If you remember anything about the 2006 Syracuse Orange football team, it's probably the dreaded Iowa game. Like the 2015 iteration of the Orange, that SU team also started the season 3-2 (though 0-2, followed by three straight wins). And also like the 2015 Syracuse team, the 2006 team forced a lot more turnovers than their opponents committed.
In 2006, despite a disappointing 4-8 record in GERG's second year, the Orange had a plus-11 (!!!) turnover margin (28 for vs. 17 against). This year's team, with two games to go, has the best mark since then: plus-4 (19 for, 15 against). So why, when positive turnover margin typically equals more wins, did this team and that team fail to make a bowl game?
1. Frontloaded (and backloaded) turnovers
In the first three games of 2015, Syracuse forced eight (four against URI), while they only turned it over three times. Since then, the script's been flipped: just 11 turnovers forced over the next seven, while they've committed 12. Back in '06, the Orange owned a 13:5 advantage in the turnover margin through five games, then evened out to a 15:12 ratio the rest of the way (seven games). I mean, that group forced FOUR turnovers against a ranked Iowa squad (versus no turnovers of their own), yet still lost in overtime. Sorry for bringing it up...
2. Scoring fell off a cliff
Through six games, this year's Syracuse team was racking up over 32 points per game (helped out by the defense and special teams as well). The 2006 squad had 25.6 through five games, but then never topped 20 again. This year's has regressed less -- just over 21 points per game over the last four contests -- but the point stands that it's costing them along with the lower turnover rate.
3. Schedule got tougher, opponents got into the end zone more
In 2006, the final seven opponents featured three ranked teams and put up over 26 points per game. Through the last four games in 2015, SU's faced three ranked opponents and a climbing Louisville squad, and they've put up 36.5 points per game. Not an excuse for either, obviously. But an explanation, at least, on how these things happen despite the strong turnover margin.
If Syracuse wins either of its final two games in 2015 and keeps up its turnover margin in the process, it'll earn the odd distinction of being a the second 4-8 SU team in a decade with a better ability to turn opponents over than give it away. Though, as the link above showed, turnover margin can have an effect (not necessarily correlation) on wins, it hasn't worked out that way for the Orange over the last 10 years or so. The three best teams in that stretch (2012, 2010 and 2013) had turnover margins of minus-2, minus-4 and plus-2, respectively. Also for the "what the hell with mistakes under Marrone?" watchers who remember those types of questions, his teams were an inexplicable minus-10 in four years of relatively successful football just the same.
A grid of recent seasons for you, as a parting gift. What does this mean? Not much. But still interesting to see how these things have trended with wins, losses and certain coaches.