Up until their Saturday win over Cincinnati, I wasn't quite sure what to make of this year's Syracuse team. They had just upset West Virginia, but the Mountaineers turned around and lost to an undermanned UConn team on Friday night. The Orange had been having a really up-and-down, inconsistent season, and it was only a year ago that everybody in upstate New York was declaring that teams that schedule two FCS opponents in a season don't deserve any credit.
Being 3-1 in the Big East up to this point is partially attributable to the conference falling off this year, but the team and Doug Marrone certainly deserve plenty of credit regardless. Their defense has looked good, Delone Carter is a good back, they have great special teams play, and Marrone has quickly whipped the offensive line into shape. With all of their roster attrition over the past two years, being a game away from bowl eligibility is a commendable accomplishment. Congratulations guys, I hope you will soon be shelling out for the outrageous Pinstripe Bowl prices.
Believe it or not, the Rutgers and Syracuse programs share a lot in common. Both were derailed for a period in recent memory by making awful hires. Greg Schiano and Doug Marrone are both from the New York City metropolitan area, are strict disciplinarians who want to win the right way without taking shortcuts, and they each spouted similar rhetoric while following almost-identical rebuilding plans. That's what was so confounding about all of the one-sided vitriol against the program and Schiano over the past few years. It was almost like an exaggerated sibling rivalry.
Syracuse fans sometimes point to Ray Rice, or the teams trying to attract attention in NYC in order to argue that only one can be good at a time, or that Rutgers is about to fall off or something. That's just silly. The two haven't even played yet this year. They were bad because of Greg Robinson, full stop. Any issues RU has right now are internal, and hopefully correctable with the proper offseason staffing adjustments. Both will rise and fall over the coming years solely based on factors internal to each program. Any attempt to link the two is wrong-headed, as the programs have mostly dissimilar recruiting footprints, and there are plenty of other regional programs (PSU, Pitt, BC, UConn, etc...) to deal with as well.
Losing can drive a fanbase to dark depths. Rutgers fans get that, having been through a similar experience. So welcome back Syracuse to the land of the sane and the living, and please enjoy your stay. Good luck throughout the rest of the year, barring our game two weeks from now. One thing's for sure: you can bet that RU has learned that it can no longer underestimate and take Syracuse football for granted. It'll be nice for the target to be on someone else's back for a change.
p.s. Gerry McNamara was still overrated though.