Syracuse Preview Football

Syracuse head coach Dino Babers yells to his players Nov. 12, 2016 against North Carolina State in Syracuse.

Associated Press

Did anyone really think Dino Babers was going to turn the Syracuse University football program around in less than two seasons? No. And sadly, Orange fans shouldn't expect any kind of quick fix.

Last Saturday's stunning loss to Middle Tennessee State is proof that Syracuse is a long ways from being a top 25 program and that games against non-power conference foes shouldn't be counted on as easy Ws.

You knew that Middle Tennessee was going to be up for this game since their defensive coordinator, Scott Shafer, was fired as Syracuse's coach less than two years ago. Revenge is a heck of a motivator.

Shafer did have some advantage knowing the Orange's personnel better than the average opponent (look back at when Jon Gruden's Tampa Bay Buccaneers thrashed his former team, the Oakland Raiders, in the Super Bowl) but Syracuse was a double-digit favorite for a reason — more talent and home field.

So, yes, losing at home to Middle Tennessee State was a huge disappointment but not a giant surprise if you know football. Syracuse fans have aspirations of a bowl game this winter since all it takes to grab a berth is a .500 record (6-6). Losing to Middle Tennessee is a crushing blow to those hopes since the Orange still have to play a harsh road slate at LSU (one of the toughest places to play in the nation), Miami, Florida State and Louisville.

Right there could be five losses for Syracuse, leaving no room for error against defending national champion Clemson at home as well as ACC foes NC State, Pitt, Wake Forest and Boston College.

Now, autumn hasn't even started yet, and this Saturday's game against Central Michigan becomes a must-win. It won't be much of a surprise when Syracuse fails to make a bowl game, but it was a long shot to begin with.

Babers still doesn't have a ton of talent to work with, and for that reason he still hasn't reached the point where a judgment can be made if he's the coach to get Syracuse back to prominence.

It seems like I wrote these same words about Shafer a couple of years ago, but the point doesn't change: a coach deserves at least three to four years to bring in his own players before a decision can be made if he should be fired.

Babers should have the same consideration, especially since he's trying to find the right kind of athletes for his fast-style offense. Of course Syracuse's defense also needs a lot of work.

Playing in the ACC, arguably the second-best conference (SEC is No. 1) in college football, makes Babers' job even tougher. Orange fans shouldn't expect a miracle and need to show patience.

They have every right to be angry after losing to Middle Tennessee State but need to remember it takes a long time to build a winning program, which at times means losses to lesser teams. Sometimes the suffering pays — making the success taste even sweeter.

Sciria, The Citizen's assistant news editor, can be reached at chris.sciria@lee.net or on Twitter @csciria

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