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Syracuse football: Would beating Louisville do more harm than good?

Just hear me out for a sec...

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

“Would Syracuse football beating Louisville in week two do more harm than good?”

It’s the question I posed in the comments of yesterday’s article about the Syracuse Orange facing four ranked teams this coming season. The first of those is the Louisville Cardinals, who come in at no. 23 in week two.

I’m not high on SU’s chances to beat the Cards, admittedly. Back in April, I put the Orange’s chances of victory at a paltry 20 percent. It’s not that I don’t want Syracuse to win. I just don’t think it does them any favors if the season goes south afterward. Why? A look at some history:

In 2011, Syracuse endured a back-and-forth start but got to 4-2 before a Friday night home game against a top-15 West Virginia team. We all know what happened next. The Orange shellacked the Mountaineers, got to 5-2 and everyone started talking about Doug Marrone working miracles and getting SU to the Orange Bowl in year three. They’d finish 5-7.

In 2013, after an uneven first season in the ACC, Syracuse beat a “much better” Minnesota team in the Texas Bowl to finish the year 7-6. It looked like Scott Shafer had the program right where Marrone left it and hopes were high for continued improvement. They’d go 7-17 over the next two years.

So sorry if I seem pessimistic. It’s just that I (and you) have been here before. We come in with modest expectations and then the second something good happens, we’re off the rails, predicting conference and national championships, Heisman Trophies, etc. As Syracuse fans we’ve seen too much, yet we do this too often anyway. The two seasons above are the most obvious examples, but we have micro-irrational tendencies too. After barely under two games, Eric Dungey was a savior last year. After committing to the Orange, Robert Washington was the next 44. I’m excited about Tommy DeVito potentially being Syracuse’s next great quarterback. But I can’t just convince myself of it before he’s even on campus.

You get what I’m saying. And that’s just when it comes to the football program...

Yes, I’ll be cheering for the Orange to beat Louisville at the Dome in week two. And no, I can’t predict what happens over the course of the next 10 games. But remember this conversation if SU gets to 2-0, and then proceeds to drop the following game to USF in week three. Or if they get to 3-0 (“ONE YEAR!”), we’ll all start telling ourselves that the rebuild is done already, forgetting that we could still easily end up 4-8 or 5-7 — a mark we’ve already told each other we’re fine with here in August. We can’t do that. Not yet.

It wasn’t fair to change expectations on a dime for Marrone (and lash out at him when he didn’t meet them). And even I can admit it was unfair to change the outlook for Shafer too after one season we should’ve been thankful to make a bowl at all. So if Babers beats a ranked team in his second game, have this bookmarked... at least until we have a bit more proof that we’re done chasing ghosts and SU is indeed, finally “back.”