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Reviewing Syracuse football’s non-conference scheduling history

The Orange have scheduled non-conference foes since 1991 — what have we learned from that stretch?

Notre Dame v Syracuse Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

We talk plenty about Syracuse Orange non-conference scheduling around here, especially with regard to how it shapes the future of the program.

After we (Sean, myself) preached the importance of manageable scheduling for most of this site’s existence, Syracuse has recently gotten on board as well. Orange AD John Wildhack himself even discussed as much at a recent alumni event in Los Angeles, (thankfully) remarking that SU won’t be out West to see UCLA/USC anytime soon.

Of course, not everyone is a convert, though. And for as much as fans like the wins, the allure of the upcoming schedules isn’t exactly at its peak aside from visits from conference foes like Clemson. I’m not complaining about it whatsoever. But repeated dates against the likes of Western Michigan, Liberty, Ohio and others seems to have raised some eyebrows.

With that in mind, I was curious to see how common it was for Syracuse to face certain teams in non-conference play over the years. And also how frequently they matched up with certain schools in a short amount of time. The Orange, as you know, will face Western Michigan four times from 2018 to 2023 — more than any non-Pitt Coastal team in that stretch. While that seems like a lot, it’s far from unprecedented.

Looking back at Syracuse’s non-conference schedule each season starting from 1991 (the first year of Big East football), there were quite a few interesting notes. Hopefully you find them as entertaining as I did. I’ve highlighted some of the top trends below.

Syracuse v Western Michigan Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Syracuse has never had a perfect non-conference slate

Based on the difficulty we’ve typically scheduled with, perhaps you’re not so shocked. But SU has never gone unbeaten and untied in non-conference play. The closest they ever came was 1993, when they went 3-0-1 vs. Ball State, East Carolina, Texas and Cincinnati. The tie was against the ‘Horns, and was a bummer at that. Syracuse has gone 3-1 or 4-1 in non-conference play seven different times, including last year. This upcoming schedule of Liberty, Maryland, Western Michigan and Holy Cross is arguably the program’s best shot yet to get to 4-0.

Conversely, Syracuse has never gone winless in non-conference play. The only two years where they won just a single game were both under GERG (2005, 2007).

No team’s appeared on the non-conference schedule more than East Carolina

If someone knows why this was the case, please let me know. I’d love to write a story about this weird occurrence.

But from 1991-2001, the Orange(men) and Pirates played eight different times. Syracuse went just 5-3 and suffered some bigger upsets in there. There’s not a lot of rhyme or reason as to why the teams played so often since neither squad recruited the others’ area much at the time. ECU was also in Conference USA for much of that time, so they didn’t necessarily “need” a game like they might have was an independent.

SU’s 4-0 or better against three different teams

Chief among those would be podcast favorite Tulane, who Syracuse is 6-0 against since 1991 (last win was 2013). So continues the weird link between the Orange and Green Wave, which started with Roy Danforth’s departure to Tulane, leading to Jim Boeheim’s hire.

SU’s 4-0 against Buffalo and 4-0 against Central Michigan in non-conference play. They’re also 4-1 against Cincinnati in non-conference play, while owning a lesser 1-7 record against the Bearcats while both were members of the Big East.

Notre Dame’s on track to be the most-scheduled non-conference foe very soon

Notre Dame is already just two games behind ECU, with additional games scheduled for 2022, 2025, 2026 and 2029 in the “immediate term,” courtesy of the ACC’s arrangement with ND. Syracuse is 2-4 against the Irish in non-conference play so far, with the last win coming via GERG in 2008. The only thing that guy was ever good for...

Syracuse v Boston College Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

Syracuse was just 4-12 against future ACC conference-mates in non-league play

This doesn’t include games against Maryland. But in non-conference matchups against current ACC squads, the Orange did not fare well at all. Among the names they checked off at least once: Boston College, Florida State, Louisville, North Carolina, NC State, Virginia and Wake Forest.

SU’s just 1-6 in neutral site non-conference games

The lone win was the first one, against Wisconsin back in 1997. Since then, repeated losses against power conference teams, though it’s mostly just Notre Dame.

Home vs. road splits

Obviously Syracuse plays better at home, like most teams. In non-league games, they’re 48-24 at the Dome. But just 22-24 in true road environments.

WMU’s not the only four-out-of-six team

As mentioned right up top, we’ve played a bunch of teams pretty frequently over a short stretch. And the Broncos aren’t the only squad to appear at least four times in six seasons (2018-20, 2023). Northwestern did the same from 2008-13, and both Buffalo and Cincinnati were close at four in eight. But ECU takes the cake here, as you may have guessed, appearing on six of seven schedules from 1991-97.

The Orange have faced/are scheduled to face 60 different teams in non-conference play

This includes games that have been played, as well as those scheduled right now. But tossing in Albany, Holy Cross, Liberty and Ohio, that makes an even 60 for what will be about three decades of non-conference scheduling. Some oddities from that sample:

  • SU’s faced just one team each from C-USA (Middle Tennessee) and the MWC (Wyoming)
  • Zero current Sun Belt teams on past or future schedules
  • Syracuse is 4-4 against SEC schools in this stretch (not including bowl games)
  • The only Big Ten schools not to appear on the Orange’s non-conference schedule from 1991-2021 are Indiana, Michigan State and Nebraska
  • No current Big 12 school has appeared on the non-conference schedule since 1997


Am I the only one that cares about any of this? Does it make you feel better that we have similar opponents stacked up for future years? If there are other random questions about this, I have a whole grid of data to chat about too, so feel free to inquire.