Orange Alert: Syracuse Still Alive In Big East

-- See SB Nation's Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician for complete coverage of Syracuse University sports

It's amazing how much a college football fans' attitude can change from week to week. Especially in the Big East Conference.

A little over two weeks ago, Syracuse (5-2, 1-1 Big East) was clobbered at home by Pittsburgh, 45-14.

The outcome against the Panthers was expected. However, some Orange faithful were disappointed because there was a belief that this Syracuse team could consistently compete in the Big East.

The loss humbled fans' expectations as it reminded them that the program was still rebuilding.

Maybe a 2-0 Big East start was a little too much to expect for a squad that finished at the bottom of the conference standings during the last five seasons.

Fast forward past Saturday's 19-14 stunning road win over West Virginia (5-2, 1-1). The Orange are now the pollsters top team in the Big East and sit second in the Big East standings.


Big East Conference Standings

(updated 10.24.2010 at 2:58 AM EDT)


Yes. A Syracuse team that had not won more than one conference game since 2004 is now back in contention for a Big East title. 

"Turns out that maybe the Orange's flop last week (at) home against Pittsburgh was just a bad performance against a team getting on a roll," wrote ESPN Big East blogger Brian Bennett on Sunday. "Syracuse shut out the dangerous Mountainers offense in the second half and has allowed only two touchdowns in the two road conference games. With three winnable home games left, the 5-2 Orange should be going bowling for the first time since 2004."

Syracuse Post-Distpach columnist and local sport-talk radio host Brent Axe wrote this Saturday night after the win.

"In talking to several Syracuse fans on the radio at the beginning of the season, most fans were hoping for a better showing from the team, a team that continued to play hard and improve, maybe two-three Big East wins, and to be in contention for a bowl game when it was all said and done."

"Frankly, my biggest hope for the season was a win like this. A program defining, slam your fist on the table, 'there it is', type win."

Axe and SU fans got just that on Saturday -- the first victory at WVU in a decade.

Marrone attacked the Mountaineers with a simplified running attack on offense and a base coverage defense (an outstanding breakdown by Post-Dispatch writer Dave Rahme) to shock the Morgantown faithful.

"Most media outlets already were handing the Big East Conference championship and Bowl Championship Series bid that goes with it to West Virgina," wrote NewsandSentinel.com's Dave Poe on Monday.

"It became a frustrating day for West Virginia's coaches, players and fans. The unthinkable happened. WVU lost. Lost to Syracuse, who had hadn't beaten West Virginia since 2001. The Ben Schwartzwalder Trophy, which seemed to have found a permanent home in Morgantown, was headed to New York."

So, what next for the Orange? Is it possible for them to earn a Big-East BCS bid?

Well, because the Orange lost to Pittsburgh they will need some help from Cincinnati and West Virginia -- each team still needs to play the Panthers.

And of course, Syracuse will probably need to win the rest of its Big East games:


Orange Football Schedule

@ Akron Sat 09/04 W 29 - 3
@ Washington Sat 09/11 L 20 - 41
Maine Sat 09/18 W 38 - 14
Colgate Sat 09/25 W 42 - 7
@ South Florida Sat 10/09 W 13 - 9
Pittsburgh Sat 10/16 L 14 - 45
@ West Virginia Sat 10/23 W 19 - 14
@ Cincinnati Sat 10/30 12:00 PM EDT
Louisville Sat 11/06 TBA
@ Rutgers Sat 11/13 TBA
Connecticut Sat 11/20 TBA
Boston College Sat 11/27 TBA

Luckily, Syracuse plays in what is considered the weakest BCS conference -- some think the Big East should be removed. Meaning everyone on its remaining schedule is beatable (Boston College is 2-5, 0-4 ACC).

Marrone proved on Saturday, he can prepare his team for any opponent. It also seems that the attitude of Marrone's players is much tougher than it was under former head coach Greg Robinson

Add that quarterback Ryan Nassib has managed the offense extremely well by keeping SU out of trouble.


Passing Rushing Sacks
G Rating Comp Att Pct Yds Y/G Y/A TD INT Rush Yds Y/G Avg TD Sack YdsL
2010 - Ryan Nassib 7 83.0 103 188 54.8 1283 183.3 6.8 12 4 33 64 9.1 1.9 1 - -

Linebacker Doug Hogue, who had 10 tackles (eight solo), two interceptions, a half-sack and won the Walter Camp national defensive player of the week honor, is a part of one of the best defenses in the conference.

With just those tools, I think Syracuse has maybe a 20 percent shot at that BCS berth. That's better than last week's or last season's odds which probably hovered around zero.

I think SU fans, players and coaches will take that improvement.

And who knows, considering the Big East's vulnerable state anything seems possible week to week. Especially after Saturday.

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