It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. Three weeks ago, after a devastating overtime loss to Pitt, Syracuse’s football program was in danger of slipping into another lost season. Despite a 4-0 start to the season and a one-score loss to Clemson, a postseason appearance began to look bleak.
Instead, after a stunning 51-41 upset of NC State, the Orange are bowl bound for the first time since 2013, they are ranked (No.22) for the first time since 2001 and are on course for the first undefeated home season since the same year.
Now Orange fans don’t need to worry whether or not their games with ACC bottom dwellers Wake Forest and Louisville will determine their postseason chances. They can turn their attention to what bowl game Syracuse might play in.
It’s looking likely that the Syracuse will play in the Pinstripe Bowl in December. Played in Yankee Stadium, the bowl usually wants a Northeast team to attract traveling fans. Of the tier one bowls that ACC teams could play in, it’s by far the closest geographically for the Orange.
Most national predictors see the Pinstripe Bowl as the obvious option but the Belk Bowl, Sun Bowl, Gator Bowl or Music City Bowl are all possibilities as well.
For those who really want to dream, Syracuse has a less than one percent chance to make the College Football Playoff. It’s a small chance, but it’s a chance.
Pipe dreams aside, there are scenarios that involve the Orange winning out and making a New Year’s Six game or the Camping World Bowl. The Orange would need to maintain their 2-loss conference and overall record including beating currently third-ranked Notre Dame. What a way that would be to mark the true coming of the Dino Babers era in Syracuse.
How Did We Get Here?
In true Orange fashion, it’s been a weird season. We’ve already mentioned the bleak situation a few weeks ago after the loss to Pitt. There’s another thing that has become prescient in this game too.
Eric Dungey remaining healthy has been the difference this season. Yes, he was benched last week and his back-up, Tommy DeVito, led the Orange to a win they had to have. Yes, there have been periods when he has struggled to ignite the offense. Yes, there is still a risk that Dungey’s injuries resurface and the Orange struggle during the rest of the season.
In spite of again being pulled for a series against the Wolfpack, Dungey managed 411 yards; his best mark of the season. He also threw for three scores and ran for one more. Given that he is both the passing and the rushing leader, this offense goes through him.
The Orange are quietly the 7th best scoring team in the country behind Dungey. They have scored more points through 8 games this season (349) than they did the entire year in 2017 (329). Dungey has the most total yards and TDs in the conference.
Whether or not DeVito is the future and Dungey has had his ups and downs this season, the incumbent senior is the offense. His health continues to matter for a team that is successful when he’s on the field.
Next up are two games that Syracuse should be able to easily navigate. Wake Forest just beat Louisville for their first conference win and the Cardinals, Syracuse’s opponent in two weeks, have yet to win a game in the ACC.
After that, college playoff bound (at least for the moment) Notre Dame and Boston College complete the schedule. Syracuse is the underdog in both match-ups. The game against the Eagles should tell us exactly where the Orange sit in the conference.
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