Last week, we dove into some key metrics from SB Nation's Bill Connelly. The Syracuse Orange return the third-most talent in the country, and are actually improving in two- and five-year recruiting averages. Those numbers inform Bill's S&P+ ratings, which made their 2016 debut today.
Syracuse, appropriately, came in at 44th. That's entertaining from the standpoint of the number, obviously. But it's also startling when you think about how high that is. And where Syracuse typically finishes in the S&P. A look at the most recent finishes: 71st (2015), 78th (2014), 59th (2013), 40th (2012), 77th (2011).
Now obviously the 2016 numbers are projections, and those historical figures are based on the actual games played. But if Syracuse lives up to their rating, that would make them the second-best Orange team since the metrics began in 2005 -- just behind the lauded 2012 squad that was a runaway freight train once it finally got a handle on its season.
"So all of this is good, right?" Well, yes. While these metrics aren't foolproof indicators of success, they are good tells for teams that could make significant jumps from one year to the next. Obviously coaching, WHICH talent returns and your schedule also factor into how your season ultimately ends. But starting from a higher point stands to be a positive for the program.
On the other hand, we're not the only ones in the ACC to trend up in the S&P+ for 2016. In fact, the conference's average rating of 9.2 is second to only the SEC, and its average gain of 2.5 is third -- pretty close behind the SEC (2.8) and Big 12's (2.6) respective gains. This is where scheduling comes into play. Because here's where our opponents all project out:
... this is how you get buried as an average team in a major conference.
Four of the teams above are in the top 20. And seven of Syracuse's 11 FBS opponents are ranked 40th or higher, and eight project out higher than the Orange. Boston College isn't that far behind them at 50th. Only Wake Forest and Connecticut would currently project out as definite victories.
There's a reason you play through the games on the schedule, instead of just projecting these things, however. As we discussed in the article on returning starters, there's a caveat to SU's number there, since there's a whole new system being brought in on both sides of the ball. And despite being below eight teams in the S&P+, they're very close to two of those (USF, NC State), and face another near its station (Virginia Tech) at the Carrier Dome.
I won't make this a scheduling thing, because it's not really that -- all but one of the opponents listed ahead are either ACC or ACC-arranged games. But it's still proof that we should be scheduling wins outside of the ACC to help this program turn itself around. If the conference is giving us six top-40 teams out of the gate, that should be a cue for us to look a bit further down the ratings scale for our non-conference opponents. Obviously that's not always easy to do several years out. Syracuse's also late to schedule these games to begin with, however, giving them a much better idea of opponents beforehand.
Both good and bad above, depending on how you choose to look at it. Even with a tough road ahead this fall, the team already looks prepared to trend up, even if wins don't coincide with that right away.