Welcome to the Syracuse Orange Pre-Season Extravaganza!
In this preview we look at all the advanced player grades assigned by pro football focus for all projected starting positions for Syracuse AND all 12 of the upcoming opponents on the schedule. Having spent countless hours looking up every single player projection and grade for the 2022 season. We finally have the whole thing completed and ready for you! Some of the results are exactly what you expect, while some remind you that you that the media tends to go overboard on some narratives while completely ignoring others.
hint: You can open the image below in new tab if the table is too small for you to see
Table Summary of Unit Rankings:
10 takeaways from this and what stands out the most:
1. OG is the best receiver on any team on our scehdule:
There is no player that will be more dangerous than OG. Size, speed, great hands, agility, route running and a solid QB that looks to him first, second and third, means he should be a candidate for best receiver in the ACC.
2. Despite being "gutted" in the transfer portal, Wake Forest is legit:
This team is extremely deep, balanced and consistent. No stars, but no holes, just a bunch of solid good players. Add in solid coaching and this team should flirt with a top 25 ranking at times this year.
3. Clemson's linebackers are the single most talented collection of players among any unit. It's pretty scary.:
Three of the best players at almost any position exist not just on one team, but at one position on on one team. Combined with amazing DT's, running the ball against them will be nearly impossible.
4. Most offenses we play will have some serious things to prove because they are starved of QB consistency and OL depth. Receivers and RB's look great for everyone, but beyond that, its a tire fire.
5. Why didn't we steal Western Michigan's starting CB? Dude looks really good:
Did we run out of NIL money? Did the staff not do their homework? Even adjusting for going up against MAC competition this guy may be as good if not better than Duce Chestnut, and if SEC and Big 10 teams are stealing our best players shouldn't we should be stealing the MAC's best players instead of going the FCS/JUCO route?
6. Georgia Tech and Boston College are clearly a level below everyone else:
What do these two have in common? Nothing scary at QB, weak offensive lines, and 1-2 decent players on defense with the rest being questionable. If those few decent players get injured these teams start to look a lot like
7. Florida State is king. Clemson also has an elite defense but bringing in new coordinators and new players gives FSU a leg up in proven commodities.
8. Purdue is the much weaker team in a head to head match up. Purdue's offense is equally capable as the Syracuse offense because of a better O-line, however their defense doesn't have a single "good" player, and they are switching to a 4 linebacker system despite having zero linebacker depth. Add in a new coach that will be calling his own plays on defense because his defensive coordinator was promoted from being a position coach, and I can't believe for a moment that Syracuse is an underdog in this game. This game went from a lean loss to a lean win for me after looking at the table.
9. North Carolina is the most overrated team in the ACC:
They are projected by everyone to be the 3rd best behind Clemson/FSU and even got some first place votes on media day, however they actually look a lot like another team that was picked towards the bottom of the league. A great quarterback, with a wide receiving threat, a decent running back, a questionable offensive line, and an average defense with a few stand out players. Anyways enough about Syracuse, weren't we talking about North Carolina? I wouldn't be surprised if these two teams finished the year with the same ACC record.
10. Virginia Tech is underrated:
Projected toward the bottom, Virginia Tech has the 3rd best defense that is rock solid along with an offense that has some good WR's and a reasonable QB. Playing this team right after the FSU, Clemson, UNC trio at Lane stadium is probably not a good idea. For me, this game went from a lean win to a lean loss after looking at the numbers.
***DATA EXPLANATION SECTION***
For those that are curious and want an explanation on how I got this data, here is a lengthy explanation of what this means and where this came from, and what to watch out for with this data.
These are grades assigned from pro football focus. For those not familiar with this site, these numbers are not assigned on stats, but rather are an aggregate of a breakdown of each individual play that a player was involved with during a season. For example if a player made a strong play, either by making a good decision, or displaying proper technique, or flashed physical dominance, or had a terrible play, screwed up royally, threw a pass that should have been intercepted, missed a tackle, blew a block, or covered the wrong player. Grades are 1-100 and are color coded for visual convenience.
The grades are HEAVILY influenced by the level of competition. I applied a curve to dock players that played against weak competition, but it should be noted, that whenever players play against weak teams, their grades tend to skyrocket, and whenever they play against strong competition their grades plummet. There were a LOT of players that transferred from FCS and MAC and Sun belt teams, and their grades were adjusted and the color code helps display the adjustment as all number grades displayed are raw and adjusted. Don't worry, the unit rankings summary had the adjustments applied and calculated.
These are the players that were projected to start after spring, or players that graded significantly higher than their peers so they are expected to win their fall camp competitions. Some of these players might get injured and not play, or might not perform to last years level due to injury. Some new players might surprise coaches and find themselves on the depth chart at the last minute. I'm assuming coaches that get pain millions of dollars know what they are doing and know what they have, so if someone beats someone else out there must be a good reason for it. The depth charts were well updated through a combination of Ourlads and Phil Steele projections.
Some players have very small sample sizes. Returning starters have typically logged 400-800 plays the previous season, while others have been backups and logged less than 50. I have tried to omit outliers that skew the numbers by requiring at least 40-60 plays. This mostly wasn't a big issue except for Army as they have QBs and WRs that ran laughably few pass plays. Some players were injured early last season so their 2021 full season grades were used (Stefon Thompson).
Comparing teams on offense is not very difficult, except for Army. Defense was another story. Most teams run a 4-2-5, some run a 4-3, a few run a 3-4 and one team even runs a wacky 3-3-5 that I'm sure really drives OC's crazy. I tried to pay close attention to this and track these differences in the unit and overall rankings.
These grades don't paint a perfect picture of a player. Some players were really consistent from game to game and other players had elite games followed by embarrassing games. It's and average of all their plays, so if a player had more snaps against an FCS team in garbage time, than say a ranked team, it will affects the grade. luckily this effect was mitigated somewhat by the fact that returning starters typically had the highest grades so the overrated backup player effect was not a huge deal.
These grades don't take into account play calling by coaches. Some coaches call really good plays that make their players shine, and other coaches ask too much of their players or put them in a position to fail. An extreme example is that the 2021 Virginia QB under coach Anae had a 90 rating, and that same player had a 60 rating the next year with a new OC. Coaching matters and players will always score better with good coaches and worse with Gerg coaches.
Unit rankings for teams take a big hit if they have a hole. In teams sports you are often only as good as your worst player so this effect is justified. Some teams just don't have OL or DL depth or others run 4 linebackers despite a short bench. Especially for defense rankings, teams with only 2 linebackers may appear to have a better linebacker core than a team with 4, due to a higher average but don't be fooled.
Now that you understand the ground rules you are equipped to analyze this on a whole new level. Enjoy, and leave comments, suggestions, complaints, funny jokes, and random references to Cal getting right back in this below.