The heady West Virginia win seems more like a miracle when compared to the lousy loss in Louisville
By Chris McManus
Most college football teams have an identity of some kind. Alabama and Louisiana State field teams that play as physical as it gets. Clemson is known for finesse. Oregon has the pedal to the metal all game.
Style of play can be unique to conferences as well. When you think Big Ten, you think of ball control. When you think Big 12, you think of quarterback play. When you think Atlantic Coast Conference, you think athletes and speed.
When I think Big East, I think of a conference where you can pick the winner out of a hat every Saturday. There is no identity for the conference, and seemingly no identity for many of its members. That’s what happens when there are three first-year coaches, two second-year coaches, and a third-year coach.
Logic tells you that a Syracuse University team coming off a 26-point obliteration of West Virginia, the most talented team in the conference, would stand a good chance against a Louisville team with losses to Florida Atlantic and Marshall on its resume. But there is no logic in football. On Oct. 29, Louisville surprised the Orange with a 27-10 win, and it hardly looked like an upset.
If you hadn’t seen any other games, it would have looked like the best team in the conference beating down a cellar dweller. The Cardinals crushed the Orange in all three phases: offense, defense and special teams. Meanwhile, Syracuse took numerous horrible penalties a mere week after taking only three.
Meanwhile, the same day, West Virginia (who looked bad against Syracuse) scored 41 points on Rutgers (who gave up only one touchdown against the Orange). If there’s a guy beating the odds makers on the Big East, I want to shake his hand. I have a better grasp at the Museum of Modern Art than I do with Big East football from week to week.
How can it go from a rocking Carrier Dome crowd circa 1993 to a team that resembled Greg Robinson’s 1-10 2005 effort in just one week? Maybe we all overreacted to the West Virginia game, so let’s try not to make that mistake here.
Louisville under coach Charlie Strong is a bad matchup for this group at SU. Orange head coach Doug Marrone said it all week, and Saturday reaffirmed it. Twice now, the opposing teams have pressured quarterback Ryan Nassib, tried to stuff the run and dared Syracuse to beat them for big plays. Twice now, Syracuse was not up to that challenge.
Rutgers and now Louisville have each exposed a fundamental flaw with Syracuse’s passing game: the lack of a big play threat. That shortcoming looks like it will prevent the Orange from contending for a Big East championship, but it’s still a 5-3 team with winnable games left on the schedule. It’s still the best team in the short Doug Marrone era. They’ll need to keep that trend going, because these last four games might be the last four they ever play in the “pick it out of a hat” Big East.