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It’s time to re-calibrate those Syracuse football expectations

Orange Bowl is off the table. 10 wins is off the table. So now what?

Syracuse v North Carolina State Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Remember when there were people (plenty of them here), very seriously, talking about how there existed a path for the Syracuse Orange to earn a bid to the Orange Bowl? Or how if all broke just right, even with the ugly loss to Maryland on the resume, a chance to win the ACC? Those times seem so long ago.

But they weren’t. They were just weeks before the Orange lost to the N.C. State Wolfpack 16-10 in a truly ugly game that will stick in the minds of fans for a long time. Not just because the Orange offense looked like a JV squad learning the hurry-up for 3 12 quarters. Not just because the officiating was suspect at the end. Not just because Matt Hasselbeck and Pat McAfee bordered on unwatchable calling the game. They’ll remember this game because there wasn’t a single moment in this game that had anyone thinking “Boy, the Orange will achieve the best possible outcome in this situation,” and that feeling sat with us for over three hours.

And we have to accept that a version of this feeling will now permeate the remainder of Syracuse’s season. There’s no way the Orange are getting 10 wins (nine plus a bowl win) with this offense. There’s almost no way I can see them getting nine wins. Hell, I hate my 8-win projection from the preseason! The goalposts have shifted in the minds of many to 6 wins. That’s what the Orange need.

Some people are going to look at this as a negative; Fans are moving Dino’s goalposts to make him look better. Others will say that the fact that we’ve moved the goalposts at all is a failure of season. Others will say that it’s “disappointing” that we’ve gotten to a point of just hoping for a bowl.

News flash: Until the Orange are recruiting talent at a top-25/30 level, there shouldn’t be consistent top 25 expectations. Until the Orange are bringing in revenue through tickets, boosters and other mediums like a top-25 program, there shouldn’t be (consistent) top-25 expectations.

I’m not saying the teams can never expect to be good, but college football is no longer a game where an unknown team can just assume power due to hard work — actually, it hasn’t been for some time. College football is a business, and like the rest of the business world, you need money to make more money, and most top 25 schools have had that machine up and running long before Doug Marrone stepped foot on Syracuse’s campus.

Too dark? Let’s try this instead; Dino Babers’ rebuild of the program wasn’t finished last year. Expecting it to be was putting the cart in front of the horse. Last year’s team was proof of concept that a Babers style team, when things broke right, could take advantage of a lack of quality from other schools. This year’s team is showing that the depth isn’t there yet to sustain that success when everyone is mired in the same mud puddle while Clemson watches.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at North Carolina State Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

This is the reality for Syracuse. The hope is that Dino elevates the program out of “just earn a bowl” territory, but look at Boston College: Steve Addazio is learning that even a few seasons of that attitude morphs quickly into a demand for the next leap, even if the infrastructure to support it isn’t there.

The Orange season is far from over, regardless of what your bandwagon neighbor says. The team could very much improve and become a better version of that poop emoji we watched. But their goal isn’t to win out, it’s to get to a bowl. Continue building momentum as a consistent postseason team. Get those practices for this offensive unit.

It might not be as sexy, but a Gasparilla Bowl is just as important to the Orange program building as an Orange Bowl this year.