We’ll start this by saying that stripping teams of wins is idiotic and pointless, and that the NCAA should just go ahead and reinstate any they’ve “removed” from the record — including the 1990 Syracuse Orange men’s lacrosse title and Jim Boeheim’s 101 wins (all of which any SU fan still counts anyway).
Additionally, we know that stripping a team of wins doesn’t also strip opponents or the original team of losses in the same stretch in question either. If it were up to us, Syracuse would have the entire GERG era completely expunged. Alas, we’re left with all the defeats and about half the original meager amount of Ws.
But we bring all of this up now because of recent developments in the ongoing college basketball corruption trial, which turned to football on Tuesday — and particularly, Martin Blazer, a financial advisor who testified that he paid players at various schools from 2000-14. Among those various schools you’ll find some familiar opponents: Alabama, Notre Dame, Michigan, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Northwestern and North Carolina.
Syracuse faced that group a total of 28 times, going 8-20 including a 4-11 record against Pitt. They were 2-2 against Notre Dame, 1-3 vs. Northwestern, 0-3 against Penn State and 1-1 vs. UNC. Now, obviously we’ll keep the wins. Those (in particular the 2008 win over Notre Dame) were fun. But the losses? Think we’re cool with getting rid of those and retroactively fixing the season results because this is an offseason article that lets us do just that.
So, the five games we’d most want back, assuming they’re covered under this hypothetical:
1. Pittsburgh 33, Syracuse 20 (2011)
The most obvious one because there’s very clear stakes. After starting 5-2 that season (including a West Virginia drubbing on national TV that remains a favorite of Orange fans to this day), Syracuse lost four straight and needed a win in the final game to go bowling. Pitt also needed win No. 6, and the teams were locked in a tight contest late... until they weren’t, with turnovers dooming SU late. Syracuse takes the Birmingham Bowl from the Panthers, which is maybe a bigger punishment than it’s worth.
2. Northwestern 42, Syracuse 41 (2012)
There were hints that 2012 could be special throughout this game, and beating the Wildcats would’ve been a coup for Syracuse in the season opener. But a phantom late hit call doomed the Orange and started the year with a defeat. A win could’ve meant SU goes 9-4 that year, maybe breaks into the rankings and potentially even takes the Big East’s BCS bid too.
3. Notre Dame 31, Syracuse 15 (2014)
This one is just for the sake of saving face in primetime and scoring a win over ND at MetLife. Would’ve been fun.
4. Penn State 23, Syracuse 17 (2013)
The Drew Allen era nearly started with a “big” win over PSU, but the Orange fell just short in New Jersey. On the other hand, if he hadn’t, then the Terrel Hunt era may have been delayed a year which could’ve meant no Texas Bowl in 2013. Then maybe Hunt’s career plays out differently and perhaps Dungey doesn’t take the field in 2015, meaning Dino Babers never arrives, and... I’ve just butterfly effected this thing into oblivion.
5. Pittsburgh 17, Syracuse 16 (2013)
It would’ve been nice to be 6-5 going into the final game that season against Boston College. Though clinching bowl eligibility a week earlier may have made the BC game less stressful, it also could have erased this fantastic Ivan Foy gif from our memories. Tough trade-off.
Any others in there you’d be anxious to toss out/reverse? Share your own alternate histories below.