It was all ugly on Saturday for Syracuse. The Orange need just a single win over the last three weeks of the season, but the best chance perhaps to get a victory went up in smoke at Louisville 41-3. Malik Cunningham was a knife cutting through a solid SU defense, combining for 5 TDs on a day Lamar Jackson had his number retired. This is the 10th time Dino Babers has lost by 30+ points. For comparison, Scott Shafer lost by 30+ points three times in three seasons, while Doug Marrone got blown out once in four seasons.
Let’s look at those Babers blowouts:
11/13/21: 41-3 at Louisville
11/20/20: 30-0 at Louisville
9/7/19: 63-20 at Maryland
9/14/19: 41-6 vs. Clemson
11/17/18: 36-3 vs. Notre Dame (Yankee Stadium)
11/18/17: 56-10 at Lousiville
11/25/17: 42-14 vs. Boston College
9/19/16: 62-28 vs. Louisville
11/5/16: 54-0 at Clemson
11/19/16: 45-14 vs. FSU
Is there a common denominator? Let’s start with the team that has done this the most often. The Cardinals own four of the 10 routs of the Orange under Babers. Louisville has often had one of the most explosive offenses in the ACC, and the iconic Jackson torched SU in ’16 and ’17.
Clemson has also routinely crushed its ACC opponents, and Deshaun Watson got SU in ’16 and Trevor Lawrence in ’19. Those two guys won national championships and ripped apart a lot of defenses. A top 10 FSU team did in Babers in ’16, as the Noles finished #8 nationally with a win in the Orange Bowl. The ’18 Irish were also a top 10 team, ranked #5 at the end of the season and a Cotton Bowl.
This is not to make excuses for Babers, but when the Orange have gotten annihilated it’s usually been to NFL franchise QBs, or top 10 teams.
But the problem becomes the 30+ losses to the unranked or middle-tier squads. Maryland, BC, the last two years to the Cardinals. And that may be because of the uptempo offense that Babers has tried to install, allowing far more possessions for the opponent and a defense that has to go out there and defend after short breaks.
But Saturday against the Cards was problematic because the Orange have wanted to play a more methodical brand of offense with Sean Tucker and Garrett Shrader’s legs, plus the BYE week. Coming out of a week off and getting throttled by a 4-5 UofL team is alarming. That wasn’t a game where Dino tried to throw 50 times and just kept giving the ball back. That was just an old fashioned butt-kicking.
Dino has been at SU twice as long as Shafer, and two years longer than Marrone. No one is nostalgic for the Scott Shafer Era. And Marrone was beating the old Big East, so he avoided Clemson and FSU (when they were elite). But Babers does continue to make SU fans question the growth of the program on an annual basis. Shrader threw for 46 yards on Saturday and played the entire game. The Orange may go from 5-4 to 5-7 and out of a bowl game. SU has one of the nation’s best running backs and defenses and could still have a losing season.
Some will say Babers gets blown out so often because he stinks. It’s more nuanced than that. A lot of teams have gotten blown out by Clemson and Lamar Jackson. But the rate of blow outs is alarming, and the end of this season is too. Saturday’s effort was pathetic against a sub-.500 Cardinals team.