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Tulsa’s success shows glimmers of where Syracuse could be headed

In year two, another branch of the Baylor offensive tree has already turned things around at Tulsa.

NCAA Football: Miami Beach Bowl-Central Michigan vs Tulsa Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

As we said in August, Syracuse Orange Head Coach Dino Babers should probably avoid proactively bringing up Baylor. That said, there’s no denying the influence the Bears’ offensive system has on Syracuse’s current scheme due to Babers’s time on staff under former coach Art Briles.

Briles has a few branches on his coaching tree and while Babers is the one we’re most concerned with, he’s not the only one, either. At Tulsa, Philip Montgomery is showing what the system can do away from Waco, Tex.

In 2014, the Tulsa Golden Hurricane were 2-10, absolutely bottoming out just four years removed from a 10-3 season that saw them ranked 24th in the final poll. They hired Montgomery, who’d had great success at Baylor as offensive coordination from 2008 through 2014, because they needed a new way of doing things if they wanted to compete in the deep AAC West Division.

The Dallas native got to work right away implementing an up-tempo attack, and of course, bringing in Texas talent to quickly get to work (most high schools in the state run an Air Raid or some form of it). The results have come in quickly, following a timeline we may find familiar.

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

Tulsa went 6-7 in 2015, beating up on the dregs of the schedule while winning enough to make it to the postseason. They scored a lot more points than Syracuse did this year, but again, the opponents were not as tough.

In 2016, they went 10-3, capped off by a resounding 55-10 win over Central Michigan in the Miami Beach Bowl. Tulsa was swarmed by Ohio State, sure. But their other two losses (to Navy and Houston) were by a combined nine points. Early in the year, teams seemed to hang close with the Golden Hurricane, until about games four through six when they started putting a whole lot more distance between them and opponents.

That certainly lines up with what Babers has been projecting for Syracuse.

There are plenty of caveats that come with the Tulsa comparison, of course. Montgomery’s able to tap right into nearby Texas talent, which is tailor-made for this attack. And the schedule’s difficulty is also a lot more forgiving than anything the Orange face year-to-year. Still, Tulsa scored 42.5 points per game this year (10th in the nation), and did so with a roster mostly stocked with the previous regime’s players.

Babers has his work cut out for him in year two, with five games against probable ranked teams on the schedule. But with recruiting trending up and gearing itself toward players that are natural fits for his system, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before the results start rolling in. Montgomery’s success feels like proof. We’ll be watching games four through six very closely next year.