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Syracuse football: Dino Babers’ greatest challenge

If the Orange want to qualify for a bowl this weekend, they need to overcome one of their toughest hurdles in recent years

Virginia v Syracuse Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

The Syracuse Orange have risen to No. 18 in the rankings, riding the coattails of a 5-0 undefeated record. First standing in their way for the sixth win is No. 15 NC State. If Syracuse is going to go bowling this weekend, it’s going to need to do something that traditionally has not been easy under Dino Babers.

Win after the bye week.

Rutgers v Syracuse Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images

Conventional football wisdom would have you believe that a bye week greatly helps your team for two reasons. One, you get an extra week to rest and have players performing at maximum efficiency, especially those carrying minor injuries. Two, you get an extra week to prepare and game plan for your upcoming opponent.

However, for whatever reason, Syracuse teams under Dino Babers have not found that success after a bye week often. In fact, the Orange under Babers are 2-6 after a bye. And because I know some of you are morbidly curious, here’s a year-by-year breakdown of when the bye was and the game result afterwards.

Syracuse after a bye week under Dino Babers

Year Bye Week Game After Result
Year Bye Week Game After Result
2016 Week 9 (October 29) Loss at Clemson 54-0
2017 Week 9 (October 28) Loss at Florida State 27-24
2018 Week 7 (October 13) Win vs North Carolina 40-37 (2OT)
2019 Week 6 (October 5), Week 11 (November 9) Loss at NC State 16-10, Win at Duke 49-6
2020 Week 4 (October 3), Week 10 (November 14) Loss vs Duke 38-24, Loss at Louisville 30-0
2021 Week 10 (November 6) Loss at Louisville 41-3

Let’s take a look at the two wins first. The 2018 win fans remember because that was the game Tommy DeVito came in for Eric Dungey to lead the second half comeback. The 2019 win was not too noteworthy since that Duke team was awful.

How about the losses? The blowouts in 2016, 2020 and 2021 speak for themselves. The 2020 Duke loss probably should have been a win also but the Orange looked lethargic. The 2017 FSU game saw Cam Akers run for 199 yards against Syracuse. And if you want to know about the 2019 NC State game, ask John Cassillo. I’m sure he’d love to tell you about that game.

Wagner v Syracuse Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images

The common trend among these games is that Syracuse started slow in pretty much every single one of them. It seems like the extra rest backfires against the Orange as the team needs time to get back to game speed.

Of note, this year will only be the third time that the Orange play at home after a bye week under Babers. Those games were the 2018 UNC win and the 2020 Duke loss. But both games inherited the same problem - a slow start.

Syracuse needs to energize quickly to set the tone at home and start shedding the demons of the bye week slump. It won’t be easy against a top-15 defense according to SP+ in NC State, but after a 5-0 start, I guess anything is possible.