SB Nation's Bill Connelly does some great work putting numbers to everything you need to know about college football. And like always, "college football" includes the Syracuse Orange, so his articles typically give us something interesting to write about.
Today? Ranking the percentage of returning starters for all of the country's 128 FBS programs, and aligning that to expected PPG differential jumps.
This would be news for us no matter what, but there's something very good contained within this particular data set:
SYRACUSE HAS THE THIRD-MOST EXPERIENCED ROSTER IN FOOTBALL THIS FALL!
Now, that's no guarantee of anything. Tons of experience-laden rosters fall flat on an annual basis. And there's plenty of teams with less experience that manage to exceed expectations each fall too.
But the projections do say that Syracuse's experience -- 100 percent of the offense and 80 percent of the defense -- could yield a net differential of 8.5 point per game in 2016. That's a huge number, clearly, and it's only exceeded by 2017 opponent LSU (plus-9.4), along with UCF (plus-9). If you recall the 4-8 Orange lost two games by less than 8.5 points last year, and were within 10 in two more. Experience alone can sometimes help close that gap and turn a middling ACC team in a bowl bound one without much/any change in the players on the roster.
This also doesn't take into account the change of pace and scheme that Syracuse will be adopting now with Dino Babers in charge. On offense, that could mean a larger number scored. But defensively, the youth (and lack of depth) and the switch to a Tampa-2 could mean more points allowed. Bill does a nice job after the table in the post of explaining how these numbers are determined, so I'd highly recommend reading that.
For those curious -- and again, do not take these numbers as indicative of wins/loses since players two- or three-deep on some rosters are (on paper) more talented than Syracuse starters -- here's how SU's 2016 opponents shake out:
|O returning||Proj. O||D returning||Proj. D||Overall||Overall proj.||Rank|
|PPG change||PPG change||returning||PPG change|
In a word; Yikes. Five of Syracuse's opponents are among the 20 most-experienced teams in the country, and two of those (Wake, BC) were games the Orange counted as victories in 2015 -- and both will be on the road in 2016. USF and Louisville were not fun opponents last fall, and bring back most of their teams too. Florida State, Notre Dame and Clemson are all just as dangerous as ever, despite appearing neaer the bottom of this chart.
But like I said earlier: take this all with at a grain of salt, to SOME extent. Just like Syracuse's returning experience could mean good or bad things, the same goes for everyone else too. Babers has said himself that we may need a little patience and the above is certainly indicative of that. Which (again) is fine.
"Just" 209 days until kickoff on September 2, everyone.