Picture if you will a Syracuse football season opener. The Orange are hosting an FCS program in the Carrier Dome. Any fears that a horrible upset is about to occur are subdued fairly quickly and the Orange roll to a convincing victory.
Sounds familiar, right? It’s what happened last Friday.
It’s also what happened in 2015 when Syracuse defeated Rhode Island 47-0 to start the season. They even followed that up with convincing win over Wake Forest and then survived in overtime against Central Michigan. You might remember the epic press conference that followed that game.
“3-0! 24 Years! 3-0! 24 Years!..."let's not lose that with our questions...let's not twist it, turn it, let's give these kids credit."
Scott Shafer’s message was that HOW Syracuse won was not important, only that they did win, and to question otherwise was to miss the point.
Only...that was the point, wasn’t it? Shafer didn’t want people poo-pooing SU’s three wins over opponents they were supposed to beat and wanted everyone to think those three wins were proof that the Orange could beat LSU, FSU, and Clemson. But when you did twist it and turn it, you realized none of that was true. Syracuse looked good against bad opponents and when they actually had to play good teams, the whole house of cards came tumbling down.
NOW. I’m not saying that’s what’s going to happen in 2016. I said in the preseason predictions that SU would finish 5-7 and I still stand firm by that prediction. I also still think that is a very good expectation for the season ahead, especially given the schedule that awaits us.
But what I’m seeing around Cuse Nation has me a bit concerned. A lot of Syracuse fans putting their “floors” at 6-6 and even 7-5. A lot of Syracuse fans expecting wins over Louisville, Notre Dame, and maybe even FSU. A lot of Syracuse fans who see an 8-4 record not as a hope but as a reasonable result.
All I want to say is....sloooooooow down, everyone.
Fact: Syracuse defeated Colgate.
What It Means: Syracuse won a game it was supposed to win against an inferior opponent at home.
Fact: Syracuse’s offense looked better than it’s ever looked.
What It Means: Against an inferior opponent full of less talented athletes, this offense can purr. We don’t know yet what will happen when five-star DBs are lining up against it. Not to mention we really don’t know how good this SU defense is yet.
Fact: FSU struggled, Notre Dame lost
What It Means: Both teams played high-quality opponents (Ole Miss, Texas) vastly superior to Colgate and therefore to draw a straight line of any kind between Fact 1 and Fact 2 is ludicrous.
Fact: Syracuse is 1-0
What It Means: Literally the same thing it meant last year. Nice start but it had no bearing on the rest of the season.
As a reminder, I want Syracuse to go 12-0. Hell, I want Syracuse to go 15-0. I’m also not crazy enough to think that’s going to happen. Miracles in college football come in small doses. Maybe we will knock off Louisville this Friday or beat Notre Dame in a couple weeks. But they both might blow us out, too. Same goes for FSU and Clemson.
As for “sure-wins” like UConn, USF, and Wake Forest, remember 2015 when we all thought the USF game was a sure-win? We didn’t win it. Remember in 2015 when Virginia felt like a sure-win? We didn’t win it. Hell, it took us overtime to beat a MAC team in what was supposed to be a “sure-win.”
Points is, there are no sure-wins from here on out. Yes, Syracuse looked great in week one but it was week one.
I say all of this not to scold people (well, maybe a little) but to prepare them. I see a lot of expectations creeping out of whack right now and that makes me nervous. Not so much because you’ll be disappointed but because of what you’ll do with that disappointment. If you’re assuming Syracuse will finish 7-5 or 8-4 now and they end up 5-7, will you see that a disappointing season? Because that’s crazy. You’re setting yourself, and Dino Babers, up for failure.
I hope Syracuse beats Louisville this weekend. The odds say they won’t but college football is a wacky sport. Sometimes crazy things happen and I go into every Syracuse football game hoping for crazy. But I’m also aware of reality and the need to temper expectations.
Like the platitude says, let’s take it one game at a time.