Record: 4-1 (1-0 Big East)
Rarely does one win make a season. For Syracuse, one victory has shaped the course of a half-season.
Had the Orange lost their Big East opener to South Florida, people could continue to cast a skeptical eye toward their victories -- Akron and FCS squads Maine and Colgate -- while dismissing their chances in the league. But the first-ever triumph over the Bulls, on the road no less, brought home the point that this may not be the same old Syracuse.
Doug Marrone's second team has already matched its victory total from a year ago and needs only three more to guarantee a postseason berth for the first time since 2004. The Orange have been stingy on defense, allowing fewer than 15 points a game, and quarterback Ryan Nassib has emerged as a solid leader who can make plays on the move, after spending a year as Greg Paulus' backup. The running game remains solid behind Delone Carter, who's on pace for his second straight 1,000-yard campaign, and speedy, change-of-pace back Antwon Bailey.
Syracuse has a lot more answers this season, and right now fewer people are questioning the Orange.
Offensive MVP: Ryan Nassib, QB
Carter is the bell cow at running back, but Nassib has helped the offense improve greatly from a year ago. He's completing 57.5 percent of his passes and has 10 touchdowns to just two interceptions. Opponents can no longer just sell out against the run.
Defensive MVP: Derrell Smith, LB
Smith is the anchor of the defense at middle linebacker and has continued the high level of play he established a year ago. He ranks fourth in the Big East with 42 tackles and leads an aggressive, physical defensive attack.