The Syracuse Orange’s recently scheduled future series with Army was praised by yours truly (and others) for being a smart maneuver. Staying in-state, catering to alums and (most of all) being winnable, the 30-year gap between games for these two programs made little sense — for SU, especially.
While those four games are great, they’re also nearly a decade away. In the meantime, the Orange schedule still features tons of holes (one in 2017, two in 2018 and 2019, three each in 2020-2024) that risk needing tough opponents the longer we wait. I bring all of this up because of where Syracuse stands in Bill Connelly’s latest S&P+ projections.
Combing the list, it takes a few scrolls to get to the Orange, but still, there they are at 47th. A fine number, and one that would be the second-highest end-of-season ranking for Syracuse in a decade, should it hold. SU is listed ahead of a host of schools that are unequivocally considered “better” than them. Some (no. 48, Houston and no. 50 San Diego State) more glaringly than others (Duke, Arizona State, Georgia Tech, etc.), but it’s obvious that “one of these things is not like the other” in Syracuse’s portion of the table.
That’s also made abundantly clear when you glance over at the “projected wins” metric for all teams. Of the top 50, just Syracuse (5.2) and Northwestern (5.9) are the only ones projected below six wins, and you could easily round NU up. The Orange have the lowest chance at an 11-win season (0 percent) of anyone in the top 50, and the lowest bowl chances (40.5 percent) of any team in the top 53. The culprit of all of this? Scheduling.
This isn’t even to belabor the points I’ve made repeatedly over the last several years. Syracuse schedules itself into the ground, and also allows the market/need for game to dictate its scheduling strategy, rather than being proactive. It’s to point out that no matter what the Orange do with their non-conference schedule, they’re already starting from behind nearly every year. Clemson (no. 2) and Florida State (no. 5) have become perennial title contenders, while Louisville (no. 18) appears to be a program on the rise once recruiting picks up (and it has). Add in the Notre Dame (no. 13) agreement, and it’s easy to see how Syracuse is forced to go 6-2 in its other games more often than not.
This isn’t incredibly feasible, especially given how they’ve chosen to schedule in the non-conference.
For 2016, there would be nothing they could do about Notre Dame, if it wasn’t for the fact that the program scheduled this one before the ACC agreement took effect. USF, while not the no. 42-ranked team they are now, was still a dangerous opponent when that series was locked in. Connecticut (no. 81) is a start at “easier” scheduling, but in reality a rebuilding program should be bowling for much worse opponents. There are potentially 47 teams in FBS worse than UConn this year.
There’s nothing we can do now, but there’s hope for the future. Syracuse, please look at things like this and see that they’re not outright criticisms — but opportunities for us to fix what’s ahead. Dino Babers brings an exciting offense and a promising long-term outlook. No need to make it difficult for him (and us, as fans) to realize all of that.