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Syracuse football: where do the Orange stand heading into Week 0

Some more numbers to keep an eye on for SU’s upcoming season.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 22 Syracuse at Clemson Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Syracuse Orange football team currently project as one of the top-60 teams in the country and 10th-best in the ACC heading into the start of the 2023 college football season, according to the latest round of analysis from ESPN and The Athletic.

The Orange rank 55th overall in ESPN’s final preseason SP+ rankings, a tempo-adjusted and opponent-adjusted measure of college football efficiency based on returning production, recent recruiting and recent program history. Syracuse sits at 42nd in defensive SP+ and 64th in offensive SP+ heading into the 2023 season, both of which are slight improvements compared to the program’s SP+ rankings at the end of the 2022 preseason (53rd in defensive SP+ and 77th in offensive SP+).

Syracuse started off 6-0 last season en route to a 7-5 regular season record and a trip to the Pinstripe Bowl. After receiving the lowest number of points in the 2022 ACC preseason poll, the Orange now project to finish as the 10th-best team in the conference in this year’s poll.

Based on all the news coming out of camp, the goal for the Orange is simple in 2023: clinch a spot in a bowl game, something the program has not done in back-to-back seasons since 2012 and 2013.

Part of that journey will include facing a gauntlet of a schedule in mid-October which includes a home game versus #9 Clemson followed by back-to-back road trips to #21 North Carolina and #8 Florida State - three AP top-25 opponents who all sit in the top-three sports in The Athletic’s tier rankings for the ACC this season and top-25 in ESPN’s preseason SP+ rankings.

Assuming the Orange can start out 4-0 to begin this upcoming season - which would mean securing a road win versus Purdue (58th in SP+, three spots below Syracuse) - the team would need at least two wins versus any of Virginia Tech (72nd in SP+), Boston College (78th in SP+), Pittsburgh (36th in SP+), Georgia Tech (75th in SP+) and Wake Forest (45th in SP+).

If Syracuse were to go 3-1 to start the year (with a road loss to Purdue being the likely defeat in most scenarios) and fall to the Clemson/UNC/Florida State trio, the Orange would need three wins in their final five games to secure a bowl game.

Based off the current SP+ rankings from ESPN and the ACC tier rankings from The Athletic, Syracuse’s best chances for notching some victories would include the “Friday Night Lights” clash versus Boston College in the Dome (‘Cuse is 8-4 when Coach Babers plays on Friday nights) and Georgia Tech (the Yellow Jackets received the third-fewest points in the ACC preseason poll) in the second-to-last game of the season. There’s a chance Syracuse’s final home game versus Wake Forest could be the make-it-or-break-it matchup to determine whether the Orange can land itself into a bowl game.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 19 Syracuse at Wake Forest Photo by David Jensen/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The good news for the Orange: the program returns over 70% of its production from both the offensive and defensive ends of the field, good for 20th in the country and fifth-best in the ACC behind Florida State (third), North Carolina (fifth), Boston College (tenth) and Duke (19th). Keep that in mind when Syracuse takes on programs like Pittsburgh and Wake Forest towards the end of the season, both of which ranked below the top-100 in returning talent according to ESPN.

Here is Syracuse’s complete ACC schedule for 2023, which includes ESPN’s SP+ data and The Athletic’s ACC tiers rankings:

Syracuse’s 2023 ACC slate by the numbers

Opponent (home/road) The Athletic's Tier Rankings (Projected Conference Finish) ACC Preseason Poll Rankings ESPN SP+ Rankings
Opponent (home/road) The Athletic's Tier Rankings (Projected Conference Finish) ACC Preseason Poll Rankings ESPN SP+ Rankings
Clemson (home) Tier 1 (first) 1st 7th
North Carolina (road) Tier 2 (third) 3rd 25th
Florida State (road) Tier 1 (second) 2nd 12th
Virginia Tech (road) Tier 4 (12th) 11th 44th
Boston College (home) Tier 5 (13th) 13th 78th
Pittsburgh (neutral-site) Tier 2 (fourth) T-6th 36th
Georgia Tech (road) Tier 4 (11th) 12th 75th
Wake Forest (home) Tier 3 (ninth) 9th 45th
For context, the Orange rank 55th overall in ESPN’s SP+ data and are 10th in the conference in both The Athletic’s rankings and the ACC preseason poll.

The Orange kick off their 2023 campaign and quest for a bowl berth in just over two weeks at the JMA Wireless Dome versus Colgate on September 2.