With the 2021 College Football Season just a few weeks away, Bill Connelly crunched the numbers and updated his pre-season SP+ ratings, a predictive metric meant to judge the relative offensive, defensive, and special teams abilities of a team that be can used to compare/project all FBS programs. As one could expect after a 1 win season, the Syracuse Orange do not rate highly by this metric.
The Orange are ranked no. 102 in SP+, anchored down by a no. 108 offense, with their defense at no. 77. Only Vanderbilt (106), Duke (108), and Kansas (119) are lower ranked Power 5 conference teams. This rating shouldn’t come as a surprise, since most of the value is derived from returning production, recent recruiting, and recent history.
For Syracuse, their returning production are players who were hurt last season (and thus aren’t returning much in terms of stats) and those with numbers did not have much in terms of anything that moves the needle in comparison to their Power 5 counterparts. While recruiting is on a bit of an upswing, it’s not going to be nearly good enough to balance out returning production or the lackluster history.
For those looking for silver linings, do not look at the Orange schedule; ‘Cuse will be playing six top 50 SP+ rated teams (no. 2 Clemson, no. 33 Virginia Tech, no. 40 Pittsburgh, no. 42 Louisville, no. 46 NC State, no. 50 Florida State) with only Clemson and Pittsburgh coming to the Carrier Dome. The Orange are only favored in 1 game (NR Albany), with the only two “toss-ups” coming against no. 85 Ohio and no. 83 Rutgers.
Taking a more long term perspective, the Orange starting low is to be expected, but it will be about where they finish that matters. As Steve, Christian, and I discussed on this week’s LiveCast, we’d love to see ‘Cuse finish the year somewhere in the 50’s/60’s, alongside other “mid-tier” Power 5 programs. With how difficult the Orange’s schedule predicts to be, a 4 win season that achieves that high of a ranking would be a strong side of the tides turning for Dino Babers.
What do you think? Is SP+ too harsh on the Orange? Let us know in the comments.