The year was 1984.
Syracuse was coming off another mediocre season and an embarrassing 19-0 home loss to Rutgers. The Orange was facing the No. 1 team in the country – the same team that crushed Syracuse by 56 points the previous season. But the Orange, shockingly, defeated the top-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers 17-9 in front of a Dome crowd of 47,280. A New York Times writer called it "one of the biggest and most exciting upsets in recent college football history." A Syracuse blogger called it a program changer.
Nebraska was favored by 25 points. This week, the line is 38.5.
It’s unlikely Syracuse will upset second-ranked Florida State, but I wanted to get some historical background. I crunched some numbers from the Syracuse record book and here’s what I found:
Syracuse has a few huge upsets, but most of them came in the Carrier Dome. They were also led by coach Dick MacPherson. Unfortunately, neither of those will be true on Saturday.
Many of the franchise’s biggest wins came shortly after the opening of the Carrier Dome in 1980. Syracuse’s program-changing upset of Nebraska in 1984 stands out, but there were others, too. The Orange shocked No. 5 Florida in 1991, defeated No. 10 Penn State in 1987, and
beat tied No. 6 Auburn in the 1987 Sugar Bowl.
As for other trends...
Syracuse has even less success when playing the second-ranked team in the country. Dating back to 1955, SU is 0-12 in these games. (This includes a 2001 loss to Miami when the Hurricanes topped the AP Poll, but were second in USA Today.)
- Most recent: 2012; a 42-29 loss to USC in MetLife Stadium
- Closest: 22-14; a home loss versus Virginia Tech in 2000
- Worst Blowout: 59-0; at Miami in 2001
Facing a Title Contender
I found that Syracuse had at least three relatively recent examples of facing a team on the verge of the national championship game. (If I missed some, share in the comments below.)
- 2002: Miami defeated Syracuse 49-7 to improve to 11-0.
- 2001: The Hurricanes shut out the Orange 59-0 to go to 9-0
- 1992: Miami (Sensing a pattern?) edged by Syracuse 16-10. The Canes went to 10-0 with the win.
When Florida State is Top Ten
Florida State is 5-1 against Syracuse. Of these games, half came when the Seminoles were ranked in the top ten. The Orange lost all three.
- 1991: Top-ranked FSU took down Syracuse 46-14.
- 2004: No. 8 Florida State won a close 17-13 game.
- 2005: Syracuse lost 38-14 to the Semioles, ranked No. 6/7.
So what does it all mean?
This century, the Orange average a 19.3 point loss to top ten opponents. It's not great, but at least it's better than the 38.5 point spread. Am I predicting an Orange upset? No. But Syracuse has played enough competitive games in these situations to believe there's, well, a slight chance.
More from Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician:
- Syracuse vs. Florida State, TV, History, Odds & More: Noles Favored By 39
- CONTEST: Which Syracuse Opponent Will Score More: FSU Or Colgate?
- What the P-S Won't Tell You About...Florida State
- Syracuse Football Roundtable: Previewing Florida State
- Syracuse Sports Make Me Drink, Episode 10: Florida State Preview/Hoops Update