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Syracuse football: the Dino Babers era comes down to the next five games

Just like we all thought it would

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Florida State Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

The vibes around the 2023 Syracuse Orange football season are awful right now. That’s expected after the Orange enter the bye week on a three-game losing streak. The losing streak was expected, but the play during the games (and the coaching decisions) sure aren’t inspiring confidence in the program.

Here’s the reality folks. The final five games aren’t just about Dino Babers’ job status, they are critical to the future of this program. I get the frustration, especially with the return of no one’s favorite game show “Why are you kicking Dino?”. It’s no fun to watch the program get embarrassed for three weeks in a row on national tv.

The issue comes from fans wanting to complain about wins. Look it doesn’t matter how it happens, the goal is to get to a bowl game. No one cared when BC or Duke or Wake or Pitt spend the last decade loading up on an easier OOC schedule to make bowl games while Syracuse battled LSU or USC. The program needs to get the extra bowl practices, even if those bowl games aren’t what you want them to be. That’s how you build program depth and get players ready to step into starting roles.

Bowl games of any kind make the program more appealing to recruits and transfers. The schools Syracuse is often recruiting against are the ones the Orange face down the stretch. Beating them and ending up in better bowl spots can help build the talent necessary to become more competitive in whatever the ACC looks like in the next couple of years.

Despite the scores the last two weeks, most of us would agree that the defense gives you the most hope for the final stretch. Rocky Long’s group missed an early shot at a turnover but kept the game from getting out of hand until they wore down in the second half. None of the final five quarterbacks on the schedule are remotely close to Klubnik, Maye and Travis and The Mob might be enable the Orange to grind out some wins.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Florida State Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

Now here’s another reality, Syracuse won’t get two more wins playing offense like they have the last three weeks. Despite only getting a field goal, I thought yesterday’s game plan was better. There was more effort to get the ball to LeQuint Allen. There was more pre-snap motion. The biggest problem was Garrett Shrader had his worst game of his Syracuse career. Can he reset and find the level of play he displayed in the first four games?

Shrader’s not the only one with a need for a reset. The Orange offensive line could be the biggest beneficiary of the bye. Will it be enough to get Kalan Ellis back? He didn’t travel so it might be one of those week-to-week injuries that is a full season. His return would certainly help the interior run game as the Orange face a number of weak run defenses. Even without Ellis, does an extra week of practice allow this group to get better connected on the field? Allen rushing for over 100 yards is a positive sign.

Another positive sign is that the Orange won’t face the same type of defense they’ve faced in this gauntlet. These five opponents have been up and down all year. Many Syracuse fans point to their best results, while ignoring the losses these teams have suffered.

4-3 with 5 games to go isn’t where we hoped Syracuse would be, but it’s where we expected them to be. The final five games will determine the future of the coaching staff so let’s let them play out before we decide to reboot the program.