It is time to take a last look back at how each Big East team fared in 2011 with season-ending report cards.
Up today: Syracuse.
Offense: Syracuse was slightly better on offense this past season than it was in 2010, averaging about 20 more yards a game. But that was not enough to get the Orange out of the bottom half of the national rankings. They finished ranked No. 90 in total offense and struggled running the ball -- down over 20 yards a game from last season. Antwon Bailey still was a first-team selection and went over 1,000 yards but there was never real consistency in the ground game or the offense as a whole. Ryan Nassib and Alec Lemon had career years, but a lot of that was a function of struggling in the run game and being behind in several games this season. Syracuse did have four players make the Big East first-team but in seven losses this season, Syracuse averaged 16.2 points per game and hit the 20-point mark just twice.
Defense: This was a much more inexperienced group compared to a season ago, and it showed. What compounded that were injuries to key players, most notably defensive end Chandler Jones. Syracuse went from No. 3 in the league in scoring defense (19.3 pgg) to last (28.5); from No. 2 in total defense (301.5 ypg) to last (386.4); from No. 1 in pass defense (165.3 ypg) to sixth (258.2 ypg). Pass defense was the biggest area of weakness, though Syracuse got better in that area as the season wore on. The Orange got a boost when Jones returned, but there were key breakdowns at various times in most every game this season. Syracuse gave up fewer than 28 points just four times this past season.
Overall: Syracuse went into the season hoping to build on the moment of 2010, when it ended a long drought and made it back to a bowl game. After a surprise win over West Virginia got Syracuse to a 5-2 start, most everybody expected those hopes would become a reality. But Syracuse ended the season on a five-game losing streak, and that victory over the Mountaineers proved to be their only one in Big East play. That win was their only real convincing one of the season. They needed a comeback over Wake Forest; had to hold off FCS Rhode Island; had a controversial finish against Toledo; and a mad scramble to beat Tulane. This was not the step coach Doug Marrone envisioned for his team this season.