The Syracuse Orange Are on Track for Bowl Eligibility Entering Big East Play

Dan KelleyCorrespondent ISeptember 26, 2010

Frank Ordoñez / The Post-Standard
Frank Ordoñez / The Post-Standard

Despite the 3-1 record (their best start since 2003), it’s fair to say that we still don’t really know how good the Syracuse Orange are in 2010. One third of the regular season is in the books, and the results have certainly been encouraging.

The Orange took apart three inferior opponents: going on the road to stomp Akron 29-3, opening at home with a 38-14 win over Maine, and then rocking Colgate this weekend 42-7.

The one blemish—a 41-20 loss on the road to the Fightin’ Jake Lockers of Washington. The loss was somewhat discouraging but not a dream killer by any means. Losing in the same venue that saw the USC Trojans fall last season isn’t something to be overly embarrassed about.

So, with three wins over cupcakes and a loss that could have happened to any other Big East team, it’s still hard to make any judgment about where Syracuse stands among their conference peers. Obviously, the league has been atrocious so far, and after West Virginia, nobody else seems to be separating from the pack.

Although it would have seemed unthinkable a month ago, it’s conceivable that the Orange could potentially be the second best team in the conference. But, on the flip-side, they could still end up finishing in last (although I’m inclined to say that second place might actually be more likely than eighth).

The one thing that the Orange have going for them, which distinguishes them from some of their conference brethren, is that they have not played a close game against a cupcake. Say what you want about the schedule or the brief stretches that they didn’t play well against their inferior competition, but none of their three wins were close games.

UConn lost to Temple and struggled to put Buffalo away. Louisville struggled with Eastern Kentucky. Rutgers had maybe the least impressive 31-0 win ever against Norfolk State, nearly lost to Florida International, and then did lose to North Carolina’s 0-2 scout team this weekend. Even West Virginia needed a late rally and overtime to beat Marshall.

The Orange have devoured all three of their cupcakes, winning them by a combined total of 109-24.

They’ve also displayed some diversity on offense.

Ryan Nassib has completed 61-of-105 pass attempts for 860 yards for nine touchdowns and only two interceptions. He’s currently 22nd in the nation in quarterback rating at 151.8.

The running game got off to a bit of a slow start this season, thanks partly to teams selling out to stop Delone Carter and also Doug Marrone’s willingness to put the game in Ryan Nassib’s capable hands.  Carter came into the Colgate game with only 59 rushing attempts for 247 yards, but on Saturday he exploded for 172 yards and four touchdowns on only 14 carries (12.3 ypc).

So while it’s hard to say with any certainly just how good this team is right now, based on what they’ve accomplished to this point and how the rest of the league has played, it’s reasonable to think the Orange could very well finish in the top half of the league this year.

We’ll learn a lot more about the Orange in two weeks when they open up Big East play at USF, but for now, Syracuse fans should start getting excited. The goal this season is 7-5 and a bowl game. With only four wins needed with the Big East and Boston College still on deck, Syracuse is right where they need to be. 

For many more thoughts and insights on Syracuse and Big East football, follow me on twitter: @DanKelley44