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What if... Syracuse won the Big East outright in 2012?

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In an alternate universe, Earth-44 to be exact, Syracuse Football looks ever so slightly different than the one we know.

Syracuse v Cincinnati Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Thanks to the powers of discarded Food Lion produce and dishonored contracts, I have found a way to view an alternate universe named Earth-44. Every time I visit this place, something has changed with Syracuse Football. This series will report my chronological travels to this alternate earth and the TNIAAM staff tries to figure out what it all means, since I can only view the one game I end up in. Today, I saw the 2012 game versus Cincinnati.

Previously — What If: 2010; What If... 2011

Scenario: My time machine is getting better, and I’m reliving a game I watched in person from the sidelines: a 2012 matchup with the Cincinnati Bearcats. Both Cincinnati and the Syracuse Orange are fighting for a crucial win in a log-jammed Big East, and Doug Marrone’s side leads 17-14 at halftime. But I remember what happens next: Jerome Smith will score the last points of the Orange’s day in the 3rd quarter, and a QB change leads to a Cincinnati win and eventual four-way tie for the Big East Crown.

But, after Munchie Legaux is pulled for Brendon Kay, the Cincinnati touchdown never comes. Instead, Kay’s pass is picked off by Ri’Shard Anderson for his second of the day and returned to the house for a pick six! The Orange are up 31-21 and hold on to win 31-28, bumping to 4-1 in conference play. All I see as I’m sucked back to 2018 is a November 24 Post Standard, showing a celebrating Marrone with a mouth full of Oranges under the words “BIG EAST CHAMPS.”

What does it mean?

Who else has this shirt? I can’t be the only one.

John: That’s the sort of momentum the Orange really needed heading into the ACC. Sure, we had our best team by S&P+ standards in quite some time, but recruits and fans care about wins and losses. Pinstripe Bowls are fine. Orange Bowls (or Sugar Bowls) are better. Would Syracuse have beaten Florida in the Sugar the same way Louisville did? Perhaps not. But the fact that we got there, win or lose, would’ve shown SU as a program building toward something. No matter who took over as coach, the recruiting class could’ve stayed largely intact (was top-40ish at one point), and Syracuse would’ve been better situated with talent in its new league home.

Personally, I think Syracuse lose the Orange Bowl, but a BCS bowl bid revitalizes a fan base. More importantly, Doug Marrone leaving becomes a forgone conclusion once everyone hears the Buffalo rumblings and instead of looking like a “traitor,” he’s remembered far more fondly and understood for cashing in on a BCS run. Perhaps more importantly, the DOCTOR has the courage to go out and look for a new head coach from outside the org. Instead of hiring Scott Shafer, the Orange have to decide between Temple Head Coach Steve Addazio or Marrone recommended New York Giants Assistant Offensive Line Coach Matt Ruhle.