Let’s be clear about this: I will not update this analysis, I will not examine any special “What if . . .” that you ask for, I will not do this ever again because this was the worst goddamn thing that I ever had to try and figure out. Nobody should ever undertake this analysis because it is painful and stupid and you probably already knew the answer before you even started reading this piece. I blame all the knuckleheads that said “Well, maybe . . .” for making me do this and I will never, ever forgive you for not believing me when I said that a five-win Syracuse team will not make a bowl. There is a 0% chance that any other college football fan idiot will do what I did, and there’s good reason for it — this is an incredibly stupid thing to do.
There are 130 Football Bowl Subdivision teams. 128 of those teams — excluding Coastal Carolina (transitioning) and Ole Miss (cheatin’) — were, at some point, eligible for one of the 78 bowl slots available to, at worst, partially-functioning teams. Syracuse, theoretically, is one of the 128 teams looking for a postseason berth, but as was discussed previously, the Orange’s odds for earning outright bowl eligibility with six victories are somewhat slim: A computer projection currently illustrates Syracuse as finishing the year with five Gatorade baths, a triumph short of automatic bowl consideration.
Which brings us to a hellacious possibility: Could Syracuse qualify for a bowl with five victories, using its Academic Progress Rate score as a catapult into a winter exhibition? The answer: It isn’t going to happen, but if it does this is how it needs to go down.
BASIC FOUNDATION: WHO’S IN, WHO’S OUT, WHO’S A THREAT
There are, currently, 50 bowl-eligible teams. This will not change; these teams have already chewed up most of the 78 spots set aside for bowl participants.
There are 21 bowl-ineligible teams. This will not change; these teams have already excluded themselves from bowl participation, either through the accumulation of losses or other relevant circumstances.
That leaves us with 58 teams to consider, excluding Syracuse.
Of those 58 teams, the Massey Ratings project that 10 will not achieve a minimum of five wins this season. Those teams are excluded from the pool of teams that need to be considered, leaving the universe at 48 potential threats to the Orange’s hopes for a bowl game.
Here’s the breakdown of those 48 teams:
- Expected to win five games — 20 teams. We’ll call these “Maybe Teams.” These teams are in the same boat as the Orange in that they need help to progress past the regular season.
- Expected to win six or more games — 28 teams. We’ll call these “Trouble Teams.” These teams are headed toward the magic number and Syracuse needs chaos in order to move up the food chain.
That’s the universe — 48 teams divided into two buckets.
“TROUBLE TEAMS” — FURTHER REFINING THE POOL OF THREATS
Of the 28 teams in the “Trouble Teams” bucket (teams expected to win at least six games, and maybe more), 11 will automatically stand above Syracuse in the selection hierarchy because (a) they already have five wins, and (b) they have a higher APR score than Syracuse. When you add these 11 teams to the 50 that are already bowl eligible, that leaves only 17 potentially available bowl slots.
Excluding the 11 teams that are in a better position than Syracuse, 17 teams remain. Syracuse needs those 17 teams to do very specific things in order for the Orange to potentially leapfrog them in the bowl pecking order (lose out, lose X of X games down the stretch, beat a specific team, etc.). Of those 17 teams, 10 have probability scenarios that clock in under a 10% likelihood, so those teams are assumed to eventually stand ahead of the Orange when the final scoreboard blinks 0:00. This reduces the overall slot openings to seven with the “Trouble Teams” pool — teams Syracuse can leapfrog if insane things happen — trimmed to seven schools.
Those seven schools: Colorado (needs to lose out); UNLV (needs to lose two of its last three); Louisiana Tech (needs to lose two of its last three, but also needs to beat UT-San Antonio); UT-San Antonio (needs to lose out); Western Kentucky (needs to lose out); Louisiana-Lafayette (needs to lose three of its last four, but also needs to beat New Mexico State); and New Mexico State (needs to lose out).
“MAYBE TEAMS” — FURTHER REFINING THE POOL OF THREATS
Of the 20 teams in the “Trouble Teams” bucket (teams expected to win no more than five games), three will automatically stand above Syracuse in the selection hierarchy because (a) they cannot experience the loss needs that Syracuse requires because their oncoming head-to-heads, and (b) they have a higher APR score. The schools that will somehow comprise the three pain-in-the-ass teams are — Duke, Minnesota, Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech, Nebraska, and Tennessee (three will definitely be above the Orange). I have excluded all six of these teams as including half of them makes this perilously opaque, leaving the overall pool openings at just four and the “Maybe Teams” universe at just 14 schools.
Those 14 schools: Air Force (needs to lose out); Indiana (needs to lose two of its last three and also beat Purdue); Florida (needs to lose two of its last three); Buffalo (needs to lose two of its last three); Cincinnati (needs to lose two of its last three and also beat Temple); Pittsburgh (needs to lose out); Temple (needs to lose out); Purdue (needs to lose out); UCLA (needs to lose out); Arkansas (needs to two of its last three); Idaho (needs to lose one of its last three and also beat New Mexico State); Texas Tech (needs to lose two of its last three); Eastern Michigan (needs to lose one of its last three); and Florida State (needs to lose one of its last three and also beat Florida).
WHAT THE HELL DOES THIS ACTUALLY LOOK LIKE NOW?
To recap: There are 21 teams that Syracuse cares about if it wants to potentially qualify for a bowl with only five wins, 14 of which are expected to finish with five wins — leading to an APR battle or the need to finish under five wins — and seven of which are on pace to finish with at least six but need to fall apart. If 18 of those teams do what Syracuse needs them to do, Syracuse will claim one of four available slots in the bowl season.
Here’s a chart you can have tattooed to your face to understand everything that Syracuse needs — it’s actually more than Syracuse needs by three teams, but why not have some cushion? — to make a bowl after what would be a ridiculous final three weeks of the college football regular season:
(Click image to enlarge.)
Is this going to happen? Hell no. This is anarchy; it’s not happening. There is such a low likelihood of this happening that words shouldn’t even exist about it (and none of this even considers Syracuse’s odds). But the work is done: Stop thinking that Syracuse is going to qualify for a bowl with five wins.