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Ranking Syracuse football’s remaining games by difficulty, win probability

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Alright, let’s reevaluate the schedule after six games.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 09 Wake Forest at Syracuse Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Immediately after the Syracuse Orange football schedule was announced for 2021, TNIAAM pulled together a piece on win probabilities for each game. We netted out at 5.58 wins on the season, which sounded optimistic at the time but now sort of tracks with what we’ve seen so far.

While Syracuse could fairly easily be 5-1 right now, they’re not and instead sit at 3-3, so they’ll need to match that record over the final six games to go bowling. Can they do it?

Below, we rank the remaining games by difficult and win probability for the Orange. These aren’t based on advanced metrics but they do influence our view of the matchups to some extent.

(ranked from hardest game to easiest)

1. Week 7: Clemson Tigers

The Tigers have certainly taken a step back this year, but they’re still immensely talented — on defense, anyway. Unfortunately for Clemson, the highly-ranked players on the offensive side of the ball just haven’t really been able to put together a solid game against ACC competition. That should be an encouraging sign for a defensively-inclined squad like Syracuse. But they’re still Clemson. I won’t rule out an upset, and the odds of a win are definitely higher than they were back in January (7%). But it’s still a tall order to score the upset this Friday. Win likelihood: 20%

2. Week 13: Pittsburgh Panthers

‘Cuse may very well need to win this game to go to a bowl and that’s not the most encouraging thing for our postseason chances. While Pitt’s defense has shown vulnerabilities that weren’t necessarily expected coming into this year, the offense has been absolutely lights-out and averages over 52 points per game right now to lead the nation. They won’t manage that vs. SU, but they may still be able to keep Syracuse playing catch-up. Win likelihood: 25%

3. Week 12: at N.C. State Wolfpack

State showed how vulnerable Clemson was weeks ago, and while there may be some defensive questions given the team’s injuries, the offense is still plenty capable and Syracuse has had a tough time vs. the Pack historically (2-12 all-time, 1-6 on the road). We’ll chalk up last year’s close game against a beleaguered SU squad to NC State simply looking ahead. This will be a difficult road game especially being the Orange’s second straight game away from the Dome. Win likelihood: 30%

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 11 Rutgers at Syracuse Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

4. Week 8: at Virginia Tech Hokies

Virginia Tech hasn’t looked bad in any game this year despite being 3-2 so far, but also hasn’t looked amazing either. If the Orange encounter the team that battled Notre Dame to the wire last weekend, it could be a grueling afternoon at Lane Stadium. If they’re facing the Hokies team that sleep-walked past Richmond, there’s a good chance at an upset. Win likelihood: 35%

5. Week 11: at Louisville Cardinals

Is Louisville good? Still not sure, to be honest. The Cardinals’ ACC losses have been close, and the offense has shown itself more than capable. There are questions on the defense that haven’t really gone away from last year. But we also thought that last season before the Cards drubbed the Orange 30-0. Don’t see a redux of that game, but this matchup has just been a problem for ‘Cuse for far too long to feel confident. Win likelihood: 40%

6. Week 9: Boston College Eagles

BC’s dealt with its own share of major injuries this year, yet the Eagles are still 4-1 and did manage to compete with Clemson for a full 60 minutes just a couple weeks ago. Syracuse’s defense is going to challenge this conservative offense, but we’ve also seen players run wild against the Orange on their own, and Zay Flowers could find a way. Playing at home helps, but only so much. I think this one’s a true toss-up right now due to the Dome. Win likelihood: 50%

For the math-impaired, that’s .20 + .25 + .30 .35 + .40 + .50 = 2.0 wins

So... yeah, that’s actually a downgrade from what we saw occurring in preseason, which is a bummer. But with none of these games seen as anything better than a toss-up, even one on-field victory bumps this number up. Still, a 5-7 record right now probably leaves a lot of teeth gnashing about the back-to-back last-second losses to ACC foes.

See things winding up a bit differently? Share your own projections below.