Dino Babers loves analogies and he uses them frequently. But the cake one’s always been a favorite of mine (obviously, since I use it for #content nearly every week). It’s simple and it makes sense. You don’t want to taste the cake until it’s done. If you do, you probably won’t get the result you’re looking for.
Well, after last night’s 27-24 upset, I can tell you that Babers’s cake isn’t yet done. However, you can see we’re getting close to pulling it out of the oven.
“Year two, game four to six” was what we’d been told about this team, this offense. Ends up it might’ve been year two, game seven. Though even then, I’d say the offense still has work to do. Meanwhile, in an unexpected turn, it’s been the defense helping make up for the offense’s slower-than-assumed development. That aggressive front-seven (which was amazing last night) is making this team look a whole lot different than we’d imagined. And yet, it’s working.
It’s like we tried to make a pound cake and wound up with a Bundt cake. Both are quality cakes in their own rights. But you wouldn’t expect an attempt to make one to turn out like the other.
For this Syracuse team, we expected a high-flying offense and a defense that had to get better while implementing the Tampa-2. What we have is an offense that’s gaining steam but inconsistent, paired with a defense that’s aggressive as hell with pressure and is among the best third down units in the country.
That’s not bad. But again, it’s not the cake we figured was baking.
It’s also not the finished product either. That pound cake may still end up a pound cake anyway. You can see the bumps -- the broken coverage, endless penalties and stalled out drives. But while those seemed to overtake the results last season, Syracuse is succeeding in spite of them in 2017.
And that’s what makes this such a surprising — and downright awesome result. If Syracuse can do THIS without an offensive line, or any defensive line depth, and some young defensive backs, and no run game, and a banged-up quarterback... then what the hell is this cake going to taste like when it’s finally done?
That’s the fun of all of this, really. In hiring Babers, Syracuse looked at what it had done previously and said, “let’s try something else.” That brings mystery, excitement and opportunity. No, opponents won’t always be looking ahead or lackadaisical at the Dome like Clemson was. And it’s unlikely anyone looks past us again while Babers is still here.
A win like this is program-changing, but that doesn’t mean you’re just going to win out after it. As we saw following the Virginia Tech game in 2016, the work isn’t done once you get the big upset. The cake’s not done just because you upset a top opponent (even one as good as Clemson).
Keep that in mind during Syracuse’s next two games. Remind yourself the work’s not done yet. If Syracuse is 6-3 after week 10, then sure, we can start puffing our chests out a bit. Though if the Orange end up 4-5, that’s no reason to think it was a false start. Even the best teams can’t win every game against talented foes. We’re building and getting better. But this is just the beginning of what Babers is creating at SU.