State and Northwestern (since Drew Allen started both of those games). But the final two games -- blowout wins over inferior opponents -- made up for the two early losses, and entrenched Hunt as the starter. The defense's abilities are a bit inflated because of the 17 combined points allowed to Tulane and Wanger, by the way.
4. 2009 Season (2-2)
Points For: 105; Points Against: 109
Opponents: Minnesota, Penn State, Northwestern, Maine
Starting with a Big Ten schedule because "sure, whatever," the Orange still managed to be 2-2 after four, and could have been 3-1 if not for a Greg Paulus overtime interception in the end zone. All-in-all, this was a nice start for the program, and a very visible sign of the impending turnaround under Marrone.
5. 2006 Season (2-2)
Points For: 88; Points Against: 75
Opponents: Wake Forest, Iowa, Illinois, Miami (OH)
There were brutal parts about this start, mind you (hi, Iowa game), but at the same time, the Orange kept it tight with a Wake team that would win the ACC, a then-ranked Iowa squad and beat Illinois and Miami without much issue. Considering this team didn't have a ton of talent on the field by most measures, that's an accomplishment, no?
6. 2014 Season (2-2)
Points For: 102; Points Against: 94
Opponents: Villanova, Central Michigan, Maryland, Notre Dame
You know the story here... Syracuse pulled victory from the jaws of defeat against 'Nova, but then did the opposite against both Maryland and Notre Dame. Thus far, the Orange are a team that can beat themselves with little help from opponents, and that's terrifying considering how difficult the schedule is. Winning two against this group would've been expected. But considering how they could've won all four, it becomes a more frustrating start.
7. 2012 Season (1-3)
Points For: 108; Points Against: 118
Opponents: Northwestern, USC, Stony Brook, Minnesota
Syracuse's best season in the past decade actually doesn't look that great compared through four games at all. Installing a new, hurry-up offense, the team struggled to really put things together against a difficult slate. They'd work the kinks out eventually, partly as a result of the struggles in these games. This may sound slightly familiar... (not to inspire you with any false hope, however)
8. 2005 Season (1-3)
Points For: 76; Points Against: 80
Opponents: West Virginia, Buffalo, Virginia, Florida State
Worst season, yes. But not at all the worst start. Close losses to WVU and a ranked Virginia team, plus a blowout win over Buffalo didn't really make this look like the crater it would become. Plus, 1-3 with that tough of a schedule. Until the last couple years, this program would have probably been plenty happy with a start like that.
9. 2007 Season (1-3)
Points For: 70; Points Against: 153
Opponents: Washington, Iowa, Illinois, Louisville
God, this defense was SOOO bad. But look at the schedule quality. Starting with those four teams in almost any season is certifiably insane, and it was especially suicidal for a Syracuse team that would end up going 2-10. This is one time where the start perfectly fit the finish.
10. 2008 Season (1-3)
Points For: 81; Points Against: 149
Opponents: Northwestern, Akron, Penn State, Northeastern
Similarly awful defense to the previous season, but with an easier schedule, results should have been better, no? Instead, we got the Akron loss that we now share with Pitt, one of the most embarrassing home losses Syracuse has ever suffered (Penn State's 55-13 blowout on the same weekend "The Express" opened) and a scare against Northeastern for a bit. On the bright side, this nearly sealed GERG's fate very early in that season.
So, in summary, the 2014 start is not the best or worst, but that's also saying very little considering how largely mediocre this program has been starting nearly every season since 2005. We also schedule WAY too tough in non-conference, but you already knew that. This is equal parts terrible coaching (GERG), difficult scheduling and a lack of talent. So which of those does this year fall under? That's really up for debate.
But what do you think? Do you see these starts ranked differently? And/or, can we actually glean anything from this?
Also: Ugh, on this start.