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Syracuse football: what history says about the Orange’s 2023 outlook

The Orange need to break historical precedent if the team wants to return to a bowl game next season.

NCAA Football: Purdue at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

One of our recent pieces on the TNIAAM site pointed to the same conclusion about the 2022 Syracuse Orange football season: clearly successful given the context of this program.

After three straight losing seasons, Syracuse finished 7-6 and clinched a spot in a bowl game for the first time since 2018. Given the Orange played the fourth-toughest schedule in the ACC (behind Clemson, Florida State, and Louisville) and the 25th-hardest schedule using preseason evaluations, that makes the winning season taste even sweeter.

For now, we can all enjoy the successful run even though we can also agree this season was definitely an up-and-down one.

With this all in mind, it isn’t too early to begin looking ahead to next season and asking ourselves if the Orange can build off its success in 2022 for the 2023 campaign.

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

This article briefly looks at the recent history of the Syracuse football program, specifically how the team performs after a bowl-clinching season. The goal is to analyze whether Syracuse will fall down to earth a little or build off of its momentum from this year solely from a historical angle.

What history says about Syracuse’s chances next season

In general, consistency has been the primary downfall of Syracuse football for the past couple of decades. Since 2004 (the last season under then-head coach Paul Pasqualoni), the Orange have had as many seasons with five or more wins (10) as the program has seasons with four wins or fewer.

At its root, Syracuse’s biggest problem is building off progress from one season to the next. Since 2010, the transition from a bowl game year to the following season hasn’t typically been the best:

Syracuse football history since 2004

Season Overall Record Conference Record Bowl Game?
Season Overall Record Conference Record Bowl Game?
2004 6-6 4-2 Champs Sports Bowl, loss
2005 1-10 0-7 N/A
2010 8-5 4-3 Pinstripe Bowl, win
2011 5-7 1-6 N/A
2012 8-5 5-2 Pinstripe Bowl, win
2013 7-6 4-4 Texas Bowl, win
2014 3-9 1-7 N/A
2018 10-3 6-2 Camping World Bowl, win
2019 5-7 2-6 N/A
2022 7-6 4-4 Pinstripe Bowl, loss
2023 ? ? ?
The Orange have only clinched back-to-back bowl appearances one time (2012 and 2013) in the 21st century. Dominic Chiappone

Outside of the 2012 and 2013 seasons, the Orange have not clinched back-to-back bowl appearances in the 21st century. On average, Syracuse regresses by 3.6 wins going from a bowl-clinching year to the following season since 2004. Following the same logic and timeline, the Orange regressed by three wins on average in conference play each season after a bowl year.

And interestingly, the change has little to do with a drastic coaching transition. Outside of 2004 and 2005 (going from coach Paul Pasqualoni to Greg Robinson), the regression has taken place during multi-year tenures from Doug Marrone (2010 to 2011), Scott Shafer (2013 to 2014), and Dino Babers (2018 to 2019).

The decline in performance from one season to the next manifests not just in the team’s record, but also in comparison to its standing among other programs.

Let’s take a look at the 2018 and 2019 seasons under coach Babers. Using the Simple Rating System (SRS) via (a rating that measures teams on their strength of schedule and point differential), the Orange finished with the 19th-best SRS rating (12.14) nationally, which ranked second in the ACC behind the 15-0 Clemson Tigers. But in 2019, Syracuse plummeted to the 82nd-best in the nation (-2.79), ranking 12th in its conference.

For context, the 2022 Orange ranked 39th in the country in SRS, good for 8th-best in the ACC.

As several of the TNIAAM staff recently concluded, Syracuse can’t let the 2022 season go to waste. Given the number of injuries and the difficulty of this year’s schedule, it was a good year for ‘Cuse football despite a brutal end to the season.

Purdue v Syracuse Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

More importantly, Syracuse’s season wasn’t a fluke either. Personally, I’d only consider the contest versus Purdue a “lucky” win given how the game ended (and how miraculous Garrett Schrader’s game-winning touchdown pass) and the defeat against Pittsburgh as the only “unlucky” loss (given the injuries and lack of momentum across the board). Other than that, Syracuse beat the programs it was supposed to win against (like Wagner, UConn, and Boston College) and earned some major victories against tough teams (like NC State, Purdue, and Louisville). At the end of the day, that’s all we can ask for is a fun, competitive team that gets the job done against programs it’s fully capable of beating while staying competent against the rest of the ACC.

At the same time, few expected us to beat #10 Clemson in Death Valley or #13 Florida State and #19 Notre Dame in what turned out to be tougher matchups in hindsight. Those games proved to be way more difficult now than we thought at the time (especially against the Seminoles and Fighting Irish, who both got hot late this season).

Obviously, there’s a lot to look forward to and plenty of questions to answer during the Syracuse football hiatus.

But, the program’s history can tell us a pretty good amount of the challenges that lie ahead for the Orange.