As you well know, the Syracuse Orange football team sits at 4-6 right now, and must win both remaining games to get to a bowl. Following the upset win over the Clemson Tigers, SU sat at 4-3 with seemingly endless possibilities for the postseason. Since then?
At least according to the S&P+, they’d played far less efficiently on both ends, and their win expectancy has gone down accordingly in those three games. No performance has been above the 30th percentile. No win expectancy has been above 18 percent. Last week’s was zero — which is what happens when your defense turns in a performance at just three percent efficiency.
The one caveat for all of this, however, is injury. S&P+ doesn’t factor it in, so everything expected of Syracuse is based on the team that’s been out there for much of the year. The same also goes for its opponents, both past and future. So in the case of Louisville, that doesn’t change much. But for final foe Boston College? That probably changes quite a bit.
As you may or may not have heard, QB Anthony Brown will miss the remainder of the season. He’d been one of the team’s primary reasons for the offensive turnaround over the second half of the season, with over 1,500 total yards and 13 touchdowns. No, those aren’t astronomical numbers, but he manned the offense better than replacement and former starter Darius Wade. Keep this in mind when looking at the projections for the final two games.
S&P+ sees the following right now, which should make you worried:
As the Louisville Cardinals have drifted further out of toss-up territory (win probability is down eight percent for the Orange week over week), the Boston College Eagles have moved further into toss-up. At one point, we had an 81 percent shot to beat BC...
Using those probabilities, S&P+ also looks at projected win totals on the season. At one point, we had a pretty strong chance to make it to 6-6 or even better. Now?
6-6: 17 percent
5-7: 53 percent
4-8: 30 percent
Those six wins largely lean on the Syracuse turning the tide on a 30-percent shot to beat Louisville, and then winning as slim favorites over Boston College. As Hoya Suxa pointed out, a five-win Orange team is very unlikely to go bowling this year, so let’s just expel that notion from our minds right now.
This isn’t to hammer home the fact that we’re not going bowling, though. It’s to underline that we have a slim chance to make it. Oddly, as much as things have fluctuated over the course of this season, we’re sort of at the same place we were back in early October, before the Clemson game.
Making it starts with beating Louisville, obviously, and that’s a tall order with either Zack Mahoney or a slightly banged-up Eric Dungey out there. It’s not to cast doubt on Mahoney. Just pointing out that while he has the ability to run this offense under normal circumstances, who knows what he’ll be able to do in a must-win situation. Dungey, injured or not, brings his own risk and reward as well. Plus, Louisville’s a better team, with Lamar Jackson.
That shouldn’t stop us from considering the possibility, however. And if we win this game, the odds of 6-6 go up tremendously (at least to 58 percent if all things stay equal with BC’s numbers). If you weren’t already, it’s definitely worth getting worked up about the FSU loss, particularly right now. Or really, any of this season’s tight defeats. Even one of them going our way at this point would make a huge difference with two to play.
I’ve long said that Syracuse should win four and lose four every year, and that the season’s defined by the toss-ups. That’s still true, but it’s certainly frustrating to potentially see all of those toss-ups go in the other direction for us for three straight seasons now. Hopefully that’s not the case this year. Even with the progress we’ve clearly shown on the field, the dreams of what-if would make for an exciting albeit frustrating offseason.