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SU Football: It’s Dino or it’s all a bust

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Dino Babers is remaking Syracuse football in his style, which could lead to something worthwhile, assuming we let it get to that point.

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

A year ago, the only thing notable about Syracuse football was that it was looking for its fifth coach in about 12 years. One of the more forgettable, ghost-like “power five” teams looking for yet another leader. A lost program with ignorance or ambivalence or both being the guiding light for fans who stuck around. “There was a time when Syracuse football {fill in the blank}” a common phrase.

Then came the hire of Dino Babers as head football coach. A heartbeat started up again. And a year, just about everything with the program has changed.

The stark difference in offensive philosophy has been nothing short of remarkable. All of a sudden the Orange has a signature style. It started as one of those cliche hashtag movements on Twitter and it turned out to be reality on the field: Orange is the new fast.

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Still, though, after about 12 months on the job and after 12 completed games, it does seem like we don’t really know Babers yet. Some of that is due in large part to the fact that this new-found offense, one that can put 61 points in a game, is functioning with Scott Shafer-recruited players. It’s impossible not to think what that side of the ball could look like in a few years.

Of course, conversely, it’s hard not to think about some of the negatives, too. Hell, we did just watch SU give up 76 points to Pitt? I know there are injuries and the defense was already depleted way back in August. But a team probably won’t win many games if its defense is giving up three quarters of a 100. Is Syracuse giving up on attempting to play defense now? Forever?

I know I should concentrate on the good from 2016, and on one side of myself I’ll say something like, Give him time, he’s working with a depleted group of players he, for the most part, didn’t recruit.

But on that other side of myself: So, giving up the most points in a season in program history isn’t disconcerting to you? Because, holy shit, that’s kind of scary!

(It’s been a back-and-forth for me this week.)

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pfft...you can’t worry about that Pittsburgh game. Did you watch it? First, Zach Mahoney broke a record that was previously held by one JIM BROWN. Heard of him? That’s amazing! And overall, the game was going to be a clunker in November and somehow it was must-see until the very end. I’ll take a blowout loss with Babers as coach as opposed to the blowout losses under Paul Pasqualoni, Greg Robinson and Scott Shafer.

I’ll ignore the Pitt debacle for a second, because have you failed to acknowledge that Babers’ version of Syracuse was also run out of the building against Louisville, South Florida, Florida State and Clemson. Sure, they’re all bowl teams and one of them may make the playoffs, but including Pitt, that’s five games where SU looked more gimmicky than good.

Don’t just throw away the fact that seven of eight losses for Syracuse were to teams that will likely be playing in bowl games! That schedule was brutal, especially so for his first year.

But to be outscored 395 to 185 in those losses?

We’re talking about the ACC Atlantic, one of the toughest divisions in football! Let’s not Skip Bayless this.

Whoa. Whoa. There’s a difference of some measurement between fandom and being delusional. Right, and that’s not going to change next year or the year after or the year aft..

I KNOW.

I’m just wondering: Should Orange followers start to worry that Babers’ mind is on offense and that may be a problem having to go up against offensive-minded coaches and programs at least three times a season?

What should Syracuse have done? Hired Nick Saban? Babers has a track record and he’s already made SU football something it really never has been save for a few players here and there: Watchable.

I’m just...

What?

It’s, well, I just don’t...

It’s that friggin’ Pitt game, isn’t it?

YES! YES IT IS THAT PITT GAME. How can anyone not be scared off by that crazy-ass game? To give up 76 points to a the fairly pedestrian Panthers? Should Syracuse have won that one? No. Should it have given up over three quarters of one-hundred points? NO.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It was one game and although it was never really close, it wasn’t like the Orange was blown off the field either. Hell, the SU offense did put up 61 of its own points. Not too shabby.

Sure, sure, but I can’t get over the fact that a Robinson coached team never gave up that many points. And Louisville, and possibly even Clemson, should have put up at least 70 on SU, too. Even with the injuries, why were all of those teams piling up so man scores on the Orange? Is it that offensive-minded coaches—especially the types who concentrate so heavily on plays ran in game—just don’t even care for defense?

First off, a head coach cares about winning, so you know the defense being a human turnstile burns at Babers. The question here right now, after 2016, after those 12 games, is Syracuse better off than it was a in December 2015?

You mean that 2015 when Syracuse was 4-8 overall and 2-6 in the ACC? (Skeptical emoji face)

Yeah, that same season that closed out with a boring, paint-drying victory over Boston College. Pitt may have nearly put up a 100 spot on the scoreboard last weekend, but damn was that far more entertaining a game than any of the last how many of Shafer’s tenure?

That’s thing though, is this about entertainment or about finding ways to win? I’m not giving up on Babers, far from it, but it’s okay to wonder if the we’re going to run a bunch of plays and try to outscore everyoneapproach isn’t applicable in Big Boy Football.

Well..

And another thing, what if Babers leaves for...oh let’s say Oregon next week, or some other school next year or the year after? Babers style is going to take years to truly adapt to and if he bolts earlier than anyone could expect, that could crater a program that already had looked like a meteorite hit it.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame vs Syracuse Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Okay, calm down here. Let’s walk back from the ledge. This whole thing, this idea of having a “team” and cheering and caring and living and dying with it really is all about about finding an identity, isn’t it? Like when ESPN showcases its game of the week, the promos on TVs across America aren’t showing players or fans or mascots. Those commercials and banners have the faces of Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh. I’m not saying Babers is on their level, but Syracuse’s coach has a certain something about him.

And furthermore, he brings with him a high-flying offense that, unlike the defense, did show significant signs of improvement. It made a player like Amba Etta-Tawo into a bonafide superstar. Babers may never make Syracuse “great” again, but I think that’s because everyone gets too hung up on what “great” even is. Syracuse has a guy that looks the part, who brings a philosophy that will be known nationwide, win or lose. For SU, I say being fun to watch and getting to eight maybe nine wins is the cherry on top of the football sundae. Syracuse has something different, it has something worth watching. It has the right guy who needs the right amount of time to get it done.

Alright, you’ve convinced me. Babers is the man.

Good, glad I can see eye-to-eye.

For now...