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Syracuse vs. USF: A Big East Rivalry That Never Was

The Bulls and Orange were never rivals. And in fact, they were the furthest thing from it. And that's both weird AND okay.

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The Syracuse Orange and USF Bulls shared a conference from the fall of 2005 through the spring of 2013, yet it's difficult to remember a single game in the series in any sport -- except maybe that final football game, which some might see as the baton pass.

You see, the teams, forced together by conference realignment's 2003/2004 go-around, were never supposed to be in the same place, never mind RIVALS by any means. The Orange were the long-standing Northeast power, while the Bulls were the upstart brought along because of increased athletic spending and a foothold in Florida. This isn't to bash South Florida, though. The early returns between the two teams (on the football field) told a completely different story of their trajectories:

2005: USF (6-6) 27, Syracuse (1-10) 0

2006: USF (9-4) 27, Syracuse (4-8) 10

2007: USF (9-4) 41, Syracuse (2-10) 10

2008: USF (8-5) 45, Syracuse (3-9) 13

2009: USF (8-5) 34, Syracuse (4-8) 20


Syracuse lost the first five meetings (ever) between the schools -- a time period that (unsurprisingly) coincided not only with GERG's reign on the SU sidelines but also the peak of original Bulls football coach Jim Leavitt's powers. That 2009 season was the obvious pivot point: Leavitt's final year and Marrone's first, and also the closest contest to that point. The Orange would finally break through in 2010 (a 13-9 SU victory over the last successful Bulls squad), step back in 2011, and then deliver the knife on the way out by way of a 37-36 last-second victory.

So when you see the all-time series standings at 2-6 in favor of USF in that weird eight-year stretch, there's more to the story. It's less about one team's (admitted) dominance over another. And more about two ships passing in the night. SU and USF had just one season (2010) in which they both had winning records while in the Big East together, and none since, even in two separate conferences. The Bulls, as close as they got to the sun back in the insane 2007 season, have largely struggled since. Syracuse, as we know, needs to find itself some consistency.


Coming in the 2015 reunion, the Orange, despite last year's misfortune for both teams (SU was 3-9, USF was 4-8) and this year's current records (SU's 3-1, USF's 1-3) are the team we (and I bet a lot of others) believe SHOULD win -- even if Vegas says otherwise. And they might very well do so, further highlighting the narrative above that these two programs just can't seem to find success at the same time. And if not? Any thought of a (lowercase r) rivalry's gone, but at least we can create dreams of an alternate world where we face off for the AAC title every season.

... or on second thought, no. Don't do that. At all.