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Syracuse Football: Football Computers Pump Brakes on Six Wins

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The Orange's loss to South Florida did Syracuse no favors according to football computers (and probably your brain).

Carl Court/Getty Images

Syracuse's loss to South Florida wasn't exactly an effort in the Orange aiming a nuclear weapon at its face and pulling the trigger, but it did cause some massive damage to Syracuse's press for six wins (at least according to football computers). Maybe the best way to highlight the mess that Syracuse left for itself after barely avoiding getting Switzer'd in Tampa is this fact: According to the Massey Ratings and ESPN's FPI, the Orange had about a two percent chance of losing out prior to meeting the Bulls; after Syracuse's disaster against South Florida, the two rating measures give the Orange a 17 percent and 13 percent chance to lose its last seven games, respectively.

The season isn't over, but things have become significantly more difficult for the Orange to find three more wins somewhere on the team's schedule. As usual, accept, ignore, or process the following information as your brain sees fit. The usual disclaimers apply.

THE ROAD TO SIX WINS (ACCORDING TO FOOTBALL COMPUTERS)
DATE OPPONENT MASSEY W% MASSEY PROJ. S&P+ W% S&P+ PROJ. FPI W% SAGARIN SPREAD
Oct-17 at Virginia 32% 24-31 48% 29-30 40% +2.36
Oct-24 Pittsburgh 26% 23-31 51% 25-24 32% +8.27
Oct-31 at Florida State 7% 16-38 13% 16-36 7% +20.95
Nov-7 at Louisville 12% 16-34 20% 18-33 14% +15.92
Nov-14 Clemson 9% 14-35 13% 15-34 10% +19.83
Nov-21 at N.C. State 23% 21-31 33% 24-31 15% +12.57
Nov-28 Boston College 42% 17-20 52% 20-19 50% +0.41

Some brief thoughts on this:

  • The 8.5-point line against Virginia this week is probably going to come down a shade, if only because the 'Hoos are about as trustworthy as a guy that owns a knife and is willing to telling you all about his alligator wrangling experience. Yet, Syracuse still is a 'dog.
  • The Orange Eagle Trophy should get a teardrop tattoo if Syracuse and Boston College play a Four Win-Off in the Dome after Thanksgiving.
  • If this table illustrates anything it's that losing a game that originally existed as a probable victory forces Syracuse to now pull an upset somewhere to collar a half-dozen wins. There just aren't great game-specific odds anywhere on the board between Halloween and Thanksgiving, putting extra pressure on the Orange to get something done against Virginia and Pittsburgh. N.C. State is spiralling into the sun, but football computers still aren't sold on Syracuse rearranging the Wolfpack's mouth in Raleigh.

That last bullet point finds some support in the following win-loss projection table from three football computers:

PROJECTED RECORD (ACCORDING TO FOOTBALL COMPUTERS)
MASSEY S&P+ FPI
Projected Record 4.5-7.5 5.3-6.7 4.7-7.3

The Orange went from being right on the cusp of a 6-6 projection last week to being about a full win away from a record that would give Syracuse 15 extra practices and an additional game experience. The Orange didn't have much margin for error prior to vomiting all over itself in Tampa and Syracuse has even less wiggle room now.

As for how football computers changed their outlook on the Orange after whatever-the-hell-happened-on-Saturday, here are the changes from last week:

CHANGE FROM LAST WEEK
DATE OPPONENT MASSEY W% MASSEY MARG. S&P+ W% S&P+ MARG. FPI W% SAGARIN SPREAD
Oct-17 at Virginia -15% -5 -16% -7 -11% +4.54
Oct-24 Pittsburgh -8% -2 -5% -2 -6% +2.57
Oct-31 at Florida State -5% -4 0% -1 -2% +2.97
Nov-7 at Louisville -7% -5 -2% -2 -5% +3.52
Nov-14 Clemson -5% -4 -7% -4 -5% +4.85
Nov-21 at N.C. State -6% -3 -11% -5 -2% +1.46
Nov-28 Boston College -1% 0 +12% +6 -5% +1.43
MASSEY W MASSEY L S&P+ W S&P+ L FPI W FPI L
Projected Record -1.22 +1.22 -0.91 +0.91 -1 +1

Some brief thoughts on this:

  • Syracuse went from being basically in a toss-up game against Virginia to being an underdog. Life is miserable and then you die.
  • Meanwhile, Boston College is (expectedly) coming back to reality after dropping a hilarious 0-3 decision to Wake Forest. The Orange's brain fart against South Florida had less impact relative to the team's chances against the Eagles than any other team, which is both depressing and uplifting at the same time.