SU feels like a football school this year, and the Camping World Bowl is fast approaching. It’s an occasion that calls for the deep statistical dive of a lifetime. Our twelve game sample size has shown some numbers to be awfully important in SU’s success, and others not so much. When Syracuse faces West Virginia in the Camping World Bowl on Friday, these stats could decide the game.
The Orange averaged an exceptional 3.2 sacks per game this season. Their 38 total sacks ranked 7th in the country. But surprisingly, sacks haven’t been a huge factor in SU’s results. The pass rush was essentially just as good in losses as it was in wins. Against Clemson, they had a healthy four sacks, three against Pitt and two against Notre Dame. Only the Irish beat SU in this statistical category, getting to the QB six times at Yankee Stadium. That’s right— Syracuse outplayed the Tiger’s generationally great defensive line in the sack count. Syracuse will be hurt by the absence of leading pass rusher Alton Robinson, who is not in Orlando due to personal reasons, but this gives reason to believe the Orange can overcome the loss. This stat shouldn’t matter too much.
If you’ve ever heard a football coach say anything, it was probably about winning the turnover battle. Syracuse was absolutely stellar at that this season, finishing the regular season with a +14 turnover margin, tied for third best in the nation. In Syracuse’s losses, however, it was a mixed bag. The Orange won the turnover battle 3-1 against Clemson. An overtime interception against Pittsburgh sealed the loss, and evened the turnover count at two for that game. And against Notre Dame, Eric Dungey and Tommy DeVito combined for three interceptions. The Irish were the only team to beat the Orange in turnovers, finishing the game with only one giveaway. In eight of SU’s nine wins, Syracuse won the turnover battle. The exception is the North Carolina game, in which turnovers were even. That was nearly another loss. This stat seams fairly significant.
Turnover battle in SU wins: 8-0-1 (wins-losses-ties)
Turnover battle in SU losses: 1-1-1
Syracuse got a significant boost from its running backs this season. Solid play from Moe Neal and Donte Strickland meant Eric Dungey didn’t have to do it all on the ground. A closer look reveals success on the ground was the number one determining factor in SU football games this season. The Orange rushed for less yards than Clemson, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame in losing efforts. The Tigers absolutely destroyed Syracuse in the running game, winning total rush yards 293-61. Syracuse had success on the ground against the Panthers, but the SU defense got completely trampled against Qadree Ollison, losing rush yards 265-177. Against pass-heavy Notre Dame, Syracuse didn’t lose too badly in this category. The Irish outran SU 171-119. In stark contrast with the three losses, Syracuse won total rushing in eight of its nine wins. Only North Carolina out-rushed the Orange. And they almost lost that one. If you’re going to watch one team stat during the Camping World Bowl, you should watch this one.
Syracuse football games haven’t been decided through the air. In losses against Pittsburgh and Clemson, Dungey led SU to victories in this statistical category. Against Clemson it wasn’t even close (250-176). Only Notre Dame exposed the Orange in the passing game. Tommy DeVito struggled after Dungey left the game with injury, managing just 115 passing yards against Ian Book’s 292. Meanwhile, Syracuse lost in passing yards against Louisville, Wake Forest, Wagner and Western Michigan: but won on the scoreboard. This season’s sample size says this statistical category doesn’t matter. You can ignore it.