As the Syracuse Orange football season gets underway on Friday evening, we’ve been focusing on the program’s promising future. And particularly, the promise of 2017, which could be deemed a success despite a difficult schedule ahead.
But one measure over at Bleacher Report seems to be pretty dismissive of Syracuse as a program, at least on a national scale.
B/R used a combination of on-field success, recruiting, attendance, social media following and NFL talent to determine which programs mattered the most -- and least -- out of the FBS’s 130 schools. Things skewed heavily toward recent results, obviously, which is where the Orange fell considerably short.
Here’s what they said about SU at No. 58:
“The polar opposite of Rutgers, ancient history was the only category in which Syracuse was more than marginally above the national average. In addition to an 11-9 record in 20 bowl games before 2001, the Orange won the national championship in 1959 and had a Heisman winner in 1961 (Ernie Davis). As a result, a program that hasn't had a 10-win season since 2001 finished in the top 25 in one of our five categories and avoided finishing in the basement of power-conference teams.”
Syracuse ranked 12th in the ACC, just behind Virginia, and a little bit further behind Boston College. Wake Forest and Duke were the only conference teams to rank below the Orange (at 70th and 80th, respectively).
Lists like this don’t matter, of course. But it’s worth pointing out why this one’s sort of flawed for everyone. Recruiting rankings are pulled from a very recent five-year stretch. Attendance numbers are tallied by the schools themselves vs. actual butts in seats. Social media numbers (which this also leans on) will absolutely favor public schools over private.
So does Syracuse really matter less than 57 other programs right now? Maybe. There’s a few ahead of them you can easily pick apart (Illinois, Oregon State, Boston College). Other than that, you could probably accept the rest. For now.
The reality of college football is that it’s only 15-20 teams deep at all times. So really, anyone from 21 on can always rise or fall reasonably quickly. But in the modern era, you’re unlikely to move much higher than that spot around 21 or so. Even the chief usurper, Oregon, still peaks at 20 on this list.
If the Orange spend the next five years winning 10 games per season, the peak is still only the subjective “rank” of 30. Take a look at that list and you can see teams that quickly leapt to a certain stature (Baylor) ahead of us. You can see teams like Virginia Tech and West Virginia that continually knock on the door but don’t reach the next plateau. Even Oregon, TCU, Stanford, Washington... none of those schools are really that far ahead of us.
Who “matters” in college football is largely irrelevant unless you’re a blueblood. This list from 20 through 50ish might be more important to the sport’s annual narrative than the rest. But who they are can shift in just one season.
Does Syracuse matter to college football? Yeah, the same as every other school from 20 on down. The Orange and all of those schools populate the lower storylines that get more than 80 percent of the sport’s fans excited from week to week. That’s what makes college football so entertaining, and the sport I love to watch more than any other.
Syracuse football matters on a national scale if you think it does. Whether we go 3-9 or 9-3 this year, we’re part of the story of a sport that excels and grows each year because it’s rarely defined by the 15 or 20 best teams. That “matters.”