Here we go again.
Syracuse’s opportunity at a bowl bid took a hit this weekend against the Pittsburgh Panthers. It was a game that could have gotten away from the Orange if not for an extended rain delay. However, they did let a possible victory get away from them after scoring 17 unanswered points when the game restarted.
Losing to an eventual playoff team away from home by one score looks valiant in a vacuum. Losing to Pittsburgh in heartbreaking fashion just reminds every Syracuse fan of the collapse last year.
History versus Pitt
The announcers calling the game Saturday noted that this rivalry throws up some weird games. Since both teams joined the ACC in 2013, Pitt has won all but one of the yearly meetings. Four games, including Saturday, have been decided by one score; each one of the previous one-score games were decided by three points or less. The other two games that weren’t close were a 30-7 demolition of Syracuse in 2014 and a track meet in 2016 that ended in Pitt winning 76-61.
If you go back further, Syracuse has only won against the Panthers three times since 2002, despite finishing with a better overall conference record during the time they were both in the now defunct conference.
In other words, even the optimists among the Syracuse faithful should have seen this game as a loss. But it felt like it should have been a win. Before kick off, in the fourth quarter, and even when Pitt forced overtime, Syracuse was supposed to prove they belonged in the bowl discussion. Instead the optimism that the good start fostered is rapidly disappearing.
All hope shouldn’t be lost. There are still winnable games on the schedule and there’s plenty of time to get the final two wins needed to appease the fan base clamoring for a playoff game to end the season.
The Orange now get a week off to recuperate for starters. That should allow Dino Babers to reset after two rough losses. Although even the bye is somewhat ominous. Last season, the week off came after the loss to Miami and right before the heartbreaker in Tallahassee against the Seminoles. If Syracuse loses to a weak North Carolina team (who just won against Pitt two weeks ago) on October 20, the confidence will drain from this Orange team.
Considering where they were a week ago after hanging with Clemson, their season now suddenly feels like it’s hanging on a knife’s edge.
Well the Orange really have to win. Like, seriously.
That’s because if they do somehow lose to a Tar Heels team they should dispatch at home, the next game on the schedule is against No. 20 NC State. Which means the Orange would be 4-4 with four games left. That would be all too familiar.
The schedule eases up after NC State with only a match against No.5 Notre Dame in Yankees Stadium causing major concerns. However, the other three remaining games are against Wake Forest, Louisville and Boston College – teams the Orange lost to by a combined 95 points last season. So maybe there aren’t any cupcakes left.
Look, it’s a new season and this Orange team is different. The remainder of the schedule is different from last year and it does feel like this team, despite two tough losses, believes more than they did last year. The week off is good for the Orange team and faithful alike.
It gives everyone a chance to take a breath and realize the opportunity still before this team. A win against North Carolina in two weeks and the exhale will feel sweet. A loss means that the Orange will have to find two more wins somewhere else on the schedule.
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