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How has Syracuse football fared when ranked in preseason Coaches Poll?

It’s been a while so let’s look back

NCAA Football: Camping World Bowl-West Virginia vs Syracuse Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange football team is ranked in the preseason Coaches Poll for the first time since 1998 -- a stretch that was longer than the life of nearly every player on the current roster.

But this used to be a little more commonplace, which is why we wanted to look back at the other years when SU started out the season ranked, to see what happened afterward. Syracuse has been ranked in the initial Coaches Poll nine different times before this year. They’ve finished the season ranked in five of those, and went bowling in seven of them. So at least based on previous results, our odds aren’t looking half-bad here...


Started: 14th

Finished: 24th (8-4, lost to Florida Gators in Orange Bowl)

Obviously the ranking dip’s not great, and you could probably grind your teeth to dust just thinking about how Paul Pasqualoni’s Donovan McNabb teams fell short of what they were capable of. So in the context of this specific season, four losses, and losing in the Orange Bowl were disappointments. But in 2019, we’d probably take all of that, plus still being ranked to close the season (as was the case here).


Started: 16th

Finished: 20th (9-4, lost to Kansas State Wildcats in Fiesta Bowl)

Similar to the above: Donovan McNabb team doesn’t reach full potential, Syracuse plays in major bowl game anyway and finishes slightly lower in coaches poll compared to where they started. Not great at the time. Would be fine now.


Started: 13th

Finished: 19th (9-3, beat Houston Cougars in Liberty Bowl)

See above. Don’t know how many Syracuse fans would be thrilled about playing the Liberty Bowl this year, but beggars can’t be choosers just yet (also the Liberty Bowl was a bit better then vs. now).


Started: 7th

Finished: Unranked (6-4-1, no bowl)

Some pretty weighty expectations were squandered here, as SU began the season as a top-10 squad (a major rarity for the program). Today, a 6-4-1 season is basically 7-5ish, would would certainly net the Orange a postseason trip. This is a realistic outcome this year, even if it seems like a major step back. At least we’re starting out ranked in the 20s in 2019.


Started: 10th

Finished: 7th (10-2, beat Colorado Buffaloes in Fiesta Bowl)

This season is probably similar to where many SU fans probably believe things are headed. That optimism’s great, but also a bit of a stretch from a rankings perspective. If Syracuse 10-3 or so again, that wouldn’t get them into the top-10, but they’d finish in the 15-20 range like last year.


Started: 24th

Finished: 21st (7-4-2, beat Arizona Wildcats in Aloha Bowl)

If you’re looking for the closest parallel to 2019, maybe 1990 is it. Syracuse started that season ranked 24th, then improved that slightly while still losing four games, but beating a power conference team in a mid-tier bowl. Think we’d all be fine with this outcome.


Started: 16th

Finished: Unranked (8-4, beat Georgia Bulldogs in Peach Bowl)

You don’t want to finish the season unranked, but we’d take the Peach Bowl bid (and victory) -- though that couldn’t happen in 2019. At least not for the Peach Bowl (though it could for the Orange Bowl if SU’s the second-best ACC team in the College Football Playoff rankings and Clemson makes the top four).


Started: 19th

Finished: Unranked (5-5-1; no bowl)

From ranked to unranked and .500 isn’t ideal. Though this would get Syracuse a bowl bid nowadays.


Started: 20th

Finished: Unranked (7-3; lost to Alabama Crimson Tide in Orange Bowl)

Another potentially realistic outcome. Syracuse was then and is now on the fringes of the rankings. As mentioned above, an unranked Orange squad could also get an Orange Bowl invite. Just hope we don’t see ‘Bama… or lose 61-6 to whatever opponent we line up against as we did following the 1952 season.


Which of these seasons would you most want to see mimicked by Syracuse this year? And which seems like the most realistic to follow in the footsteps of?