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Comparing Syracuse football non-conference schedules to those of ACC peers

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Yes we’re talking schedules again

Syracuse v Maryland Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images

We’ve had a lot of discussion this fall about the state of the Syracuse Orange football program. There’s been a focus on the success of peer ACC schools as evidence that Syracuse has fallen behind and we’re going to take deeper looks at the state of the program as this season winds down.

Over the past few years the topic of Syracuse’s non-conference schedule has been a focal point. I went back to 2013 and broke down the OOC for Syracuse along with the Boston College Eagles, Duke Blue Devils, NC State Wolfpack, Pitt Panthers and Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Before we get into the talking points, here’s the data

ACC OOC Schedules

Season Syracuse Boston College Duke NC St Pitt Wake Forest
Season Syracuse Boston College Duke NC St Pitt Wake Forest
2013 Penn State (N) @Northwestern Wagner Tulane Villanova @USC Army @New Mexico St NC Central @Memphis Troy Navy Louisiana Tech Richmond Central Michigan East Carolina New Mexico Old Dominion @Navy Notre Dame Presbyterian La-Monroe @Army @Vanderbilt
2014 Villanova @Central Michigan Maryland Notre Dame (N) UMass (N) Maine USC Colorado St Elon @Troy Kansas Tulane Georgia Southern Old Dominion @USF Presbyterian Delaware @FIU Iowa Akron @La-Monroe Gardner-Webb @Utah State Army
2015 Rhode Island Central Michigan LSU @USF Maine Howard N. Illinois Notre Dame (N) @ Tulane NC Central Northwestern @Army Troy Eastern Kentucky @Old Dominion @South Alabama Youngstown St @Akron @Iowa Notre Dame Elon @Army Indiana @Notre Dame
2016 Colgate USF @UConn Notre Dame (N) @UMass Wagner Buffalo UConn NC Central @Northwestern @Notre Dame Army William & Mary @East Carolina Old Dominion Notre Dame Villanova Penn State @Okla State Marshall Tulane Delaware @Indiana Army
2017 Central Conn. Middle Tenn Central Michigan @LSU @N. Illinois Notre Dame Central Michigan UConn (N) NC Central Northwestern Baylor @Army South Carolina (N) Marshall Furman @ND Youngstown St @Penn State Oklahoma State Rice Presbyterian Utah State @App State @Notre Dame
2018 @Western Michigan Wagner UConn Notre Dame (N) UMass Holy Cross @Purdue Temple Army @Northwestern @Baylor NC Central James Madison Georgia State @Marshall East Carolina Albany Penn State @UCF @Notre Dame @Tulane Towson Notre Dame Rice
2019 @Liberty @Maryland Holy Cross Western Michigan Richmond Kansas @Rutgers @Notre Dame Alabama (N) North Carolina A&T @Middle Tenn Notre Dame (N) East Carolina Western Carolina @WVU Ball State Ohio @Penn State UCF Delaware Utah St @Rice UNC Elon
2020 Liberty Texas St Charlotte Liberty Austin Peay Campbell
2021 @Ohio Rutgers Albany Liberty Colgate @UMass @Temple Missouri @Charlotte North Carolina A&T Northwestern Kansas USF @Miss St Furman Louisiana Tech UMass @Tennessee Western Michigan New Hampshire Old Dominion Norfolk State @Army @North Carolina
Home 20 21 20 24 23 20
Road 9 9 11 8 10 13
Neutral 4 3 2 1 0 0
OOC Games 33 33 33 33 33 33
P5 Opponents (Includes ND) 10 9 12 5 12 8

I used rankings at the time of the game and to balance that since early season rankings can be weighted towards the previous season, I noted the teams who made bowl games that season. From this data we can see a few things to dig into a bit deeper but overall it’s safe to say that both Syracuse and Pitt schedule like they are still in the Big East. The Panthers obviously have a good reason to play Penn State but what were they thinking playing either UCF or Oklahoma State along with the Nittany Lions?

Which ACC schools are setting themselves up the best in the non-conference schedule? I think it’s clearly NC State and Wake. Since 2013 NC State has only played four P5 opponents and two of those games were part of the ACC”s deal with Notre Dame. The only season the Wolfpack have played more than one bowl team was 2017. That’s setting your team up to maximize their chances to make a bowl game.

NCAA Football: Western Carolina at North Carolina State Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Wake Forest has somehow only managed to play three games against ranked non-conference opponents and those games were all against Notre Dame. Boston College played “neutral” site games in Foxboro against UMass while the Orange were taking on Penn State and Notre Dame in NYC.

With the advance scheduling in college football it can be hard to predict which schools will be good when the games actually arrive. However if you take a closer look at the names and you’ll see that a lot of the Orange’s peers are being more selective when they schedule P5 opponents. Yes, Duke played Alabama but that’s in a season opener that’s a huge payday for a program so that’s a good time to do it.

We have positive news on this front though, as we see at what the future Syracuse OOC schedules look like.

2021: @ Ohio, Rutgers, Albany, Liberty

2022: @ UConn, Purdue, Wagner, Notre Dame

2023: Western Michigan, @ Purdue, Army

2024: Ohio, @ Army

2025: UConn, Army, @ Notre Dame

2026: New Hampshire, @ Army, UConn, Notre Dame

This is a much better approach to try and get the consistent bowl appearances that Syracuse Football needs to build the program back to the level where it can be ranked and competitive in the ACC. Yes, you still need to win these games, but with the exception of 2022, you’re only facing one P5 opponent per season and playing the majority of the games at home.

Fans will just have to be satisfied facing big-name opponents during bowl contests.