It’s like 1996 all over again in the Carrier Dome. For the first time since Donovan McNabb was a sophomore in Syracuse, the Orange have surpassed 500 yards in a game three separate times in a single season. While the team is below .500 (3-4) heading into the final stretch of the season, offense isn’t to blame.
As Syracuse prepares for a conference road trip to South Florida this weekend, they’ll take a big time offense with them. At over 454 yards per game, the Orange are ranked in the Top 35 of the nation in moving the football. Despite outscoring their opponents (177-164), Syracuse is a shade below .500 overall on the year. On the other hand, they are 2-1 and holding their ground inside the Big East.
The last Syracuse team with this kind of offensive firepower qualified for a Liberty Bowl berth and Top 25 ranking. Although this team does it differently — despite what Donovan McNabb became at Syracuse and in the NFL, he was still primarily a runner in ‘96 — passing at a higher clip than running, they aren’t winning at the same rate.
Most of that has to do with a suspect defense. Some of the blame falls on the offensive numbers feeling hollow. Ryan Nassib deserves credit for becoming an excellent signal caller, but two underlying factors to the offensive outburst ring true:
1. Syracuse has put up numbers when down in games, boosting offensive statistics in losses. At times, their output has felt more like a fantasy football offering than a true juggernaut attack.
2. Offense and yardage are up throughout the sport at the collegiate and professional level. Simply put, it’s easier to move the ball than it was sixteen years ago.
The Orange have a good chance to go to South Florida and pick up a win on Saturday evening. If they do, it will likely be due to an offensive outburst.
As the season winds down, keep an eye on how high they can climb in the Syracuse record books. Better than ‘96? Some numbers certainly might point that way.