After winning their first three games by a combined six points, Syracuse was a fun team to watch, a nice story. Six mostly dominant victories later, coach Robin Hood's first Orange squad finds itself with a top-five ranking three-quarters of the way through the season. If you would've said a legitimate championship contender would call the Carrier Dome home this academic year, Jim Boeheim probably would have been pretty happy. Here's a breakdown of how the football team has capitivated SU's campus. OFFENSE What's made SU's offense so successful this year is simple: it's balanced, and it's efficient. Terrel Hunt - a first-year starter - ranks 2nd nationally in completion percentage, completing 73.6% of his passes and is 4th with 25 TD to just 9 INT. And he's able to escape a collapsing pocket with his above average speed. Hello, 2nd coming of Johnny Manziel. He spreads the ball around, with wideouts Quinta Funderburk, Jarrod West and TE Beckett Wales his favorite targets. Wideouts Christopher Clark, Jeremiah Kobena and RB Jerome Smith have also proved to be viable options for Hunt. And Smith ain't too shabby running the ball, either. Smith currently ranks 10th nationally with 887 yards on 165 carries. Smith blends speed with tenacity - think Thomas Jones - and has yet to cough the ball up once this season. Complimenting Smith is Prince Tyson-Gulley, a smaller, speedier back who has seen his fair share of snaps. Tyson-Gulley has rushed for 485 yards on 76 carries. When one facet of the offense has been slowed this season - and it hasn't been often - the Orange have simply relied more heavily on the other. And they've been near impossible to stop on 3rd down. Only Kansas State has shut down SU's attack, and SU's defense saved that day. DEFENSE These guys don't play like a bunch of 70-something rated players. The rotation of six defensive linemen Hood deploys has gotten to opposing QBs effectively and rendered rushing attacks futile. Dyshawn Davis and Marquiss Spruill lead the linebacking corps, which has done an admirable job against both the pass and the run. In the secondary, sophomore strong safety Wayne Morgan has been a revelation. Morgan leads the team with 39 tackles and 4 INT. Corner Ri'Shawn Anderson also has 4 INT, while Keon Lyn, the other corner, has a pair of INT. Teams have been able to move the ball against the Orange and score some points, but it's been hard to sustain the success, as Hood's defensive unit has been excellent at in-game adjustments all season long. OUTLOOK At the beginning of the season, I wrote that 7 wins or more would constitute the season as not being a disappointment. Things have now, um, changed. Divisional, conference and BCS titles are - shockingly - all within Syracuse's reach, as the Orange have become this season's surprise team. There's a lot of work still to be done, though. The two tests that seemed toughest at the beginning of the year are the Orange's next two opponents: Virginia Tech and Florida State. One win in those two games gives the 'Cuse a divisional crown and a chance to play for the ACC crown. They'll likely need two wins in these two games for a crack at the BCS Title, though. There's no telling how the rest of the season will unfold, but hey, as the first nine games have shown, anything is possible.