After the Syracuse Orange football team was pummeled on Saturday against Louisville, you’d be forgiven for feeling a little uncomfortable about the team’s bowl odds. Betting on the victory of one of the last two games would be quite risky regardless of the opponent. But Syracuse faces the NC State Wolfpack and Pittsburgh Panthers.
Last week’s college football playoff standings had both teams in the top 25 (State as No.16 and Pitt as No.21), and it stands to reason that both will remain in place when the new standings are released. Tuesday evening. In addition to the obvious strength of the two enemies, there is also the issue of Syracuse’s recent history against the Wolfpack and the Panthers, respectively.
When it comes to NC state, that’s really the whole series, to be honest. The Oranges are only 2-12 against the Pack, including two straight losses – which no one here ever wants to discuss again. SU’s only road victory against NC State dates back to 2013, and while games have been relatively close since, ‘Cuse appears to have been bitten against this team, regardless of venue.
And then there’s Pitt …
While Syracuse has already won 11 straight games against the Panthers from 1991 to 2001, and is 19-17-3 against them at home (where this game will be played), the past two decades have done a disservice to Orange in this series. Despite having faced each other every year in that streak, Syracuse has only beaten Pitt three times since 2004, and all of those wins have ended with seven points or less. Pitt has claimed three straight wins, with SU’s last victory coming in 2017 (a 27-24 game at the Dome).
If Syracuse loses to NC State and comes into the final game needing a win to go bowling, we’ve seen similar situations in the past as well. SU was 5-6 heading into the last weekend against Pitt in 2011, and lost 33-20 to the Panthers. Failing to hit a bowl game after starting 5-4 wouldn’t be as bad as this season, when the Orange started 5-2 before losing five straight games. But avoiding that kind of collapse would give us little comfort as fans.
Notably, Syracuse has a few 5-5 starts in recent history. The 2000 team started 5-5, then beat Rutgers in the final match to get six wins without bowl. In 2003, 5-5 turned into a bowlless 6-6 after the Orange defeated our Lady in the season finale and in 2004, the game Diamond Ferri helped turn 5-5 into 6-5 and a joint Great East title – although we don’t talk about what happened next. We’ve covered 2011 above, while the 2012 squad won the last three games after starting 5-5 to get to 8-5 this year. The 2013 SU team also recovered from a 5-5 start to finish at 7-6 with a bowl victory over Minnesota.
So if the history of the opponent is not reassuring, at least the Orange is used to winning sixth victories in this situation?