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 1988 Sugar Bowl.
Previously — What If: 2010; What If: 2011 What If: 2012 What if: 2013
Scenario: I always dreamed this day would come. After seeing years of modern Syracuse Orange football, I’ve finally broken the barrier between me and some of the most historic games in the team’s history. And the now I’m watching a Sugar Bowl vs Syracuse and Auburn.
I can’t believe I’m seeing (should-be) Heisman winning trophy winner Don McPherson struggle through against an Auburn defense who sacks him five times. He still manages to be effective, throwing for a touchdown and setting up Syracuse to score 16 points. Up 16-13, I watch Auburn move their way down the field. I know what’s coming next; a cowardly decision that will define a coach and a program.
With four seconds left on the Orange 13-yard line, I was waiting for the kicking team to get on the field. Wait... Is that... That’s Reggie Slack! He’s coming out under center. The ball is hiked and... I’m sucked back to 2018 and don’t know if ‘Cuse won or lost the 1988 Earth-44 Sugar Bowl.
What does it mean?
John: Given how much both teams struggled on offense, there’s a pretty good shot that Syracuse holds on in this one. The win means a 12-0 season for the Orangemen, lofting them up from their real-world No. 4 finish to second place behind Miami. A split title would’ve been a tall order, but we just needed one publication to back the idea, and then those t-shirts are 100-percent valid.
Personally, I’m still in shock. I can feel that Orange defense held on, as the whole game both sides were able to stay strong all game. More importantly, an undefeated season capped with a Sugar Bowl? This doesn’t reframe the Orange’s legacy in our minds, as we knew how good this team was. But college football is all about media perception, and the Orange now enter 1988 as a National Contender and potential defending co-champion.