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Syracuse football: let’s not hit the panic button just yet

Dear Syracuse fans: think again about how far this team has come and where it could go.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Clemson Anderson Independent Mail-USA TODAY NETWORK

While it’s been a couple of days, the pain still resides from the Syracuse Orange football team’s close loss to the Clemson Tigers on Saturday.

The once-undefeated ‘Cuse lost 27-21 to Clemson, falling to 6-1 on the year and leaving the Tigers as the only remaining undefeated team in the ACC.

We can draft up a college-level thesis project on what went wrong for the Orange: Syracuse’s offense going away from Sean Tucker, Will Shipley’s A-grade performance against SU’s defense, the questionable calls, etc.

At the end of the day, we Syracuse fans can all agree that the loss left a bitter taste in our mouths. For once, we’ve seemed beatable. In our biggest test of the season, we failed.

Or did we?

The loss to Clemson divided the Syracuse fanbase into two factions. There’s the side that remains bitter over the Orange blowing what was easily a winnable game. Yes, Sean Tucker needed more touches. Of course, some penalties were questionable at best and egregious at worst. Absolutely, coach Dino Babers and company made some head-scratching calls. Without a doubt, the defense exhausted itself, which allowed Clemson to rush for nearly 300 yards and 3 touchdowns despite mediocre play from both their quarterbacks.

But, there’s another camp that believes perspective matters.

Clemson ranks as one of the best college football teams in recent memory. Minus last season, when the team finished #15th, the Tigers have finished top-4 in the AP Poll every season since 2015. Their backup quarterback was the number-one recruit from the Class of 2022. Before Saturday, Clemson had won 37-straight games in Death Valley.

NCAA Football: Purdue at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

And yet, the Orange was this close to pulling off a miracle on the road against one of the best teams in the country. That’s a testament to how talented and capable the ‘Cuse is against the best of the best.

Now, look at the bigger picture. Did we all think Syracuse was supposed to be this good? In August, the TNIAAM staff thought the Orange were, at best, a .500 team. Looking at Syracuse’s schedule to begin the year, I personally had the team around the four-to-five-win marker. Before the Orange’s 6-1 start this season, coach Babers was on the coaching hot seat after having an 11-24 record between 2019 and 2021. CBS Sports ranked Syracuse as the worst or second-worst team in the ACC Atlantic.

This team has, for obvious reasons, been compared to the Don McPherson-led Syracuse football team from 1987. After all, the 2022 edition of the Orange began 6-0 for the first time since that glorious ‘87 season.

But this team isn’t just a representation of past success. It’s a testament to the general growth of the football program this season.

Garrett Shrader took a leap that few expected. Sean Tucker picked up right where he left off. Oronde Gadsden has given the Orange a legitimate wide receiver threat the team lacked last year. The defense has stepped up big time. Internally, this team’s improvement is through the roof.

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Take a look at the road ahead for Syracuse. There’s still plenty of time for the Orange to build off their hot start this year. Other than Wake Forest, SU isn’t playing another ranked team (as the standings currently appear) for the rest of the season. Every game left on the schedule, including against Wake Forest, are winnable matchups.

Syracuse went above and beyond their preseason expectations. Most of the ACC teams have been flat-out disappointing. Just look at Miami, Florida State, Pittsburgh, and company. There’s a clear case to be made that Syracuse ranks second, behind Clemson, in all of the ACC.

Was the loss to Clemson crushing? Absolutely. Should the Orange have secured the win? To be honest, probably.

But as fans, let’s not lose sight of what we’ve accomplished and how much season there’s still to go.

Syracuse suffered a crushing defeat. Now comes the time for a major bounce back.

If this season has proven anything, it’s that the Orange still have many in the college football community to prove wrong.

As die-hard lovers for Syracuse, let’s not lose sight of that.