If you're a Syracuse Orange football fan over the past 15 years or so, you've certainly come to appreciate the rest of college football and the weekly shifts and shake-ups every November when it comes to the national title race. Yesterday's release of the College Football Playoff committee's first top 25 rankings that a) having people decide this is dumb, b) Losing only matters if you're not Alabama or Notre Dame, and c) Syracuse isn't even within sniffing distance of it.
While I'm not one to sit here and pretend the Orange are a Playoff-caliber team, I found myself wondering if there was a road that led to SU getting itself into the Playoff's top 25 by end-of-year. I'm aware this isn't happening. But hear me out on how this insane fever dream could potentially come to fruition.
Step 1: Win Out
Obviously, Syracuse would need to win out, getting itself to 7-5 on the year. That four-game string would include wins over Clemson (currently ranked number one by the committee), plus Louisville, NC State and Boston College.
Step 2: Opponents Need to Have Won As Many Games As Possible
Strength of schedule's a clear calling card of the committee, and one that would need to stay pretty high for the Orange if they had any shot of appearing in that top 25 as a 7-5 squad. If every Orange FBS opponent past and future were to win every other game on the schedule (or as many as possible given head to head matchups), here's how that would look:
(W) Wake Forest: 6-6
(W) Central Michigan: 8-4
(L) LSU: 12-0
(L) USF: 8-4
(L) Virginia: 6-6
(L) Pittsburgh: 10-2
(L) Florida State: 10-2
(W) Louisville: 6-6
(W) Clemson: 12-1
(W) NC State: 7-5
(W) Boston College: 4-8
A resume featuring 10 games against teams with six or more wins, two conference champs (Clemson and LSU), and a win over a team (the Tigers) that was making a beeline for the Playoff prior to them playing would be pretty formidable. There are FOUR teams with double-digit wins above. Few non-SEC schools, if any, would be able to claim the same.
Step 3: Chaos Elsewhere
It wouldn't be enough for Syracuse to go on an unlikely run, or its opponents too, though. You'd need some extraordinary luck to both enhance SU's opponents' resumes AND hurt those of other teams hanging around the top 25 toward the end of the season. Some recommended ways this could happen:
- LSU gets the top overall seed in the Playoff (likely, with 12-0 record and SEC title).
- Clemson, despite losing to SU, also makes the Playoff.
- The above is due to losses by Alabama (to LSU), Ohio State (to Michigan), Michigan State (to Ohio State), Iowa (to Minnesota, then Ohio State), Stanford (to Utah), Utah (to Colorado), Notre Dame (to Stanford), and the Big 12 needs to eat itself alive. This seems farfetched until you think about how tough all of these schedules get in November.
- A lot of the likely nine- or 10-win teams that would be hanging around the bottom of the top 25 would need to bottom out. So, not only would those like USC, UCLA, Northwestern, North Carolina, Texas A&M and Oklahoma have to lose, but a couple of the stronger potential seven- or eight-win teams (Washington State, California, West Virginia, to name a few) need to suffer a couple losses. You'd also need G5 front runners like Toledo, Western Kentucky, Houston, San Diego State, Boise State, Utah State, Marshall and Appalachian State (among others) to fall flat.
And that's "it." That's how Syracuse, despite a 3-5 record right now and not a notable win to its name, becomes bowl eligible, makes it into the College Football Playoff top 25 AND potentially jacks a Russell Athletic Bowl bid from North Carolina, Miami or Duke. Easy, right?
This isn't going to happen. But hopefully we had some fun with this anyway en route to what may end up being a rough afternoon for all of you. In advance: drink responsibly.