2021 Season – Syracuse Orange

In what seems months ago (because it was), I had predicted  that Pitt would be 8 – 4 in regular season play. At that time, I expected Pitt to lose to Clemson, Miami, and North Carolina. I also expected to lose one to either Tennessee or Virginia Tech. Totally happy to be wrong.

As we all know, Pitt clinched the ACC Coastal Division with a 48 – 38 Senior Day home win over the Virginia Cavaliers. Pitt is now 9 – 2 ( 6 – 1 conference). Three games to go. Play them one game at a time.

Next up is Pitt’s regular season finale against the Syracuse Orange. Syracuse is coming off a 17 – 41 loss to NC State. After the first nine weeks of the season, Syracuse stood at 5 – 4 ( 2 – 3 conference). Bowl eligibility was in sight. A significant improvement over their 1 – 10  2020 campaign. Head Coach Dino Babers hot seat was rapidly cooling.

Midway through the week 3 game (Albany), Babers replaced off injured but long starting QB Danny Tommy DeVito with transfer QB Garrett Shrader. Through the next six games Syracuse went 3 – 3 with all three losses by 3 points each. For a Syracuse football fan, life was looking good and the future looked bright.

Then came the bye week and the last two game where Syracuse was outscored 20 – 82. Fans are unhappy again. Babers is back on the hot seat. But can Syracuse afford the buyout. To add insult to injury, nine players have already entered the Transfer Portal (TP) since the start of fall practice. They include ex-starting QB Danny Tommy DeVito and one of the backup scholarship QB’s on the roster. (I believe the Orange now have only two scholarship QB’s plus walk-ons.) also gone are 2019 All ACC receiver Taj Harris and a 2021 TE recruit who did not want to block. In dramatic irony, he is listed as the 15’th best TP entry in the first 24/7 top ranking of 2022 entries. (Another Syracuse player is ranked #14. Taj Harris is #3)

College Football Transfer Portal: Initial Top 25 rankings for the 2022 cycle (247sports.com)

According to the above article, over 400 players have entered the TP since 8/1/2021.

On to the stats review. ACC standings and Syracuse and Pitt’s year to date schedules.

Nine teams now bowl eligible. Three more can make bowl eligibility with season ending wins (including Syracuse). Once again the ACC bowl tie-ins.  2021 ACC Bowl Affiliations – Atlantic Coast Conference (theacc.com)

Common opponents are Clemson and Virginia Tech.

Here are the NCAA stats for team and individual comparison. Those highlighted in yellow are what I consider are Syracuse advantages. I will be highlighting TP pick-ups in green and those who have entered the portal in light orange. A light blue/gray are injured players.

Syracuse rests their hat on a strong rushing attack and a stout defense. JaCobian Morgan (leader in passing efficiency) is the Orange backup QB.

On to the individual stats. Of course, starting with the QB’s.

If you believed Kenny Pickett was a bad or average QB in the 2018-2020 time frame, meet Garrett Shrader. He is ranked #104 out of 108 NCAA eligible QB’s. I do not blame Taj Harris for entering the TP. He wants to go pro and Syracuse offense does not give him an opportunity to showcase his skills.

On to the running back and wide receivers.

Shrader makes up for his current lack of passing skills by being a perfect companion to Sean Tucker in running the ball. I wonder if Shrader could become Syracuse’s version of Virginia’s “Football Player” Keytaon Thompson. Both have something in common. They were both recruited by Mississippi State (Thompson 2017, Shrader 2019) as QB’s.

Games played and started for offensive linemen.

How are they protecting the QB and opening holes for the running backs?

Warning!!! Warning!!! Warning!!!  New Chart Alert

Currently the NCAA considers “sacks” as a separate statistic. Sacks are also a component of the “Tackles for Loss” statistic. Both stats are ranked on a per game.

This new chart is not my own idea but is built off a statement a color commentator made in one of the games I watched last weekend. The announcer made a comment on the number of sacks a team had allowed. The color man said something like “it’s not as bad as you think considering how much they pass”. I checked into and these are the results.

Louisville has allowed the fewest sacks in the ACC. Per Chart A, Louisville and Syracuse are dominantly rushing teams. Pitt and Virginia are more pass happy. Virginia is more than pass happy, their engaged to be married.

Since the NCAA includes “sacks allowed” as a “run” attempt, I added sacks as a separate line item and subtracted sacks from the run column. This is shown in Chart  B.

Chart C brings it all together on which OLine better protects their QB. Louisville, of this group, is still #1 but Pitt is a very strong second. Virginia looks better than expected and Syracuse is just bad at almost 10% of adjusted total pass attempts resulting in sacks.

Pitt’s Oline is definitely better in pass protection. Now I need to refine Tackles for Loss (TFL) to show only the run portion of TFL.

Sorry about the long winded explanation. I like to show my work to get to a conclusion. And I like having fun with numbers.

Some defensive individual stats. From ESPN team stats and compared to NCAA statistics for accuracy.

I used the top 17 in tackles for both Pitt and Syracuse.

In total, Syracuse has 39 total team members who made a defensive stat. Nine of them were offensive players.  Pitt numbers are 46 total with six offensive players. Which team is getting more actual game snap players involved?

I expect Syracuse’s LB Mikel Jones and DE Roscoe Cody to be All ACC team selections.

Last but not least, turnover margins.

In South Carolina high school football action, Davis BeVille’s Greenville High School and Nate Temple’s Abbeville High School continue their march to state championships.

This year. marks the first time since the 1920’s that Greenville High has made it past the second round of the state playoffs.

This game will be a matchup of the stout Syracuse defense against the potent Pitt high powered offense. Syracuse offense is run oriented (#7 – 231 YPG). Pitt’s run defense is ranked #9 in rushing yards allowed per game. Syracuse pass offense is anemic gaining less yardage than Pitt’s rushing attack.                                                Pitt wins 38 – 13