We’re still many months out from the start of the Syracuse Orange football season, but it’s not too early to look at initial rankings for 2021. Over at ESPN, Bill Connelly released the first iteration of his SP+ rankings, and... Syracuse finds itself in 95th.
2021 SP+ PROJECTIONS— Bill Connelly (@ESPN_BillC) February 9, 2021
* That upstart from Tuscaloosa starts out on top
* Returning production = a great year for the Pac-12 (6 teams in the top 25)?
* Buy: Oregon, Wisconsin, PSU, (gulp) Miami
* Sell, maybe: ND, USC, Texas A&M, (sigh) Indianahttps://t.co/8XgAVNgQnB
SP+ ratings are now behind the ESPN+ paywall, so don’t want to give away everything that’s included there, but it’s worth noting that no FBS team on the 2021 schedule is ranked lower than Syracuse. Rutgers is just one spot ahead in 94th and Ohio isn’t much higher up at 89th. That shouldn’t necessarily surprise, either.
Based on what we saw last year and the production that comes back, there’s little shock that SU is this low. Recruiting hasn’t necessarily cracked the top 50 on average, and three of Syracuse’s best players are off to the NFL Draft. Add in the loss of punter Nolan Cooney and the absence of Rex Culpepper — who wasn’t great last year, but is still lost production from the previous season — and you can see how we wind up here.
What it also tells us is how and where Syracuse can quickly move up the rankings. Better O-line play is likely with Florida transfer Chris Bleich being able to start this time around. Quarterback play should rise as a result, be it via the improvement of Tommy DeVito or the emergence of Mississippi State Garrett Shrader. Last year, we saw a lot of young players get onto the field on defense. How do those guys take a step forward?
Are you annoyed by the poor ranking? I’ll admit I am, but more at the state of things for Syracuse than the system itself. Whether or not the Orange can play beyond this expectation is a good indicator of the future of Dino Babers as head coach as well. I still have faith they’ll surpass this number and at least compete for a six-win season.