The last time I took a look at the Syracuse football squad here, the Orange was coming off a 49-14 loss to Clemson in front of a just-about-full Carrier Dome in its first game ever in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
I said that the two road games in between would go a long way toward determining just how excited Central New York will be about the next home game. Now that’s coming up this Saturday in the Carrier Dome, when Wake Forest comes inside to tangle at 12:30 p.m.
The first step was a good one. Syracuse won its first ACC road game ever, if you recall, literally running through North Carolina State 24-10 in Raleigh.
The second step was awful, pure and simple. Georgia Tech, you see, ran around and past Syracuse, stomping the Orange 56-0 in Atlanta.
Syracuse had a bye week to heal, physically and mentally. That means the Orange coaches and players will have had 14 days to mull over its record of 3-4.
Wake Forest, meanwhile, led unbeaten Miami all the way last Saturday before a last-minute touchdown gave the Hurricanes a 24-21 victory. Before that, Wake Forest beat N.C. State and Maryland. At 4-4, the Demon Deacons are more good than bad at this point. Wide receiver Michael Campanaro has lived up to his preseason expectations as one of the top couple receivers in the ACC — a league that’s got many fast and sure-handed receivers.
So what we should have in the Carrier Dome is a Syracuse team that’s playing with an edge against visitors carrying confidence. The goal in coach Scott Shafer’s first season is a bowl appearance. That means six wins is a must. Syracuse can get there by winning all three home games, with old Big East rivals Pittsburgh and Boston College set to visit on Nov. 23 amd Nov. 30, respectively. There are also two road games remaining, at Maryland on Nov. 9 and at Florida State the week after.
Maryland has been hampered for the second season in a row by many injuries. Great wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long both broke their legs in that loss at Wake Forest, for example, and quarterback C.J. Brown has been out and in since a big hit at Florida State gave him a concussion. Maryland stands at 5-3 with a bye this week. The Terps could be looking at the Orange as the path of least resistance to its own six-win season and first bowl appearance under coach Randy Edsall, the SU grad in his third season leading Maryland.
Florida State? You may have heard how they blitzed Clemson 51-14 in Clemson. The Seminoles are unbeaten and No. 3 in the country. Yeah, on any given Saturday … But what a monumental upset that would be.
So Syracuse faces a game that could mean the difference between a bowl game or home-for-the-semester-break.
Will that be enough to attract more than the usual 30,000 fans not filling the home stadium?