ino Babers is known for his passionate speeches. His countless movie references, his lightning fast offense and his devout belief in his faith. When he was hired to coach Syracuse in 2015, his track record of success generated enthusiasm for a flailing program.
Regardless of what happens in the 2020 season, Babers has already made his imprint at Syracuse. He provided the best Orange season in more than 15 years in 2018, reenergizing the SU community about a football team that’s often seen as an afterthought to the basketball program.
Babers is the first coach to last five years at SU since Paul Pasqualoni in 2004. But through four years, 2018’s 10-win season has emerged as the exception, not the norm. To use one of Babers’ favorite measuring sticks, he’s been occasionally great but not consistently good. He needs to prove 2019’s failure wasn’t a sign that the Orange have peaked under him.
Last year, for the first time in his head coaching career, Babers’ program didn’t at least match the win total from the previous season. Replacing quarterback Eric Dungey and most of the offensive line could explain a step back. But 2019 wasn’t a step back. It was a never-ending backpedal consisting of stuffed runs, sacks and long touchdowns allowed.
“I would say I’m not as bad as 4-8, and probably not as good as 10-3,” Babers said. “I’m probably somewhere in between.”
The underlying numbers suggest that Babers wasn’t wrong. Syracuse wasn’t as bad as 4-8 indicated his first two seasons, as injuries to Dungey led to consecutive winless Novembers. With an opportunistic defense and an efficient offense, SU won 10 games, despite a second-order wins metric of 8.5 that suggests they overperformed. Second order wins combines a myriad of statistics and suggests how many games a team should’ve won given those numbers.