Considering that most of us typically have a hard time projecting the Syracuse Orange winning and losing records before they happen, I admit it’s hard to really understand the type of season. that awaits us.
As we’ve seen many times, we think we know what our offensive line looks like until we don’t. The quarterback’s situation seems settled until it isn’t. A ball carrier emerges. A linebacker doesn’t. Coaching goes off the rails. Injuries are increasing at an alarming rate.
For a schedule that doesn’t bring in a lot of elite talent each year, there are simply too many variables and too little consistency over the past two decades to try and pinpoint what any given season will look like in August. .
With that in mind, we come to the end of week five for Syracuse football in the 2021 season. SU is frustrating 3-2 or surprisingly 3-2 depending on your perspective. And while I still don’t pretend to know exactly where things are going in terms of wins and losses for this team, I’m going to tell you what kind of season we’re going to be looking at.
Yes, this is one of the those seasons.
What exactly do I mean by that?
Doug Marrone may not have pioneered these kinds of campaigns (‘sup, Coach P), but he’s our most recent benchmark for these types of seasons and the decidedly grueling games they contain. That doesn’t mean they’re all bad. But they will undoubtedly be stressful, winners or losers. We’re not doing anything particularly great, and we won’t be doing anything so bad that we have to blow everything up (although the passing game may challenge that assumption).
No, those the kinds of seasons are just “dumb” for lack of a better word. It’s not a blow to the players or the coaches, or to us as the fans. It’s just to say that every game in these kinds of seasons creates its own stages of mourning, winning or losing. You don’t feel good about what happened, but you also never feel bad enough to give up hope. You signed up for stress every Saturday (or Friday night, in some cases), and you just have to accept that fact.
We didn’t have one those seasons in a while, I admit. The Dino Babers years have been both happy and ugly. The Shafer years were a chore. You go back to Marrone’s tenure to really find those kinds of seasons, and you could say he’s had four in as many tries.
Near misses, close wins, questionable decisions and frustrating mistakes. The presence of hope and its sudden evaporation. These teams, no matter how ‘good’ or ‘bad’, have all made incredibly lucky and unlucky breaks that have likely taken years of our lives. But they fought and kept things interesting, regardless of the total wins at the end of the year.
As you read the paragraph above, you probably nod your head, recoil from some aspects of the 2009-12 seasons, smile at others, and then think about Saturday’s 33-30 loss to Florida State. It was Syracuse’s second straight game decided by a last-second field goal, although they found themselves on the losing side of that equation this time around. It was maddening to see how it had turned out, of course. You could also argue whether Syracuse could just as easily have won or lost this 10 point contest.
In September, I have to admit, I haven’t really seen this sort of season to come.
With Babers and his team definitely in the hot seat in the minds of most fans for 2021, it looked like the risks would lead to higher highs and lower lows, but not necessarily a product in the middle. We would define the year by if Babers saved his job, and that would be it. I was ready to bet on it even after a week of loss against Rutgers, on the negative side of the coin.
Since then we’ve seen how good this defense is and will apparently continue to be. But also the distinct offensive issues of the team, the excellence of Sean Tucker and the … Garrett Shrader of it all, for lack of another way to describe our once future and now current quarterback situation.
Shrader, ultimately, is the variable I couldn’t explain just a few weeks ago. And we still may not be able to figure out what he brings to Syracuse at this point, which is precisely why we are heading to one of the those seasons.
You saw it throughout the loss to Florida State. For every lame duck throw and questionable race decision, there was an electrifying sprint or ball that found the right receiver at the right time. It sounds a bit like the Eric Dungey experience, to the delight of many Orange fans, I bet. And while this is a fun game to play, I would like to warn that high tier returns seem unlikely to hit the same highs, while lows could be significantly lower.
It’s not a shot at the quarterback, but a realistic assessment of what this team is: flawed, interesting, tough, questionable, and many other adjectives you can choose in the air. Is it good? Do we want one of the those seasons?
Considering what we’ve seen for most of the last decade of football in Syracuse, I’d say I’ll take it, although I’m even more exhausted as a result. Just as we go 5-7 with a win over Clemson or 7-5 with a 13-7 loss to BC, don’t say you weren’t warned.