“The streak” ended on Saturday night. No, not the one Oregon had over Washington (though that streak concluded in resounding fashion). Rather, the Syracuse Orange’s odd dominance over the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Despite both teams struggling to get into the top half of the ACC since 2013, SU had won four straight against the Deacs (including a pre-ACC game in 2011). That all came to an end when Wake beat Syracuse 28-19.
Syracuse and the Demon Deacons have little history. Just six games all-time, all from 2006 to 2016 and a divisional alignment that mandates they play every year. But the one thing Orange fans have been able to count on in the ACC is a win against them... and then a reset the following season when pundits consider them a better program.
Well, now that cycle is gone. And Syracuse must find other ways to prove it’s better, both this season and the coming years.
Wake, for this year and the ones upcoming, is the bar.
Viewing Saturday’s loss to the Deacons as the bar for the rest of the year, it’s an open challenge for the Orange and fans alike. It can be seen as the floor en route to a bounceback. Or the ceiling on our way to a deceptive 2-10 season we told ourselves wasn’t possible. Perhaps Dino Babers told himself it wasn’t possible either. But following the team’s first truly miserable offensive outing (more on that in Tuesday’s play-calling breakdown), it’s a reality he’ll at least need to pay some mind to same as the rest of us.
The Deacons, as much as we’ve derided and dismissed since we arrived in this conference, have seemingly found a way to progress. It took several years under Dave Clawson, but after several years struggling to hit the four-win mark now, they appear to have rebounded. Point to strength of schedule if you’d like (and you can). Beating Syracuse, though, means it’s a little bit more than that, no? A little bit more than their coach, formerly from Bowling Green, just walking in and accepting the rock-bottom he inherited. He molded his team in his image, eventually. And yes, it has taken over two full seasons to do so.
This isn’t meant to rehash fresh wounds, or pour salt. But it’s not meant to be a pep talk either. With a 2-4 record (0-2 in the ACC) at the season’s midway point, we’ve reached an easy-to-explain crossroads. Either Syracuse (the team and its fans) allow the Wake loss to be what defines this season of thrilling frustration. Or they set it aside as a footnote to what this team can really develop into by end of year.
Until proven otherwise, I’m willing to take the latter point of view (despite the complaints I’ll certainly find from time to time as well). Hopefully Coach Babers, his team and the fans do the same as the Orange as they figure out what we have here over the course of the last six games.
It may not be pretty. But it’s building to something, still. Even with a bump in the road down in Winston=Salem this weekend.