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Breaking Down Postseason Chances: How Syracuse Can Get into a Bowl Game

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via Atlantic Coast Convos

Syracuse has four more days until it learns its bowl fate. Fans have been on the edge of their seats the last few days worrying whether SU will head to its third postseason contest in four years. It would be an impressive streak, the first time since the 1998-2001 seasons when Paul Pasqualoni led the Orange to a 31-17 stretch and three bowls.

Will it happen? The Fizz crunch’s its bowl calculator and breaks down the full, up to date, current post-season situation for Syracuse in a crowded playoff picture. Take a look at the numbers:

Bowl-Eligible Teams

Right now, 78 teams are bowl eligible for 70 slots. There are only 35 bowls, and this is the largest surplus of teams since before 2005, when there was less than 30 bowl games. Don’t be too concerned over the volume of bowl-eligible teams. Of those 78, there are six non-major conference teams that sit right at 6-6. Take a look:

 FAU                            (Conference-USA)
San Jose State           (Mountain West)
Central Michigan     (MAC)
Troy                              (Sun Belt)
Louisiana Monroe   (Sun Belt)
Texas State                 (Sun Belt)

C-USA and Mountain West teams are likelier to be more enticing to the bowl committees. But most bowl projections (especially from CBS and ESPN) have none of these teams slated in bowls. With this many bowl-eligible teams, that’s just bad luck for smaller conferences. So let’s say, for Syracuse’s sake, without these six teams, there are really only 72 bowl eligible teams.

There are two other intriguing non-major conference bowl eligible teams to keep an eye on. They are both 7-5:

Arkansas State           (Sun Belt)
Texas San Antonio   (Conference-USA)

I know. You’re probably saying, “Who?’ Well, because the volume of other six- and seven-win major conference teams still bowl eligible, I don’t think either will be go bowling. But you’d have to assume one these two teams are in. Down to 71 teams for 70 slots. Note there is also an interesting back story for PR, attendance and TV purposes: UTSA is Larry Coker’s squad.

The Wild Cards

Rutgers (5-6) and SMU (5-6) both have one more game remaining. If both teams win, they are in. Yes, even being the final bowl-eligible teams, these two American Conference teams are in because they’d finish in the top six in their conference. The American gets six automatic tie-ins. Rutgers hosts 2-9 USF and SMU plays no. 16 UCF at home. For our purposes, let’s predict one of those teams wins and the other goes home. That puts us back at 72 teams for 70 slots.

Who Goes Home?

The Fizz’s final bowl-eligible calculator predicts that two teams might go home that are at least 6-6. You can’t throw out any more non-major conference teams because the rest all have eight or more wins. The Orange is in a difficult spot because it’s one of 11 ACC teams gunning for eight or nine automatic ACC tie-ins (assuming Florida State makes the BCS National Title with a win over Duke).

Here are the BCS conference teams that are on the cusp:

Syracuse, 6-6                    (ACC)
Pittsburgh, 6-6                 (ACC)
Oregon State, 6-6            (Pac-12)
Washington State, 6-6  (Pac-12)
Mississippi State, 6-6    (SEC)

Despite being 6-6, Mississippi State is in. They are the tenth-best team in the SEC, and that conference gets 10 bowl tie-ins. The Pac-12 only has 7 bowl tie-ins and Washington State and Oregon State are the eighth and ninth-best teams. And of course, Syracuse and Pitt are the only 6-6 ACC teams.

How Can Syracuse Get In?

From our calculations, one, maybe and even two, of these teams go home empty. What can help Syracuse and make the Orange a more intriguing pick than the rest?

1)   It’s 4-4 conference mark technically falls in the top eight of the entire ACC. Bowl committees don’t have to abide strictly to conference standings, though. Maryland has a worse 3-5 conference record, but is 7-5 overall, and its geography makes it a great pick for the Military Bowl in Annapolis.

2)   Most bowl projections favor the Orange over the two Pac-12 teams. Both CBS and ESPN have one of the two west coast teams eliminated. Syracuse’s proximity to the NYC market helps immensely.

3)   Hope either SMU or Rutgers loses, AND that the Orange Bowl selects Clemson. The less BCS-level teams fighting for non-BCS bowls, the better for SU. Even despite a lose to South Carolina this week, it’s seems pretty likely the Tigers will land in the Orange Bowl with a 10-2 record, which guarantees the ACC nine automatic tie-ins (with FSU in the championship game, as well).

So if the Orange is the more fascinating pick, which I think it will be, here are the open bowls for Syracuse, assuming it does not get one of the ACC tie-in bowls:

Little Ceasers Pizza Bowl, Detroit—Ford Field (unfilled by Big Ten)
Heart of Dallas Bowl, Dallas—Cotton Bowl (unfilled by Big Ten, assuming Ohio State goes to BCS National Championship)
New Era Pinstripe Bowl, New York—Yankee Stadium (unfilled by Big 12)
BBVA Compass Bowl/Beef O’ Brady’s Bowl (unfilled by American, assuming either or both Rutgers/SMU lose this weekend)

The only of that grouping that seems most unlikely for Syracuse is the Pinstripe Bowl. Notre Dame is already rumored to be taking this open slot.

The odds are in Syracuse’s favor. There’s probably a 75 percent chance Syracuse makes a bowl. Having Rutgers and/or SMU lose this weekend is the only other help the Orange can get at this point in the season. If there’s one treat this week, it’s that Orange fans will get to root against the Scarlet Knights.

Posted by: Kevin Fitzgerald

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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