Let’s get the obvious out of the way: the Syracuse Orange football program had one of the most successful seasons in modern team history last year, winning 10 games; among them the best non-Playoff bowl the ACC was allotted.
Internally, we knew momentum would build after a campaign like that, and it looks like the media wants to hop on that bandwagon now heading into 2019. In their recent series “The Top 25* Coaches in College Football,” The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman and Stuart Mandel each ranked Dino Babers; Feldman at 14, Mandel at 19.
For the first time in a very long time, Syracuse football is on the “National Stage (TM).” That comes with expectations, but it also means as we move into the summer previews, Syracuse will be a team these prognostigators actually watch. Unless you’re a freak like Bill C. (more on him in a minute), selecting the Orange out of the vastness that is college football is a big step for the program.
But it’s something we didn’t have to see this year. Take away the wins and look at the context of stats so many of these national writers bank on:
- The Orange finished the year 40th in S&P+ final overall ratings. Good, but not great.
- They finished 43rd in offensive efficiency, and lost their record setting quarterback, a top receiver and a top running back.
- The Orange were 72nd nationally in points allowed per game.
For all intents and purposes, the Orange fit the criteria of a team you “wait and see” on. You keep them on your radar, and if they have six wins going into November, you tune in all the way. I mention this not as a discouragement or indictment on any team, but rather, to point out how important Dino Babers is.
Dino’s getting recognized for his work turning around smaller programs, something national media routinely writes off unless there’s a history of a coaching tree at a smaller program bearing fruit. In Dino’s case, Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green are not that mold. Furthermore, as a team that has to play Clemson every year, it would be easy to say that ‘Cuse doesn’t warrant a national conversation until they knock off Clemson with zero losses.
Instead, the media has chosen to see what we as a fan base love about Dino; his infectious energy, his great quotes (that are often to distract you from the question he doesn’t want to answer), and his ability to sell players, boosters and anyone in a room on his vision. The 10 wins last season got everyone’s attention, and Dino has sold them that there’s more of them to come.
Now remember Bill C? He’s followed Dino’s rise through the MAC and rated Babers as one of the best overachievers in the game. While his S&P+ system may not love Syracuse, it sure likes Syracuse more than all but three teams on the Orange’s schedule this year. It sure feels like there’s a chance 2019 could replicate 2018.
That’s what will keep people tuned into Dino and Syracuse for more than just a viral post-game speech. And that’s what will keep Dino on these lists for the foreseeable future.