As the Syracuse Orange prepare for the final act of their season, the postseason picture is beginning to take shape in a solidified manner. ‘Cuse football sits at 5-4 with three games left; on the road versus Louisville and NC State and a home finale against the Pittsburgh Panthers.
The Orange are underdogs against the Cardinals on Lamar Jackson day, and if they lose on Saturday, it’s hard to imagine Vegas would set the Orange up as anything other than underdogs against the Wolfpack, who best both of the former teams in almost every on field metric. Same goes for the home finale against a Panthers team that while dropping games they should not, is still very good and a top ten in SP+. The long story short: Vegas thinks the Orange’s bowl hopes are over.
However, that SP+ metric that likes Pitt so much? They also like the Orange enough and the ACC not enough to give the Orange a 70% chance of finishing the season 1-2. While it agrees that all three of ‘Ville, State, and Pitt are better teams than the Orange, the computer doesn’t think the gap is all that wide. For a system that is based on running simulations thousands of times, there are enough instances that Syracuse wins at least one of those games behind it’s rushing attack and stout defense to the point that there’s 70% confidence in that outcome.
Who else agrees with the computers?
Yahoo Sports, USA Today: New Era Pinstripe Bowl vs Purdue, December 28; Also, BowlSeason says SU vs. Penn State in the Pinstripe Bowl
Sporting News: SERVPRO First Responder Bowl vs West Virginia, December 28
ESPN’s Mark Schlablach, Athlon Sports: Military Bowl presented by Peraton vs East Carolina, December 27
247 Sports: Duke’s Mayo Bowl vs Tennessee, December 30
Much like last time we did this exercise, the favorites seem to be a bit higher in prestige than the Gasparilla bowl, as a much more congested middle of the ACC has opened up the Pinstripe and Military Bowls to the Orange. The Mayo Bowl would be interesting not just for the #content, but an SEC matchup is always interesting on paper if not in competitiveness. Meanwhile the newest entrant in the list, the First Responder Bowl, seems like an option only if West Virginia is available to be selected as well. We saw how well both schools filled the Camping World Bowl in 2018.
Ultimately, this weekend feels like yet another inflection point for the Orange; if they pull off the Vegas upset, the computers look smart and the Orange will be headed to the postseason. If the Orange lose, the path forward is only more difficult, and bowl eligibility chances shrink dramatically.