The Syracuse Orange football team is 5-4 so far, much to the surprise of many. But even more important than that, is that SU is just one win away from a bowl game — the program’s second since Dino Babers took over, and a necessary box to check for a lot of fans to feel content with this regime continuing on the sidelines.
Given the Orange’s long history of fairly middle-of-the-road football results, we were curious if a 5-4 start was indicative of anything good come the end of the season. Here’s what we found...
2013: 7-6, Texas Bowl
Following a disastrous effort vs. Georgia Tech, the Orange won two straight to get to 5-4 on the year. Then FSU stomped them to hell, and Pitt eked out a one-point win, forcing Syracuse into a do-or-die game against Boston College. We know how that turned out, as Terrel Hunt led a game-winning drive at the Dome and then SU won the Texas Bowl.
Starting 5-4 and finishing 5-7 is already bad enough. But most here know there’s much more to this specific story. Syracuse was 5-2 and the Big East favorite after drubbing West Virginia on national TV. Then they went ahead and lost five straight to wrap things up, including a 33-20 loss to Pitt to close things out with a bowl trip on the line. Ugh.
2004: 6-6, Champs Sports Bowl
A 38-31 win over Pitt propelled Syracuse to 5-4 on the year, back when there weren’t more bowls than winning teams. Then the Orange dropped a surprising game to Temple and needed to beat No. 17 Boston College to go bowling and retain a piece of the Big East title. The Diamond Ferri game was born, even if what happened next — Georgia Tech winning the bowl game by 37 and SU firing Paul Pasqualoni — wasn’t so great. Imagine if they’d just beaten Temple. Syracuse could’ve headed to the Fiesta Bowl to lose to Utah by 28 instead of Pitt. And maybe Coach P would’ve stuck around another year, helping us avoid GERG.
The Orange did some solid work in non-conference play, going 3-1 early and then closing things out with a 38-12 win over Notre Dame to get win No. 6. But in league play, SU was just 2-5, which contributed to them missing a bowl game despite the .500 record. This was a similar setup to 2011, really, with ‘Cuse starting 5-3, then dropping three straight before beating the Irish at the Dome.
This was the sort of season that would eventually set up Pasqualoni’s ouster. SU lost to both Cincinnati and ECU on the road, while also stomping BYU and Buffalo in non-conference play. They lost to both BC and Virginia Tech by a touchdown, and had four league wins. After the 5-4 start, they lost to Miami 26-0, then beat Rutgers 49-21 to close the year with six victories, but without the bowl structure in place to reward them for it.
So just two bowls there, but also four out of five seasons ended with six wins. Syracuse is obviously up against a tough slate to finish this year, but given what we’ve seen in recent games, it would no longer shock anyone to see them find a way to win at least one more time.