We’re in the peak portions of the college football offseason right now, even though the Syracuse Orange spring game is this Friday night.
One of the hallmarks of this time of year is early advanced metrics. We saw Syracuse come in at No. 71 for Bill Connelly’s S&P+ back in February. But the Orange ended up a bit higher in ESPN’s recent Football Power Index (FPI) release -- “all the way” at 58th.
FPI calculates team efficiencies for offense, defense, special teams and on an overall scale, with adjustments made for strength of schedule and garbage time stat-padding. Bill’s numbers do all of these things, though I think they’re a bit more polished in terms of accounting for long-term recruiting impact, returning production and his famed “five factors” which can tell you a hell of a lot about a team all at once in just five numbers. Also, FPI is seemingly used more as a predictive tool than a measure of true efficiency free of pace. Needless to say, it’s worth taking everything you see this early with a grain of salt, but it’s great to use these metrics to frame conversations.
One of those conversations is around where ACC teams stack up for 2018 -- and specifically, how the Orange compare to the teams on their schedule this fall. FCS teams aren’t included (sorry, Wagner). However, here’s SU mixed in with this year’s foes:
58. Syracuse Orange
120. Connecticut Huskies
First off: Lulz Huskies. Second, that’s a tough road ahead by the numbers. All but two opponents are ahead of the Orange, and even WMU isn’t that far behind.
Still, FPI says we’re going 5.2-6.8, which you can either round down to 5-7 or up to 6-6, depending on your own personal outlook. That means that despite numerous teams ranking ahead of Syracuse, they stand a pretty good chance in many of those games (probably everyone from Boston College on down).
FPI gives SU a zero-percent chance to win every game, and a zero-percent chance to win the conference (that’s what happens when you’re in the same division as the No. 1 team, even if we did beat the Tigers last year). Despite the heft at the top of this schedule, though, Syracuse’s strength of schedule comes in at 36th. That’s pretty tough, but maybe manageable (and also weighed down by UConn being so bad).
Some additional perspective from FPI: There are nine different Power Five teams listed below SU -- including quite a few Big 10 teams. Rutgers and Illinois I buy, and same goes for fellow ACC squad Virginia, despite the Hoos’ bowl appearance in 2017. Maryland’s not necessarily as easy of a sell for me being worse than Syracuse given the Terps’ top-30 recruiting of late. However, they also face a top-15 schedule and will have an even more difficult time than the Orange in order to make a bowl. As you’ve probably gathered by now, schedule is pretty important in ESPN’s early rankings here.
Not much to really debate, unless you’re fervently for or against the FPI methodology here. Or if there’s anything else you’re taking from these rankings, go ahead and have at it in the comments.