The last two meetings between Boston College football and Syracuse haven’t exactly been close. In 2017, AJ Dillon and the Eagles ran all over the Orange, winning the season finale by a decisive 42-14 margin, as Dillon had 193 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Then, last year, the Orange came to Chestnut Hill and handed BC its worst loss of the year, winning, 42-21, as Syracuse piled up 559 yards of offense behind dual-threat quarterback Eric Dungey.
Now, in 2019, two struggling teams will meet in the Carrier Dome in a game that seems like it could go any which way. The Eagles are coming off their worst performance of the year—one in which they gave up a program-worst 674 yards of offense to No. 4 Clemson in a 52-point loss. Syracuse, meanwhile, was pegged as the second-best team in the ACC at the start of the season but is winless in conference play and has yet to beat a Power Five opponent.
Suffice to say, this local rivalry game has a lot riding on it, as BC (4-4, 2-3 Atlantic Coast) needs a bounce-back victory to take a step toward bowl eligibility while the Orange (3-5, 0-4) is trying to snap a three-game losing streak and finally put a complete performance together.
Eagles head coach Steve Addazio was quick to move on from the 59-7 loss to the Tigers, both in his postgame press conference and when he addressed media ahead of Saturday’s road trip to New York. After Clemson, he said he was disappointed that the team wasn’t able to play better, but that they were looking on to Syracuse. He struck a similar tone on Monday afternoon.
“We’re on to Syracuse,” the seventh-year head coach said. “You already got home at 4:00 in the morning, and there’s a real fatigue to that whole concept and then go back on the road and play an early game.
“You’re managing the physical part of this. So you certainly can’t waste a lot of time on the mental part of that. You’ve got to get going.”
The biggest issue for the Eagles against Clemson was their defense, which was shredded by Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne, and the Tigers’ dynamic receiving corps. Clemson pulled its starters just a few minutes into the third quarter but still managed to add to the lopsided scoreboard. BC now ranks 126th of 130 teams nationally in total defense, allowing 487 yards per game, but has a chance to turn it around against a Syracuse side that has had a hard time finding its identity since Dungey departed.
Against Power Five opponents, the Orange has yet to score more than 20 points. During the losing streak, Syracuse has managed 10, 20, and 17 points and ranks dead last in the ACC in success rate—a stat coined by ESPN’s Bill Connelly to measure an offense’s effectiveness. The biggest problem for the Orange has been a porous offensive line, as quarterback Tommy DeVito has been abused under center. Syracuse has allowed 42 sacks in eight games, the most by any D-I team, and it’s resulted in DeVito dealing with injuries while being unable to get much going offensively.
“I think the biggest thing is that we need to reel it back in, and what we need to do is, we talked about eliminating mental mistakes, playing physical, we didn’t turn the ball over the last game [but] we didn’t get a turnover the last game,” Syracuse head coach Dino Babers said in his weekly press conference, per CNY Central. “There’s good things happening but there’s not enough good things.”
So, with both teams looking to turn things around, this Northeast matchup is an intriguing one. ESPN’s FPI gives Syracuse a 61.1 percent chance to win, but you can expect a much closer matchup than the previous two seasons. There’s a lot to play for, as the team’s compete over recruiting, which Addazio noted.
“I’m big on the geographical deals,” he said. “It’s good fan interest. It’s good player interest. It’s good recruiting interest. I love it. So the more of that, the better, to me.”
Addazio is plenty familiar with Syracuse, too, as he was a position coach with the program—at tight ends and on the offensive line—back in the mid-1990s. The Orange could likely use his offensive line expertise right about now, as Syracuse ranks 114th in rushing offense and has been unable to rely on the running game when DeVito’s had a hard time escaping pressure or making plays through the air.
Overall, it’s a matchup that holds much less interest than last season—much like last week’s Clemson game. Last season, the Eagles were aiming to hit the eight-win mark for the first time under Addazio while the Orange was ranked 19th in the country and was seeking to cement its place in a top-tier bowl. Now, two teams that lost games last week by multiple scores limp into the Carrier Dome aiming to take positive strides with a win over a nearby rival.
Featured Image by Karl B DeBlaker / AP Photo