>2010 CFBZ Prediction: 8th Place in Big East
2010 Actual Finish: Tied for 4th Place in Big East (8-5, 4-3)
The Syracuse Orange were one of the best stories of 2010. Pretty much everybody who covers college football in any format, or for that matter watches college football, picked the Orange to finish dead last in the Big East this past season. A funny thing happened along the way, the Big East was down and Syracuse was a lot more competitive than expected under second year coach Doug Marrone. Syracuse started off their season 4-1 as they beat 3 of the easiest teams to beat in college football but we aren’t judging them (when you haven’t been very good lately you should schedule down and that’s what they did) and they did also schedule Boston College and Washington so it wasn’t all cupcakes on the non-conference slate. October 9th was the first statement of the season when Syracuse went to South Florida and won 13-9. Syracuse then fell to Pitt but quickly bounced back with a shocking win over Big East favorite West Virginia and then a win over Cincinnati. West Virginia fans look back to that loss as the reason they didn’t win the conference and go to a BCS game instead of UConn. Syracuse came back to earth a little at the end of the season going 1-3 including losses to Big East Champ UConn but they bounced back with a controversial bowl game win over Kansas State to finish 8-5. This season marked Syracuse’s first winning season since 2001, when they went 10-3, and their first bowl game since 2004 where they lost to Georgia Tech. It has been a long road back to relevance for the Orange and it will be very interesting to see if Doug Marrone and his staff can maintain this level of success in the years to come. Picked to come in dead last in the Big East the Orange actually finished only 1 game behind UConn, Pitt and West Virginia in the final standings. To help us re-cap the 2010 season for the Orange we caught up with Brian Harrison of the Syracuse based blog Orange 44 for a little Q&A.
1. Syracuse exceeded everybody’s expectations this year by finishing 8-5 and winning a bowl game. At what point did you know this was going to be a break-through season for the Orange?
The defining moment has to be when Syracuse went down to Morgantown and beat the then #20 West Virginia Mountaineers. Syracuse had not beaten WVU since 2001 and doing it at Morgantown was a huge plus and a major turning point for Syracuse. With a lot of fans still not on board after a big homecoming loss to Pittsburgh the week before a lot of fans truly didn’t believe in this year’s squad until they had that huge road win and proved that this wasn’t a squad that just got lucky. This was a hard nosed defense that could stop some of the best offenses in the country.
2. What were some of your favorite moments of this season?
During Syracuse’s match with USF Syracuse put together a 98 yard drive. It was pretty magical to watch as Syracuse methodically moved the ball down the field. This was one of the first moments of the season that was a true test against a good team that showed massive improvement in the offensive ability for Syracuse. Also the ending moments of both the games Syracuse played against West Virginia and Rutgers. In both Syracuse was forced to stop the opposing team’s offense to win the game and both times Syracuse ended up with sacks on the quarterbacks on fourth down to win the game.
3. Which players were the biggest surprises of the season?
Tight ends Nick Provo and Jose Cruz were surprisingly reliable targets throughout the season and were very valuable on third downs. But the biggest surprise was the dependability of freshman K Ross Krautman. He was 18/19 on the season, his longest was 48 yards (made outdoors), and was one of the most dependable elements of a special teams unit that ended up firing their coordinator before the end of the season.
4. Which player are you most excited about for next season?
Antwon Bailey was the backup RB for Delone Carter and he found success in both running the ball, but was as equally dependable a receiver. He will get a lot more reps next season as he should be the primary back on the depth chart coming out of the spring. I look forward to seeing what he can do next year. Additionally, Marcus sales had one touchdown catch all season, but had three TDs in the Pinstripe Bowl, including massive home run catches. He will be a major target next season.
In terms of freshmen coming in, besides the potential commitment of DE Ishaq Williams (deciding between Syracuse, Penn State, and Notre Dame [both his parents attended Syracuse]), it would be TE Louie Addazio. He is the son of now Temple Head Coach Steve Addazio, former Florida Offensive Coordinator and Syracuse alumnus. He is a blocking TE, who will obviously get looks from Ryan Nassib to catch the ball, especially in the Red Zone. But really, he will instantly firm up an already vastly improved offensive line.
5. What does Syracuse need to improve on this off-season to keep its positive momentum and possible challenge for the Big East Title?
Syracuse still desperately needs to improve its passing defense. For the last five plus years the way you beat Syracuse was to pass the ball as Syracuse could rarely stop any passing attack. They got better this past year, but they need to improve even more so they can cover receivers tighter and not play such soft zone coverage. Additionally the receivers will need to improve. Several would have a good game here or there, but there were too many games with big drops that would have been huge plays and they would have changed the outcome of the game. Everything else should still remain pretty solid and only get better.