Last year around this time, the Syracuse Orange football team put up a valiant fight and gave Leonard Fournette and the No. 8 LSU Tigers all they could handle before losing 34-24. The Orange came into the game as 24-point underdogs and came away with what was universally-considered a moral victory that they could build on.
After a bye week, the Orange traveled to Tampa and promptly lost to USF and then followed that with a loss to lowly Virginia. And with that, whatever gains had been made in the LSU game were lost. The rest of the country had already forgotten the effort, helped in part by the fact that Syracuse didn’t back it up after the fact.
While there were a lot of recruits excited about Syracuse’s work against LSU, a quick glance at those who weren’t already verbals shows that few of them, if any, actually ended up committing to SU.
Compare that to this past weekend when the situation was somewhat similar. A ranked opponent comes to the Carrier Dome as a high double-digit favorite and the assumption is that Syracuse’s best chances will be a moral victory.
Syracuse ended up winning the game, and that’s where things get different (duh). Because we actually won, we got a fantastic image of Syracuse students storming the field and signing the alma mater with players. We got an epic post-game speech from Dino Babers that will end up being the centerpiece of our recruiting pitch for the rest of the season. The speech and game highlights caught the attention of the national media and college football fans, many of whom noted that Syracuse is headed in the right direction. We did it all in a stadium full of recruits, many of whom were in the locker room after the game. And we got a win that energized the fanbase and provided some tangible results to go with all that belief Dino wants us to have.
Things just so happen to work out that the Orange follow this up with a game against their “easiest” remaining opponent. So even if they don’t put together a winning season, they’ve got a good chance to follow up this statement win with another one, while ensuring we probably won’t end up in the ACC Atlantic basement. The memory of this win will fade for many but it’s something that coaches can easily circle back on when talking to recruits. It’s also something Syracuse fans can point to when they need to remember that we’re on the right track.
Obviously there’s a difference between a non-conference game against LSU and a conference game against Virginia Tech. One is required and the other is a choice. But by contrasting the two, you can see why these types of opponents only really help you when you actually beat them. This isn’t a scheduling conversation but this is the point behind all those times we’ve harangued SU for over-scheduling. These wins are huge for the program but the losses don’t do anything for you, whether you lose by 10 or 40. It only really helps when you win.
Of course, the proof will be in the recruiting pudding in 2017. But if Tommy DeVito’s comments (via Stephen Bailey) from his visit this weekend are any indication, this win will have lasting effects that go way beyond next week.
“To win that game was really, like I said before, it opens eyes for a lot of people. To be honest, when I (tell people I'm going to), 'Syracuse,' they're like, 'Why Syracuse?' because no one knows what's going on there, no one knows what's going to happen throughout the year. It's really going to be special.
...a bunch of my friends that are on the team watched the game, saw what the offense did and were like, 'Wow, this is really going to be fun and hopefully you can do the same thing.' It was fun, just encouraging things.”