Every team in the ACC has a couple games they wish they had back from 2011. Whether they didn’t bring their A-game, or the other guys just got lucky, every school would love another shot at an opponent, for the ability to prove it won’t happen again. Luckily, because of conference play and parity in the ACC, many will get a chance at redemption immediately, with rematches already on the books for 2012.
As part of our 2012 college football season preview, we’ll be running through the biggest “payback” games for each school. As no team finished with just one loss, there are likely multiple choices for each — none more “right’ than another, necessarily. Still, every selection should help provide some extra motivation for fans as they gear up for this season’s slate of games.
Team: Syracuse Orange
Last Year: Loss, 19-16 vs. Rutgers
This Year: October 13, @ Rutgers
For some Orange fans, the five straight losses to close out the 2011 season may burn more than this defeat from all the way back on October 1. But from my own point of view, there’s a fair chance that late losing streak never happens if they’d pulled out a win against the Scarlet Knights. A victory against the Knights that day (which likely would have happened if not for a Antwon Bailey fumble) could have set the team up for a 6-1 record, top 25 ranking and the type of momentum that reverses a program’s fortunes. While they still managed to defeat West Virginia two weeks later, clinching bowl eligibility for a second straight season would have turned the 2012 season from “make-or-break” to “on-the-rise.”
The flip side to the above argument on Syracuse is that they were actually a mediocre team that got lucky during the season’s first half, and then karma came back around for the second. This game, probably more than any other last year, exemplified just how tenuous everything was for the Orange — always subject to awful or amazing change at a moment’s notice. Quarterback Ryan Nassib performed poorly all day, but the slack was picked up by a few lucky Rutgers special teams gaffes and Bailey’s solid running. The shift finally happened in the second overtime, when Bailey’s fumble overshadowed the rest of his performance and directly resulted in a loss.
For 2012, there are still tons of question marks surrounding both teams, specifically Syracuse, which is replacing a fair amount of departing talent from last year. Additionally, should this year’s campaign not go well, then there’s additional heat on head coach Doug Marrone. For all the good Marrone’s done in his three years — restoring tradition, honor and respectability to the Syracuse program — he’s still just 17-20, his teams struggle to play disciplined football and SU has also developed a knack for playing poorly down the stretch. With ample opportunities at redemption this year, the Orange should do everything they can to prove Marrone’s efforts aren’t in vain.