Back when the 2019 Syracuse Orange football schedule was released, we made some pretty blind picks around wins and losses. The outcome was 7.45 wins, but that was also based on very little actual information, especially when SB Nation’s Bill Connelly hadn’t yet updated his team profiles.
Well, as he’s moved onto the ACC portion of his 130-team preview series, those are now updated and ready for 2019. Included among the many useful piece of information are Bill’s win probabilities for every Syracuse game this year, plus projected margins of victories in each game too.
He’ll dive into Syracuse in full when he gets around to them (sometime next weekish, probably). But the main thing we want to look at today is those win probabilities:
S&P+ nets out at 6.7 wins for Syracuse — which probably gets you pretty riled up. However, if SU averages seven more points per game, that climbs to 8.1. A dip of seven points per game knocks the Orange alll the way down to 5.1, though.
As expected, the ACC schedule is filled with toss-up games for Syracuse. And while S&P came around on Syracuse a bit by the end of 2018, the production losses from last year (Eric Dungey, Dontae Strickland, Jamal Custis, in particular) still provide some reasons for the numbers to doubt us this time around, as do recruiting rankings compared to much of the rest of the league. So taking the numbers at face value — which we should right now — the games group out as follows...
Likely wins: Holy Cross (98%), Liberty (82%), Western Michigan (67%)
Toss-ups: Boston College (64%), Louisville (61%), Wake Forest (59%), Pittsburgh (58%), Maryland (50%), Duke (48%), NC State (40%)
Likely losses: Florida State (31%), Clemson (9%)
Again, this is where recruiting rankings hurt us and help others. If we’re using 35% and 65% as the cutoffs for likely wins and losses (with the middle being toss-ups), then Florida State winds up a “likely loss” despite what we know about the state of that roster — and particularly is offensive line. Louisville’s fallen apart much more than this lets on. NC State gets a pretty nice bump here as well.
That’s not to diminish those opponents or think they’re much easier games. Realistically, that middle group is a slate of tough games against like opponents. Syracuse’s talent isn’t the differentiator between the Orange and those squads. It’s the scheme that provides the advantage. Injuries or a bad day can swing things in the wrong direction rather quickly, as we saw against Notre Dame last season. None of those teams are Notre Dame, but perhaps the Pitt game’s a better comparison point.
Last year, SU won most of the toss-ups to get to 10-3. This year, they’ll need to win three of them (out of seven) to get to six wins. And if they can take more, then great. I’d move FSU into that pile too, meaning SU has eight chances to win three. Looking at it more optimistically, they have a real chance (40% or better) in at least 10 games this year, and I’d say 11 with the ‘Noles inclusion. Go 6-4 or 6-5 and you’re bowling. Win more (and they very well could) and then you’re maybe contending for an Orange Bowl bid that’s back on the table in 2019 with the game not in the semifinal rotation.
I’m not tricking myself into thinking this team can win 10 games against on a whim. But at the same time, they’re potentially better at some spots with opponents that may take a step back too. Luck played a role last year, for sure. If it turns up on the right side (to some extent) for us again, it just takes a couple toss-up wins to take this from a projected .500ish campaign to another special season. Dino Babers has already worked some magic a few times while at SU. I wouldn’t bet against it happening again.