The Syracuse Orange football team surprised everyone with a 10-win season. And while those can be commonplace for some programs, doing so at Syracuse does help a team inhabit a special place in Syracuse history.
Winning 10 games in 2018 marked just the seventh time it’s ever happened for the Orange, obviously putting them in elite company. But where does this season rank compared to the rest of those? An attempt to put numbers in front of things:
1. 1959: 11-0 (National Champions, won Cotton Bowl)
The lone unbeaten, untied team in Orange(men) history, this squad represents SU’s lone national title season. Syracuse was the country’s top offense, scoring 37.5 points per game, while allowing just 6.6 — including five shutouts. There’s a movie (“The Express”) shining a spotlight on the team and Ernie Davis. I’d include them among some of the most impressive teams in the history of the sport.
2. 1987: 11-0-1 (“National Champions,” tied Sugar Bowl)
Pat Dye is a coward, Beyond that, the Heisman voters were as well. Even if the title claim is more humorous than anything else, this team was elite and Don McPherson was robbed. The Orangemen were truly tested just twice all year, against West Virginia and Auburn. When you look for the modern standard for SU’s excellent, this balanced team full of playmakers on both sides of the ball is it.
3. 1992: 10-2 (won Fiesta Bowl)
The 1992 team’s schedule is likely what some fans are looking for when they pine for schedules littered with “name’ opponents. Syracuse faced both Texas and Ohio State in non-conference play, going 1-1, and wound up 6-1 in the fledgling Big East with wins over two ranked teams, plus a narrow loss to No. 1 Miami. A season-ending win over Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl locked up their second top-10 finish in six years.
4. 1991: 10-2 (won Hall of Fame Bowl)
Fans will likely remember this season for knocking off No. 5 Florida at the Dome and scaring the Gators away from ever leaving the state in non-conference play again. But other than that, a two-game losing streak (dammit, ECU) was all that scuttled what could have been an even bigger season for Syracuse. The Orange capped things with a win over Ohio State — their third victory over a top-25 team on the year (in four tries).
5. 2001: 10-3 (won Insight.com Bowl)
Without this season, perhaps the fading returns of the Paul Pasqualoni era would’ve come to light and led to a coaching change sooner. But following two straight five-loss campaigns, Syracuse managed to win 10 here; made more impressive by the fact that they lost two straight to start, then grabbed Ws in 10 of the last 11 games. The win over No. 5 Virginia Tech is the highlight, even if the 59-0 loss to Miami remains glaring. Stomping Kansas State in the bowl game was nice, though.
6. 2018: 10-3 (won Camping World Bowl)
You shouldn’t need much of a refresher given it just happened. Syracuse started the season 4-0, lost two straight (including a near-upset at Clemson), then climbed to 8-2 before losing to Notre Dame. They’d cap the year with two straight wins, including a bowl triumph over a top-15 West Virginia squad. Perhaps the lone knock on the year is zero wins over teams included in the final top-25. But that doesn’t much matter, except for this exercise.
7. 1988: 10-2 (won Hall of Fame Bowl)
SU began 1988 unranked, and after an early 26-9 loss to Ohio State, it would take them until late October to jump into the polls (thanks, win over Penn State). The Orangemen would remain there for the rest of the year, however, scoring 23 points or more in ever game but one — the 31-9 loss to No. 4 West Virginia. Closing the season with a double-digit bowl win over LSU is potentially enough to help them leap over 2018 for these rankings, but we won’t for conversation purposes.
Agree? Disagree vehemently? Have a passionate argument for why 1991 or 1988 should be higher? Let’s chat in the comments.