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Syracuse football film room: What makes the Orange good this year?

If the first comment is “because they score more points,” so help me...

NCAA Football: Florida State at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange have scored more points than the team lined up across from them three times. They’re hoping to do this more than a few more times. In fact, some computers really like ‘Cuse’s chances of doing it five more times.

I’m not going to lie, this makes me giddy with excitement. We’ve been waiting for Dino Babers’s team to turn the proverbial corner. And after a win over Florida State, people seem to think they have. Naturally, because I’m a party-pooper and numbers inclined guy, I want to know “why” the Orange are good. Luckily for us, Bill C’s S&P+ numbers are pretty thorough and show a clear pattern in the Orange wins so far. (Click here to see ‘Cuse’s game by game scores)

Field Position Has Been Key to Orange Success

Syracuse has had one of the best field position margins in the entire country each week, a trend that continued versus Florida State has the Orange averaged 17.4 yards better than the ‘Noles. ‘Cuse also has the best average starting field position in the country (43.9 yard line), so not only are the Orange pinning their opponents back, but they’re routinely using special teams and good defense to give their offense shorter fields. Speaking of defense...

The Defense Has been Significantly Better

Success Rate is a huge key to an efficient and effective offense. Remember that game in Kalamazoo vs Western Michigan? The Broncos had a 38.7% success rate. That, along with Syracuse’s offensive struggles, meant that from a strictly stats perspective, WMU would have won that game 47.5% of the time. Now, compare that to Florida State’s struggles in the Dome. Their post-game win percentage was just a hair over 1%. Lol. A big part of that domination? FSU’s success rate was just 15.4%. UConn comes to town as one of the worst offenses in the country. The defense will have another game to look great. But don’t look too closely at that success rate because...

NCAA Football: Florida State at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Offense has been Average (Statistically)

Last year, the Orange were 62nd nationally in S&P+ offense. This year, they sit at 77th. A big part of that is that ‘Cuse is continuing a bad trend from last year: an inefficient offense that has a mediocre success rate and can’t finish drives. Now, we all saw and the stats back up the drop that came from losing Dungey, and the senior hasn’t played a full game yet this year (understandable against Wagner). But even with Dungey, the offense needs to get better at finishing drives and capitalizing on their first/second down success, so drives stop stalling out after a couple big plays.

Right now, solid defense and special teams are giving this offense shorter fields and more chances to make something happen. That’s great, and helping the Orange win games handily. However, if that field position dominance regresses to even “above average,” don’t be surprised to see the Orange fall back down to Earth, unless we start seeing a more efficient and consistent offense.