Through eight games, the Syracuse Orange’s season has already proven confusing. We’ve lost to a Middle Tennessee team that’s since bottomed-out due to injuries. We’ve hung tight with an LSU team that looked terrible and now looks alright again. Syracuse beat Clemson, which you undoubtedly know all about.
The Orange were probably supposed to be 4-4 at this juncture, though not by following this exact path. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how you we to six wins this year, as long as we do. I bring all of this up because a look at the current ACC Atlantic Division standings provide a significant amount of “wut.” to the proceedings.
Two of the division’s three most talented teams -- Florida State and Louisville -- sit in a tie for last place. Two of the least talented teams (Syracuse, Boston College) are tied for third, by win percentage.
Lucky for Syracuse, the only teams we’ve faced so far are the two at the top of the division standings, Clemson and NC State. That also means the rest of this season could provide quite a bit of chaos -- for us, and everyone else in the Atlantic.
Going into the season, Clemson, Louisville and Florida State were our most difficult divisional games. And yet, SU has already beaten the Tigers, and FSU and Louisville are now floundering in league play. The Seminoles are in real danger of missing the postseason this year. Louisville could too, despite the play of Lamar Jackson. Both of those teams lost by double-digits this past weekend to fellow divisional foes.
The confusing part is that those divisional foes were BC and Wake Forest, respectively.
Two teams that we wrote a “W” in pen next to in preseason (falsely, probably, for the Deacons at the time) won by a combined 77-35. Florida State only contributed three points to that latter total. The Eagles and Deacs -- who’ve struggled to score points for years -- are now doing it in bunches, with their defenses leading the way anyway.
We’ll face both teams at home this November.
And that’s what adds to the intrigue of a remaining Orange schedule that’s turned completely upside down at this point. It can be argued that Syracuse’s two most difficult games left are against BC and Wake, and both are at home. Yet, the most talented teams they’ll face are still FSU and Louisville, both of which are road games. Having the Seminoles and Cardinals struggling improves our chances to get to six wins, but BC and Wake getting much better harms things considerably. So what would we rather have?
Without looking at the probability numbers, it’s likely all four games are now somewhere between a 35-percent and 60 percent chance for a Syracuse win. That’s four toss-up games now, where we once had two sure losses, a toss-up and a clear win. The projected win total may add up to the same number, but those sure wins are more helpful individually. Now, we have none of those.
I’ve long said that every season, Syracuse will lose four games and win four games, and that the year is defined by what happens in the middle. Well, the middle may not have arrived they way we planned, but we’re here now. This, surprisingly, is the middle of the schedule, with four toss-ups that could make or break SU’s bowl chances. Is there a chance we could lose all four? Sure. Win all four? Yeah, that’s there too.
But really, we “just” need two to reach 2017’s modest goal: get to a bowl game.
That quest begins in earnest this week, as we head down to Florida State for a matchup we probably never saw ourselves having a chance to win over the summer. There’s a very real chance that Syracuse could beat both Clemson and FSU this season and miss a bowl game. That makes absolutely no sense when read with a basic understanding of college football, but at least registers a bit more when taken in the context of this year.
No, 2017 has not become 2007 yet. It’s tough to demand that any season ever could. But the list of upsets is growing and Syracuse is already a rich part of the overall story of what’s shaping up to be a weird year. Now, how can we complete our chapter? Like you, I’m hoping for some positive character growth and resolution before we turn the page.