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Syracuse football: what does the Orange’s final regular season resume look like?

Based on all the numbers, Syracuse outperformed consensus preseason expectations.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Boston College Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Take a deep breath everyone.

Yes, we finally made it to the end of the Syracuse Orange football regular season, and finally on a lighter note with a 32-23 win over Boston College Saturday night. For the average fan out there, this season felt like getting off a Six Flags roller coaster on a full stomach.

Although there’s still a bowl game looming on the horizon, it’s time to take a look at Syracuse football’s 2022-2023 campaign in review. Specifically, now is a great opportunity to look at how the Orange performed relative to its schedule.

College football is all about the final “resume” at the end of the season. Who did you beat, and by how much? How well did you perform relative to expectations? Did you beat the teams you were supposed to beat and vice versa? All of this matters in the grand scheme of things.

This article will look to shine a magnifying glass on Syracuse’s schedule by the numbers, taking stock on if the Orange underperformed, overachieved, or played to consensus preseason expectations. Additionally, it will also contextualize the 2022 season within the program’s recent history, what went right (and wrong), final takeaways, and more.

In essence, call this a big-picture, everything-you-need-to-know review about Syracuse’s football 2021-2022 schedule.

We’ve got a lot to get through, so let’s hop right to it.

Syracuse’s schedule and resume by the numbers

Here’s a list breaking down Syracuse's 7-5 finish on the season, in addition to some basic facts about each of the opponents the Orange faced this season:

What to Know about the Orange’s 2022 Opponents

Opponents Result (SU's record) Opponent Overall Record Opponent Conference Record AP Poll Highest Ranking AP Poll Final Ranking
Opponents Result (SU's record) Opponent Overall Record Opponent Conference Record AP Poll Highest Ranking AP Poll Final Ranking
Louisville (home) W, 31-7 (1-0) 7-5 4-4 N/A N/A
UConn (road) W, 48-14 (2-0) 6-6 N/A (independent) N/A N/A
Purdue (home) W, 32-29, (3-0) 8-4 6-3 N/A HM
Virginia (home) W, 22-20 (4-0) 3-7 1-6 N/A N/A
Wagner (home) W, 59-0 (5-0) 1-10 1-6 N/A N/A
NC State (home) W, 24-9 (6-0) 8-4 4-4 10th HM
Clemson (road) L, 21-27 (6-1) 10-2 8-0 4th 10th
Notre Dame (home) L, 24-41 (6-2) 8-4 N/A (independent) 5th 19th
Pittsburgh (road) L, 9-19 (6-3) 8-4 5-3 N/A N/A
Florida State (home) L, 3-38 (6-4) 9-3 5-3 14th 14th
Wake Forest (road) L, 35-45 (6-5) 7-5 3-5 10th N/A
Boston College (road) W, 32-23 (7-5) 3-9 2-6 N/A N/A

There’s a lot to unpack, so let’s start with the essential question: what were Syracuse’s quality wins?

In hindsight, the Orange’s beginning to the season looks far better than I think people give credit for. The team’s first three wins were all against opponents who finished at or above .500. Syracuse beat Louisville in dominant fashion, and the Cardinals finished with the same record as the Orange. Given that Purdue won was the Big Ten Conference West Division winner and earned honorable mention votes in the latest AP poll, that win (in retrospect) looks a lot better as well.

The best win for Syracuse was arguably against NC State. Yes, the Wolf Pack were without their starting quarterback, but NC State ranked as high as 10th in the AP Poll at one point and finished 8-4 on the season, still receiving consideration in the latest AP Poll as well.

Broadly speaking, what derailed Syracuse’s season was two-fold: the Orange suffered injuries across the board, and the team simply didn’t have the depth to fill in all the holes.

With that said, it’s important to look at the second half of the Orange’s schedule, particularly from the Clemson game onward. In that six-game sample, Syracuse competed against four teams who at their peaks, all ranked in the top 15 in the AP Poll and a fifth team (Pittsburgh) who finished with around the same record as the Orange. Oh, and to make things even crazier, those matchups were all consecutive. Wake Forest was the only team Syracuse lost to that was originally in the AP poll at some point during the season but didn’t end up in the top 25 in the latest poll.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

It was a brutal slate for Syracuse. Outside of the Boston College matchup, Syracuse played against teams who finished at least 8-4 or better.

If we had to answer the question of what might be the Orange’s inexcusable losses, only the game against Pittsburgh really stands out. You could argue maybe the Clemson game if you wanted to include that (Ed. note: I think the fact Syracuse had the lead for so long puts Clemson in a game that should have been won). But in general, Syracuse was playing competition that either had similar or far superior talent compared to the Orange.

Let’s provide a quick recap. Four of Syracuse’s five losses were against conference opponents who were shoe-ins or on the fringes of the AP Poll. If we’re comparing this season to last season, Syracuse’s quality wins from 2021 were close victories against Liberty and Virginia Tech. Keep in mind, Syracuse lost to Louisville, NC State, and Pittsburgh last season by an average margin of 26 points per contest. This season, the Orange beat the first two of those teams and only lost to the third by 10 points on the road.

On paper, the Orange’s schedule was filled more with legitimate opponents and fewer paper tigers. Despite having a tougher schedule this year, the Orange finished with a far better record (overall and conference) than in 2021.

Expected versus final regular season record

With all this in mind, it’s also important to take a look at the broader conference picture. After all, Syracuse played half of its schedule against ACC opponents, so it’s crucial to evaluate how the Orange did within the context of its conference.

Looking at the division alignments, Syracuse was easily in the tougher of the two divisions. In the Coastal Division, just three teams finished with an above-.500 record: North Carolina, Duke, and Pittsburgh. Now, compare that to the Atlantic Division, where Syracuse was one of six teams to finish with seven wins or more (only BC finished below .500 this year, but the Coastal Division featured four teams with below .500 records).

In the context of the ACC, Syracuse definitely finished (at the very worst) slightly better than expectations. At the most optimistic lens, the team finished far above what the consensus was.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Boston College Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Back in August, no one on the TNIAAM staff believed the Orange was better than a .500 team. I’ve been on the record saying this version of Syracuse football wasn’t better than a four or five-win program, at the absolute best.

Now, take a look at how other members of the national media predicted the Orange would finish this season. In mid-August, ‘Cuse was considered by ESPN to be the 10th-best team in the conference. CBS ranked the Orange as the 96th-best team in the FBS. Keep in mind, Syracuse was as high as 14th in the AP poll.

Now, let’s look at the Orange’s football program from 2010 until now. This season, the Orange secured its first bowl appearance for the first time since 2018. Other than the 2018 and 2019 seasons, 2022 was just the third time Syracuse found its way into the AP poll in over two decades, earning its highest ranking (14th) since 2001.

In the grand scheme of things, when you look at the history of Syracuse football, it was a successful 2022 campaign.

Now, did the season end on the right note? To an extent, not really. After all, it took a fourth-quarter surge for the Orange to defeat Boston College.

But, looking at the bigger picture, Syracuse finished with a better record than last year against a really tough schedule.

And in football, context matters. When you truly break it down, this season has to be considered a success, as crazy as that sounds.