The College Football Playoff Rankings came out Tuesday, and at No. 19, Syracuse (6-2, 3-2) is the second-highest ranked team in the ACC… not too shabby.
The only ACC team ranked ahead of the Orange is Clemson, but there are three others behind:
No. 21 NC State (5-2, 2-2)
No. 22 Boston College (6-2, 3-1)
No. 25 Virginia (6-2, 4-1)
With Syracuse not ranked too far ahead of those teams, we may as well pose the question, is the Orange actually the second-best team in the ACC?
The answer is not as simple as yes or no.
Offensively, Syracuse is arguably more potent than any of its later-ranked conference foes. Of all four ACC teams ranked behind Clemson, the Orange leads in both yards and points per game. However, NC State is not far behind, if it all.
Obviously, the Orange beat the Wolfpack last Saturday, but who’s to say the result would have been the same in Raleigh? We’ll never know.
What we do know is that excluding Clemson, NC State leads all ranked ACC squads in yards per play, and is also a close second to Syracuse in points per game.
All told, it’s really a game-by-game thing as to who’s better offensively, with the two squads practically neck-and-neck.
One thing to note, however, were the fights both teams put up in their visits to Clemson. In a hostile environment, the Orange played the Tigers to a tightly-contested 4-point game. On the flip side, when the Wolfpack visited Death Valley this year, it was beat down 41-7.
When comparing Syracuse to the ACC teams ranked just behind them, it’s clear that SU’s offense stacks up well. And by well, I mean a lot better than its defense.
Of the four ACC squads ranked behind Clemson, Syracuse’s defense is probably the worst statistically. Within that group, the Orange allows the most points and yards per game, gives up the most yards per carry, and has the second-worst opponent completion percentage.
One thing Syracuse has done well though is force turnovers. Just behind No. 22 Boston College, SU is tied for second in takeaways per contest in the ACC, having taken the ball away at least once in each game thus far.
All told, the ACC is completely Clemson’s conference and it’s not even close, but the title of second-best team is up for grabs. Syracuse certainly has the offensive firepower to not just match the ranked ACC teams behind them, but perhaps any ranked team, period.
Defensively, either Boston College or Virginia would have to get the nod for second best in the conference. However, from an overall standpoint, Syracuse has the talent to hang with the best of them. So, for that, it would certainly not be crazy to call the Orange the second-best squad in the ACC.