While we’re still several weeks out from the Syracuse Orange Spring game, we’re into way too early prediction season. Bill Connelly’s spread busting SP+ prediction model ranks college football teams week to week during the season, but the preseason rankings are a bit different. The model has to use a team’s returning production and recruiting rankings combined with historical performance of those those two factors to create a sport wide ranking. The good news for the Orange? They are one of the top teams in the country in regards to returning production. (ESPN+ subscription required)
Based on SP+’s weighted percentages, the Orange are 15th overall in returning production (4th in the ACC) at 80%, returning 79% of offensive production and 81% of defensive production. The wighted percentages takes into account passing, receiving, and rushing yards along with offensive line snaps on offense, and tackles, tackles for loss, sacks, and passes defended on defense.
Is this good for the Orange? It depends on your perspective.
If you believe the raw numbers, SP+ says that this level of returning production is very good. Bill C has been tracking this metric since 2014, and in that time, only about 8% of teams return 80% or more production. Those teams, on average, improve by just under 6 points in SP+’s rating. Apply that improvement to last year’s team, and the Orange jumps from 74th all the way up to 59th. (Or, in terms of the ACC, from 12th to 10th.)
What we haven’t talked about yet is where Syracuse opponents sit on this list, and that’s because the three schools ahead of the Orange are all on the schedule. Florida State (11), NC State (12), and Louisville (14) are all returning more production than the Orange, and all defeated the Orange last year. While no other Syracuse opponents made the 80% mark that almost guarantees improvement, opponents UConn (75%), Pittsburgh (74%), Clemson (72%), Wake Forest (71%), and Purdue (70%) were not that far off. In fact, the only two teams returning less than 50% production (the mark that generally indicates a step back should be expected) are Virginia (42% on defense) and Notre Dame (49% offense). If that’s too much math, the takeaway is that while the Orange should improve, almost the entire slate of Orange opponents are expected to, at worse, be just as good as last season, if not improve just as much.
If you’re an optimist, this is great news. The Orange are set up to take a step forward next year by building upon a strong group of returning impact players on both sides of the ball. If you’re a pessimist, the Orange’s schedule is unforgiving, and if you expect ‘Cuse to improve, you’re also expecting almost the entirety of the opponents on next year’s schedule to do the same.