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Syracuse football 2018: the journey is the destination

College football has never been about the end. No, for the majority of teams, it’s all about the ride. And for the first time in a while, Syracuse is getting a chance to have some fun along the way, too.

Louisville v Syracuse Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

The Syracuse Orange football team is back.

How’s that for a provocative lead, huh? Grab your attention right from the beginning.


“Shouting Head Guy” has a big proclamation!

Seriously, though, this isn’t just the #HotTake coming at you. Syracuse is 8-2 overall, 5-2 in the ACC, and carrying a No. 12 national ranking. Dino Babers has the Orange in the national conversation. When did you ever think you’d hear pundits proclaim the Orange as a team’s roadblock to potentially playing for the title? Hell, there’s a scenario, however convoluted it might be, that has Syracuse making its way to the College Football Playoff.

Louisville v Syracuse Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Is that “back” enough for ya?

Seriously, is it?

Now being “back” for the Orange probably can’t be defined by having the potential, albeit improbable, opportunity to play for a national title. That’s because Syracuse was never there to begin with, at least not for a few decades. No, this apposite SU is playing well above its previous class in life. Even with nostalgia factored: the last time Syracuse was ranked in top 15 was in 1998, and that team never was able to crack the top 10 and finished the season out with four losses.

It’s all in question, though, this idea of “back.” Which probably shouldn’t be answered just yet. At least not right now. Not with big games ahead, highlighted by the meeting with No. 3 Notre Dame this Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. I mean, it would be hard to say that the Orange hasn’t re-arrived if it ends the regular season with a record of 10-2 and plays in a New Year’s Day bowl game.

However, (or is it “HOWEVA!”)—and this is getting ahead of ourselves—Syracuse truly needs to follow up on whatever success 2018 brings. That doesn’t mean the Orange needs to be a top-12 team on a regular basis. But it does require that Syracuse wins more than it loses on a regular basis, that it ascends to the top-25 with some frequency, and that is competitive.

All of which would likely continue to happen so long as Babers sticks around for any elongated period of time. If he stays, eight to nine wins would be the barometer of a good season. Occasionally the Orange will get to double digit victories, and, conversely, sometimes it might struggle to get to the magic number of six. However, given what we’ve witnessed, Syracuse should rarely be the punching bag that it has been for far too long.

Louisville v Syracuse Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Then there is the other question when talking about being “back.”

Who took Syracuse football away in the first place?

Ohhhhh boy, that’ll elicit some fiery responses. Fans could claim Paul Pasqualoni let the program die on the vine. Others still would shout about how Greg “GERG” Robinson murdered Syracuse football in broad daylight. There’s also the group pointing to the administration for never having the wherewithal to pay up for quality assistants and for not handling head coaches the correct way.

That’s for another day, though.

Right now, as far as long-time fans should be concerned, this version of Syracuse has given them everything they could want and then some. With senior quarterback Eric Dungey leading the high-octane offense, and with a ball-hawking defense that’s equal parts maddening and breathtaking, the Orange has become must-watch. It’s producing big games, like this weekend’s match-up, and previous tilts at Clemson or home for NC State.

Each game, week to week, from September now through November has been...special. Cliche, but hasn’t it? Don’t you find yourself talking about Syracuse more than you have in years? Aren’t people who otherwise wouldn’t know Syracuse football from Syracuse foosball now bringing the team up seemingly out of the blue? We’re not talking about the end of the season or even next season. We’re talking about right now.

Let the Alabamas, Ohio States and the handful of other teams worry about the next game, the next month, the next season. We all understand that the dirty little secret, or maybe it’s an unwritten rule, is that only a handful of teams have legitimate chances at winning the championship on an annual basis. Just ask Central Florida about the College Football Playoffs. For the rest? it’s about the moments, the ups and downs and the entertainment along the way.

For far too long, Syracuse didn’t provide much of the positive side to football life. In 2018, that’s all changed. Who knows about 2019, about Babers’ future, and beyond. For now, for these moments, the football program at Syracuse University is back in style, back in the spotlight. It’s just simply back.