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Whose house? Well, it kind of depends

It’s a tradition unlike any other: Syracuse taking a home loss in a game it should or could win. Can the Orange avoid that annual hiccup this weekend?

Connecticut v Syracuse Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images

The chants echoing throughout the Carrier Dome serve as something of a reminder to the visitors, and sometimes even to the home team.

“Whose house?”

“Our house!”

Annoying to some; energizing to others.

It’s definitely not a new chant, with it resonating on courts and fields all over, yet Syracuse Orange head coach Dino Babers has seemingly coined it through the last couple of years. Babers first pulled the not-quite riddle out of his hat after his team upset nationally-ranked Virginia Tech back in 2016. (You bet your ass we’ve embedded the video!)

The head man then belted out another beauty of a speech with a “whose house?” crescendo after last season’s take down of Clemson. (You bet your ass we’ve embedded the video!)

“Whose house” has become a part of the game-day experience in Syracuse. Cheerleaders and in-Dome announcers loudly ask, “Whose house?” throughout game, and most fans surrounding the field scream back, “Our house!” It’s even the theme for this week’s Orange Central Home Coming t-shirt.

Love it or hate it, Babers started something in Syracuse that has actually stuck, a sort of new tradition for a program lacking in unique customs.

It’s interesting though, because sometimes the chants are more messages to certain opponents. As in, “you’re not in South Carolina anymore, Clemson!” Other times, however, they could be taken like an alarm clock going off: “Wake up, Syracuse, this is your turf!”

Understand this: Dino Babers, Syracuse football head coach has already done one hell of a job. He has changed SU and made it entertaining and interesting. Recently, Syracuse, despite the clunker at Pitt two weeks ago, has that look like it “belongs.” So the last two-plus years are more a reflection of where Syracuse was as a program, meaning the occasional head-scratching Dome loss, like say to Middle Tennessee (which had Scott Shafer has defensive coordinator, making it slightly less head-scratch worthy), is not fairly attributed to Babers.

Well before Babers and his speeches came to central New York, the home team has had issues winning the home games. Some of that is due to previous poor coaching, there’s also that whole major downturn in recruiting. And the quality of competition with conference and non-conference opponents certainly plays a role.

Still, since 2000, Syracuse has recorded one undefeated home slate, coming back in 2002. From the turn of the century, SU is averaging three losses on its home field per season. Factor in the Orange’s putrid 2-16 conference road record since 2014, and you can see why bowl berths and top-25 spots don’t come easy around here. Programs attempting to become relevant don’t typically win on the road too often, but when they also drop a few home games each season, it makes any type of true rebuild seem nearly impossible.

Whose house indeed.

Again, some of those losses came to highly-ranked Big East and Atlantic Coast Conference foes. Plenty of the defeats are also attributed to the tire-fire-inside-a-dumpster-fire Greg Robinson era (some of which have actually been wiped from the NCAA record books but not from our minds). Doug Marrone earned some Ls to teams like Minnesota because he, like Babers, was course-correcting, attempting to get the Titanic to veer away from the iceberg.

There are justifications, and Babers’ efforts to rebrand (#Brand) are admirable, but it’s just funny that the Dome, the weird concrete warehouse/sauna with a bubble on top, hasn’t really given Syracuse a more “home field” advantage through the years.

That’s the backdrop as North Carolina (1-4, 1-2) shows up to play in Syracuse this weekend. The Orange currently stands at 3-0 in the Dome this season, and should go no worse than 5-1 according to the odds—with nationally-ranked N.C. State the only likely projected loss. Otherwise, two more victories (presumably over the Heels and Louisville) would push SU to that vaunted six-win threshold and, at the bare minimum, give Babers and crew a very important bowl berth.

Beating North Carolina on its face won’t shove the Orange back into national conversations. It would, however, mean that Syracuse can take care of business at home. Getting up for a top-tier team is one thing, finishing the job against the other-tier is another thing.

There is little doubt that as of right now, at this point, North Carolina is in that “other tier,” with its fans likely thinking more about 2019 than 2018. Yet, UNC nearly beat Virginia Tech last weekend, losing 22-19. The Tar Heels were even up 19-14 and were knocking on the goal line when Michael Carter fumbled at the one. Tech took the ensuing possession for the game-clinching score. Heartbreaking for Larry Fedora’s group, but also a possible sign of life from a program that has gone 4-13 in its last 17 contests. Further, 13 players who were caught up in the “sneaker sale scandal” and suspended various games to start the season are all back now.

Meaning that heavy-favorite Syracuse, playing inside the so-called “Loud House,” could very well be in for a tough one against the Heels. It might be one of those Lee Corso Specials: closer than the experts predicted. The records point to an Orange win, but we’ve been here before, haven’t we?

Orange fans have seen their team lose one of these types of games over the years. Sure, it’s not like UNC is a “must win,” not when there are games against the Cards and Wake Forest still ahead. Plus, Syracuse will get big-opportunity games against NC State and Notre Dame, too. But if Saturday is a slug fest and not a rout, will playing inside the Dome, in front of however many fans, be it 30,000 or 35,000, matter for the home team? Will the game’s setting factor in the end?

Babers, like many before him, initially spoke about wanting to truly have a home-field advantage, improving to 4-0 would go a long way toward making that hope a reality.

Maybe before long, the chant will fade from the Dome? Maybe everyone will simply already know: it’s Syracuse house.