October 23, 2010
Syracuse 19, West Virginia 14. There's little rhyme or reason to anything that happens in the Big East, as previously woebegone South Florida proved again Friday night by snapping Cincinnati's 13-game conference win streak in Cincinnati. But if there was one thing we could be certain of in this muddled, mediocre year for the league, it was that West Virginia – the only Big East team in the polls this week, and the only one with a non-conference win over a team from another "Big Six" conference – is the best team in it, right? Just like we could be certain for the back half of the last decade that Syracuse was the worst team.
As of today, at least one of those assumptions is officially kaput. The Orange's upset in Morgantown was hardly the kind of coming-out party that sets off fireworks and parades proclaiming the dawning of a new day; it was more about West Virginia giving the ball away three times in a game featuring one 'Cuse touchdown and zero points by either team in the second half. But within the context of the last two years, it was the corner-turning upset over a conference frontrunner (in this case, the only conference frontrunner) that Orange fans have been waiting for since Greg Robinson was shown the door on the heels of the worst four-year run in school history.
It's the win they thought they had two weeks ago, after knocking off USF in Tampa, before last week's debacle against Pitt brought them crashing back to earth. For the first time in ages, they can go to church tomorrow and to the office on Monday secure in the knowledge that we don't completely suck at football. There are two entire recruiting classes that graduated without ever knowing that feeling.
Syracuse is 5-2 and has to win one of its last five, just one, to be bowl eligible – a small token at most places, but a watershed moment for a program that hadn't won more than one conference game in a season since 2004, the last year of the much-lamented Paul Pasqualoni administration. Whatever happens from here – barring a disastrous five-game losing streak – "just another Big East mediocrity" sounds like a great leap forward.