The last time we published a projection analysis (after Syracuse upset Clemson in the Carrier Dome), the Orange were staring at a forecast that, on a blended basis, gave Syracuse around 60% probability of finishing with six or more wins in 2017. That was pretty good! You probably felt like a captain of industry and went out and bought a monocle to wear at the Orange’s almost-assured bowl game! Things were progressing along at a rate that exceeded your preseason expectations!
The three weeks that followed the historic toppling of the Tigers, though, has changed Syracuse’s outlook on potential postseason eligibility: Following losses to Miami and Florida State, the Orange are staring at a blended probability of around 44% to capture six or more victories this year, a dangerous spot for a team that needs to corral triumphs in two of its three final dates in order to breach the arbitrary threshold that the NCAA has put in place to participate in a year-end exhibition. That’s not an awful likelihood for getting to, at a minimum, a 6-6 mark, but it does imply that Syracuse is going to have to overplay its standard — or get some luck in the coming weeks (matchup preference, opponent injuries, etc.) — to find itself in a position to potentially increase its record-setting Pinstripe Bowl victory total.
“HEY, NERD: TELL ME WHAT THE WIN PROBABILITIES ARE FOR SYRACUSE’S NEXT THREE GAMES!”
From the top: We’re looking at S&P+, Sagarin, Massey, and FPI. The idea here is to get an understanding, as best we can, of what predictive models are projecting for Syracuse in its final trio of games. The context here can provide a decent foundation to which to erect expectations.
The good news: Syracuse isn’t a dramatic underdog in any of these games. The bad news: Syracuse isn’t a dramatic favorite in any of these games, either.
All four models are generally projecting a similar walkdown for the Orange:
- Wake Forest: ~44%. These models do not incorporate injuries, so that the Vegas line opened in Syracuse’s favor isn’t surprising. Regardless, the line is likely to settle somewhere in the vicinity of a toss-up game (the line has already started to trend toward a Pick ‘Em on OddsShark), which is what the models are projecting at the moment. Resting in a toss-up position for a home date is doing no favors for Syracuse in an atmosphere that focuses on the Orange bagging six wins. (If you care — I ran a simulation with Syracuse as 3.5-point favorite against Wake Forest in every model, keeping everything else the same. Syracuse win probability against the Deacons then hovers around 60% and the likelihood of finishing at 6-6 or better straddles the 50% mark.)
- Louisville: ~37%. Internet people have all kinds of wild beliefs about Louisville, but there are at least two truths about the Cardinals that Syracuse is going to have to deal with: (1) It’s a road game, and road games are necessarily more difficult to win than home dates; and (2) Lamar Jackson has the capability at any moment to wreck fools. Of the three remaining games on Syracuse’s schedule this is the least likely for a victory, but it’s not such a longshot that it materially draws down the Orange’s opportunity to get to the six-win plateau.
- Boston College: ~55%. It’s probably best to consider Boston College after Syracuse finishes up with Louisville. The Eagles, though, still look like the Orange’s best opportunity for a win, needing that victory as a tent pole in order to wrangle the two it needs out of its remaining slate.
“SO WHAT, DORK. JUST GIVE ME TWO WINS. I DON’T CARE WHERE THEY COME FROM. WHAT ARE THE ODDS ON GETTING TWO MORE WINS, GENIUS?!”
This is part of the problem with Syracuse looking at three toss-up games (or, rather, a toss-up game and two games on the fringes of a toss-up). Without anything clearly expected to end up in the house, the Orange are in that awful zone of half-wins, and running a Monte Carlo simulation on the computed win probabilities for each of the games for each of the models yields an ugly potential future:
It’s highly likely that Syracuse finishes with a 5-7 or 6-6 record, with the maximum ceiling and basement not all that probable to occur. The issue, though, is that in order to get a gift bag of goodies, the Orange need to be closer to the 6-6 side than the 5-7 side. That’s where the issue is: It’s about a push for either eventual record, with chance erring toward a final 5-7 record.
“GREAT, A BUNCH OF DWEEBS WITH CALCULATORS THINK THAT SYRACUSE ISN’T GOING BOWLING. I KNOW MORE ABOUT FOOTBALL THAN THEY DO. DO YOU HAVE A WAY FOR ME TO PROVE IT, GEEK?”
First — you’re really an ass. Second — of course.
Here is an Microsoft Excel tool that you can use to calculate your own odds based on your projected margins in Syracuse’s final three games:
All you have to do to make the workbook perform correctly is to enter predicted margins into the orange-shaded cells. (I have a feeling that you’ll be shocked by the win probabilities and projected records that are derived from your inputs, but that’s kind of the point here — reasonable expectations-setting.)