As Andy pointed out on Sunday, losing close to a ranked team probably means nothing. The Syracuse Orange fell 35-26 to the LSU Tigers on the road in front of a national audience. We all watched it, of course. And so did some select media while “bigger” games were happening.
Recruits also watched it — most notably four-star 2018 commit Tyrone Sampson, who had this to say post-game:
People ask me why I committed to Syracuse, that's why. When this 2018 class gets there we will be beating teams in games like this— T. Sampson#⃣5⃣1⃣ (@TSamp_51) September 24, 2017
That amped up a lot of Orange fans, and rightfully so. Sampson’s been an active recruiter and leader promoting the program since he committed months ago. His presence has helped draw interest for the class of 2018, and having an ambassador like that is a huge boost.
But when you look outside of the recruiting spheres, the talk is minimal. Most of the weekly rankings haven’t moved Syracuse up much. The Saturday recap podcasts have barely mentioned the game at all, despite it involving a top-25 SEC team.
Our own players don’t really want to talk about what could’ve been either. Eric Dungey said as much right after the game, scoffing at the idea of any moral victories down in Baton Rouge.
Meanwhile, it’s easy to find national conversations about 4-0 teams like Duke and Wake Forest, among others. Those teams haven’t really beaten an opponent of acclaim, yet are primary discussion points heading into week five. No one cares that they’re 4-0 against lesser squads. They’re 4-0, in a sport where the main goal is not losing football games.
I don’t need to sell 98 percent of you on that concept, but it’s still worth reiterating as we progress past the first third of the season. No matter how fun these tough road trips may be for attendees. Or no matter how close the losses are on national TV, they’re still losses.
Our top-rated recruits see these games as opportunities because it proves there’s still a talent gap between us and elite programs. Fans like us see these as steps forward because we’re clamoring for a sign that there are better days ahead for Syracuse football.
There are, of course. But it’s going to take wins to get there.
I’m not poo-pooing a valiant effort on Saturday. There’s a lot of good to take from a tight game at LSU.
However, the rest of the country’s already moved on and we’re the only ones still talking about it. Losses, even to top 25 teams on national TV, are still losses. And they only become wins with better scheduling (which the program’s been addressing quite well), wins against lesser foes and — as a result -- better talent in the door.
We’re on our way there, too. Now hopefully the next time we’re up against a top-25 non-conference foe on the road (next November at Notre Dame), we’re having a completely different conversation.