The Syracuse Orange have finished 4-8 for three straight seasons now — two of those under head coach Dino Babers. And while that sort of stretch can breed some frustration, Babers is still an overachiever compared to most of his peers around the college football coaching world.
SB Nation’s Bill Connelly took a look at underachieving and overachieving coaches on Thursday, as determined by how much they typically exceed/fall short of win expectancy (as determined by Bill’s metrics). The list is limited to coaches that have had an FBS job for at least three years since 2005 — which means it includes Babers (two years at Bowling Green, two at SU), along with his immediate predecessors Scott Shafer (2013-15), Doug Marrone (2009-2012) and GERG (2005-08).
To little surprise, Babers is not just the biggest overachiever out of those four, he’s also one of the biggest overachievers in the country.
At an average clip of 0.78 more wins per season versus what’s expected, Babers is tied for sixth with Mark Hudspeth (seven years at UL-Lafayette). The only coaches better than that mark? Kansas State’s Bill Snyder (1.12 per year), Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo (1.1), Tom Herman (0.98 at Houston and Texas), Wyoming’s Dave Christensen (0.91) and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald (0.88).
Last year, Syracuse’s expected win total was just 3.3, yet they won four. The season before, the mark was 3.5, and they wound up at four again. He was even better at Bowling Green, where he exceeded the expected total by 2.7 in 2014, then fell a little short of the number in 2015 (but the Falcons also won 10 games that year, so all’s forgiven).
Babers will be up against similar odds this year — Vegas says somewhere between 4.5 and 5.5 wins, and that’s before the game-by-game adjustments based on actual performance (what the win expectancy figures are based on). And while we have some faith the Orange can get to a bowl game this year, Dino could very well exceed expectations once again without actually making it to the postseason... Especially if last year’s inefficiency (SU had just two games in which they had a win expectancy over 50 percent) repeats itself once again.
All of this also far out-paces the previous Orange coaches, as mentioned earlier. Doug Marrone is the next-best, falling 0.06 wins short of expectations per season (one could argue that 2011 alone is probably responsible there). GERG was actually just 0.12 below expectations per season, which tells you just how bad those teams were. And of course, Shafer’s squads were much further down the list at 0.28 wins short of expected per season.
At this point, no one here should need further validation that it was time to move on from Shafer as a head coach (no matter how we feel about his tenure as a defensive coordinator), but this should alleviate any lingering doubts. Win expectancy is based on how you actually play, not how you’re projected to. So falling that far short (especially when you only won 14 games in three years) is a sign that things aren’t really getting any better, no matter how close scores against quality teams might have been.
Hopefully Babers can keep himself near the top of this list moving forward. Any coaches you’re surprised by being very high or low? Discuss whatever you want about win expectancy below.