A very complex title, but the gist is pretty simple. Upstate New York football is somehow, someway on the map. Sorry, Army, I love what y’all did in Norman, but today is about two programs more near and dear to my heart. Being born in Buffalo and raised in Syracuse, with both parents graduating from UB, but having season tickets for Syracuse football. I’m talking about the Orange and the Bulls.
While my Bills have gotten off to a rough 0-2 start, Syracuse and the University at Buffalo have combined for an 8-0 record. I’m not used to college football success by any means. Well, to be honest, football success in general, minus the miracle 2017 Bills playoff run. So I figured, for the time being, before my heart is inevitably broken, I’d dive into the success of my two Upstate New York college football teams.
Syracuse Orange (4-0, 1-0)
The shock for me so far with this team is the 1-0 in ACC play. I wrote about it last week, but as Dino Babers said, that win over Florida State put Syracuse on the map. It also helps that senior QB Eric Dungey has gone for 754 yards total and 8 touchdowns while barely playing the second half in 3 out of 4 Cuse wins. Dino Babers has something special going on with Dungey and in his backup redshirt freshman Tommy DeVito. For once, Orange fans don’t have to worry quite as much everytime Eric Dungey puts his neck on the line (but seriously, please start sliding Eric).
Perhaps the most impressive part of this Syracuse team is its defense. The secondary has always been a major question for the Orange, but it has been aggressive. 7 interceptions through 4 games is already more than Syracuse had all of last year (4). Not to mention their defensive line has 13 sacks, almost to the 16 sack mark from a year ago. The real test for this defense will come on the road against Clemson this weekend, but for now it has been incredible.
Before I wrap up on the Orange, quick shoutout to special teams. Sean Riley racked up 110 yards on 3 punt returns Saturday afternoon, including a 69 (nice) yard touchdown return. Freshman kicker Andre Szmyt has been nails, hitting 18-18 PATs and 7-8 field goals. Kicking in college football this season has been no guarantee. So far, Szmyt has.
To summarize, Syracuse has been scary good on offense and surprisingly solid on defense. Off to their first 4-0 start since 1991, the Orange will have a tough time improving to 5-0 against a nasty Clemson team. But let’s not forget, they did it last season.
Buffalo Bulls (4-0,1-0)
I’m super pumped to talk about this Buffalo team. The Bulls have knocked off two Power 5 teams on the road in Temple and Rutgers. These are by no means powerhouse programs, but a 42-13 win over Rutgers on Saturday was a statement win.
The scary part? Buffalo hasn’t even gotten its offense to full force yet. Tyree Jackson was a pretty meh 14-28 throwing the ball against Rutgers and even added 2 picks. However, he still racked up 263 yards and 3 touchdowns. With a big arm similar to the Bills QB Josh Allen, the accuracy problems are sometimes apparent. But Jackson’s big play ability more than makes up for it. I’d also like to see Jackson use his legs a little bit more.
Anthony Johnson has been as-advertised at receiver, hauling in 16 catches for 207 yards and 2 touchdowns thus far. The surprise for the Bulls offense has been Freshman RB Kevin Marks. Marks has gone for a team-high 219 yards and 4 touchdowns on 4.9 yards per carry. The Bulls defense has been hot and cold, often setting the tone in the first half and easing up significantly in the second.
Like I said, when Buffalo puts together a complete game on both sides of the ball it’s going to be beautiful to watch. Army will present a tough final non-conference gamer after the Black Knights took Oklahoma to overtime in their last game, and the option is never fun to defend. The MAC is never an easy ride, but I think Buffalo has inserted its name amongst the best teams in the conference.
When it’s all said and done, this team has the ability to run the table. I’m talking 12-0 here. Will it happen? Probably not. It’s tough to bring it for 12 straight games in college football. But Buffalo has the tools to do it, especially when the Bulls get clicking.
Upstate New York doesn’t have anywhere close to the recruiting pool that most of the country does. Syracuse has a slight advantage being in the ACC and having been a D1 program for a long time. And yet Buffalo has produced NFL stud Khalil Mack and two more potential pros in Tyree Jackson and Anthony Johnson. There may not be a star on the map for the entire state of New York when it comes to college football, but the country should take some notice. Buffalo and Syracuse have combined for an 8-0 record, and I don’t think they’re going anywhere this season.