Syracuse Football By The Numbers: Why Syracuse Will Go Undefeated... 2015

Wait, that was shocking tidbit of intel I just released there, I'm supposed to preface stuff like that with a spoiler alert.


No good? Okay, well lets just get this over with. A few notes before we get started:

- This post isn't focused on the composition of Syracuse football teams since 1987, like the previous two. I'm instead looking at win % for individual seasons.

- This post is less bulletized and more wordy and more graph-y in order to present the data available.

- I wouldn't suggest using any of this to win your next argument at the bar. But to nerds like me, this is neat-o stuff.

Myth #4: Forget about being elite, Syracuse won't ever ever ever have great College Football team ever again.

I've had this message drilled into my head since my freshman year at SU in 2000, and if you spent 5 minutes at, I'm sure you've read it as well. The reasoning behind this myth ranges from everything that's occurred on the football field at Syracuse to the weaking economy to the sh***y weather and everything in between. The truth is: No one really knows what the future holds. (That was an Earth-shattering revelation there, huh?)



It's often been said that College Football is cyclical. Even the greatest of programs have had their dark eras, only to rise up an dominate again. Certain programs recently have risen up out of nothingness and general ambiguity to compete at the highest levels of the college game as we know it today. And this life cycle seems to apply to each program in it's own unique way. Yes, even Syracuse. And if we've learned anything from watching Batman movies, we all know the night is always darkest just before the dawn


The graph above charts Syracuse's win % since 1931 (note the X-axis does NOT indicate calendar year, but which year of the 80-year period of history). Once I laid it out this way, some things became readily apparent

- There were three high points, separated exactly by 28 years and corresponding with the 1931, 1959 and 1987 seasons.

- There were three distinct dry spells, corresponded with the decades of the 1940's, 1970s/early 80's, and the 00's.

- Lastly, there was a recovery period at the tail end of each dry spell, followed by a period of general success and prosperity. 

And if I lay this data out a different way:


Believe it or not, the chart above isn't a crude interpretation of stock market trends over the previous week. It's actually the same data in first chart, broken into 3 segments overlayed on to one another. Each line starting at the respective high mark and running out the 28 year cycle until the year prior next high mark. There isn't perfect agreement with each cycle, but what this shows is that those peaks and valleys correspond pretty dang close to one another (Note that 2011 marks year 25 in the current cycle, which is why that cool looking orange line ends abruptly).

And now for my next trick, I'll remove the first 28-year span to clean it up a bit:


Do you see what I'm getting at? Have I beaten this to death? Had enough of all this E=MC^2 sh*t? Yes? Ok, good.

Acutally this isn't really an exact science at all, but rather a history lesson. One that tells us their's definitely similarities to what is happening now/in the very recent past and what has happened in earlier eras of Syracuse football. But when you dig into the actual events, it gets even more interesting:

The valleys: The 1940's saw 4 different HCs in the span of 8 years, and football wasn't even played in '43 due to some wierd little thing called World War II. The second spell corresponds mostly with the Frank Maloney era, but pretty much lasted an entire decade and then some. And third obviously has a lot to do with the GRE, but also incorporates the tail end of the P era and year 1 of HCDM. That being said, the magnitude of the GRE obviously the worst in Syracuse history, but also was the shortest duration. Looking back I wouldn't say we were due for a dry spell, rather, according to historical trends, it was right on time.



 - The peaks: If each pinnacle being separated by exactly 28 years wasn't enough to make you geek out, here's something else: Each 28 year era began with a coach that's now in the College Football HOF. Vic Hanson was at the helm in '31, Ben Schwartwalder in '59 and Dick MacPherson in '87. Looking at the entire era since 1931, Syracuse would have 57 non-losing seasons, evenly dispersed through each 28-year span



via, via, via

- The recoveries: Each coincided with a coaching change. The first recovery in this sample coincided with Schwartzwalder, and it took him two seasons before he cranked out a winner: SU went 4-5 in '49, 5-5 in '50 and broke through at 5-4 in '51. The second recovery coincided with Coach Mac, also took two seasons: SU would go 4-6 in '81, 2-9 in '82 and then 6-5 in '83 (though he would laspe into a 5-6 finish in '86, just before his undefeated '87 season). If 2010 wasn't enough to convince you, history would suggest we are also in the midst of a recovery period that coincides with Doug Marrone. It only took him one losing season to bring us back.



And now this is the part where I get to draw some conclusions from this mess.



- Syracuse has bounced back from multiple consecutive seasons of defeat in the past, and did it again in 2010.

That's it. Is that concise enough? Truth is, more conclusions I try to draw would sound more like predictions, especially since the current 28-year span is ongoing, leaving this an open ended discussion. Maybe they'd all be rational sounding predictions that history could corroborate, but predictions none the less. So here's a few events we can predict based upon historical anyalysis and would fit the trend we're currently on:

- More volatility over next few seasons, maybe even a losing season (but do not lose faith!)

- A prolonged era of good-to-great football in the near future.

- An undefeated season, perhaps sometime around 2015.

- Doug Marrone is a fixture at Syracuse  for a long, long, long time. And eventually makes it into the College Football HOF.

- Another dry spell, but not for a couple decades or so (when HCDM steps down to retire)

Looking at each of these above events, I'd say they don't seem unreasonable from an objective point of view. As a fan, of course, I would hope that Syracuse could do much, much better and have multiple undefeated seasons, a national championship and a heisman winner. None of those things do I truly believe are out of the realm of possibility. But at the very least, the most probable outcomes for the future look bright, and history would suggest there will be plenty of good football to watch in Syracuse for years to come.

Anyway, now that football season is finally here I'll probably leave this little exercise alone for awhile, probably until I get bored next summer. But I intend to keep this database updated going forward, tweaking it here and there and updating it based upon roster changes and how the team performs.

And comments, suggestions or other feedback, please feel free to share. And of course, LET'S GO ORANGE! BEAT USC! GO FIGHT AND WIN (DAMMIT!!)

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