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Syracuse Football: Football Computers Continue to Temper Expectations

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Hold on to your butts for the next three weeks.

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Anyone want to bob for apples in Onondaga Lake?

As usual, accept, ignore, or process the following information as your brain sees fit. The usual disclaimers apply. (Side note: the S&P+ projections this week didn't seem to update from last week, although Syracuse's profile is otherwise revised (including cumulative projected wins). As a result, I've removed the S&P+ items from the first and third tables in this piece for this week.)

THE ROAD TO SIX WINS (ACCORDING TO FOOTBALL COMPUTERS)
DATE OPPONENT MASSEY W% MASSEY PROJ. FPI W% SAGARIN SPREAD
Oct-31 at Florida State 8% 17-38 7% +21.86
Nov-7 at Louisville 18% 20-34 17% +14.24
Nov-14 Clemson 6% 17-39 8% +24.82
Nov-21 at N.C. State 24% 24-34 15% +12.01
Nov-28 Boston College 48% 19-20 48% +0.32

Some brief thoughts on this:

  • The 20-point spread for Florida State is fair. Anything can happen -- Syracuse could poison Florida State's Gatorade jugs, an easy path to victory and a felony conviction -- but the win probabilities here, as well as the projected margins, align with the Orange likely having an awful day in Tallahassee. This is not surprising unless you've suffered major head trauma.
  • The analyses from the football computers indicate that Syracuse is likely waiting month for a reasonable shot at a win, which is only going to make already exclamation point-y internet feelings all the more exclamation point-y. Should win and could win carry very different meanings for the Orange as it enters the hardest part of its schedule. Please don't burn things.
  • In a Monte Carlo simulation, Syracuse is most likely to finish with just one more victory. The second highest probability? Going winless. The Massey Ratings and FPI give Syracuse about a 30% chance of finishing 2015 without another victory. Five victories is an anticipated stretch at this stage of the season with the team's probability of finishing the year without another win slightly outpacing its odds of earning two triumphs.

Dovetailing the last bullet point, here's a win-loss projection table from three football computers:

PROJECTED RECORD (ACCORDING TO FOOTBALL COMPUTERS)
MASSEY S&P+ FPI
Projected Record 4.04-7.96 3.99-8.01 3.9-8.1

That's probably difficult to digest (unless you're a fan of steamed garbage). The purpose of these pieces isn't to provide hope or ammo for an agenda or anything like that. It's merely to provide some context to win expectation. And right now, Syracuse is a four-win football team with a low probability of finishing the year with more than four victories (which doesn't necessarily mean that the Orange can't play like a team with more than four wins in its bones, if that makes any sense).

As for how football computers changed their outlook on the Orange after Saturday's shot to the stones, here are the changes from last week:

CHANGE FROM LAST WEEK
DATE OPPONENT MASSEY W% MASSEY MARG. FPI W% SAGARIN SPREAD
Oct-31 at Florida State +2% +3 +1% -2.49
Nov-7 at Louisville +2% 0 +1% +0.04
Nov-14 Clemson -2% -1 -3% +3.77
Nov-21 at N.C. State -2% -2 -1% +0.94
Nov-28 Boston College +2% +2 -1% +0.06
MASSEY W MASSEY L FPI W FPI L
Projected Record -0.23 +0.23 -0.4 +0.4

This is usually where I write some go-forward thoughts about how future opponents are relating to Syracuse, but I want to do something different this week. There was a pretty developed discussion around expectations changing after Syracuse hung around with LSU, those thoughts trying to determine what the Orange's ceiling looked like immediately following the bye week. Interestingly, football computers have downgraded Syracuse by about 1.5 wins when compared to the Orange's pre- and post-bye week profiles.

FOOTBALL COMPUTER WIN PROJECTION DOWNGRADES
PRE-BYE WEEK (POST-LSU) MASSEY S&P+ FPI
Projected Record 5.6-6.4 5.9-6.1 5.7-6.3
Current Projected Record 4.0-8.0 3.99-8.01 3.9-8.1
Change -1.6 -1.9 -1.8
POST-BYE WEEK (PRE-USF) MASSEY S&P+ FPI
Projected Record 5.7-6.3 6.2-5.8 5.7-6.3
Current Projected Record 4.0-8.0 3.99-8.01 3.9-8.1
Change -1.7 -1.9 -1.8

Football computers kind of had the Orange pegged around 6-6 based on the models utilized four games into Syracuse's campaign, and the likelihood of the Orange approaching that situation has pretty much disappeared. This is a function of Syracuse's trajectory (100 feet into the earth where it will be buried in concrete until its 10,000-year half-life is extinguished), the rest of the nation focusing with a greater degree of usable data, the models pulling away preseason predictions, and any other cogent consideration. But the residue of truth remains: Losing three straight to opponents that were in various points of the cone of beatability -- at least according to non-dynamic projections -- has done a massive amount of damage to the team's quest for a halfway decent record.