Both teams are coming off disappointing performances on the road. The Eagles (4-4, 2-3 ACC) were blasted by reigning national champion Clemson, 59-7. The Orange (3-5, 0-4) fell 35-17 to Florida State in a contest that was even more lopsided than the final score would indicate.
At 4-4, Boston College desperately needs a win as it prepares for a tough stretch to close the year. A loss for the Orange would mark their worst nine-game start since 2015 and the worst under head coach Dino Babers. Syracuse defeated Boston College last season in Chestnut Hill, 42-21, and has won three of the last four in the series.
Boston College at Syracuse
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 2 at 12 p.m. ET
Network: ACC Network
Spread: Syracuse -3
When Boston College Has the Ball
The loss of quarterback Anthony Brown a few weeks back looked like a huge blow for Boston College, but the Eagles continue to field one of the better offenses in the ACC. All eyes, as usual, will be on 250-pound running back AJ Dillon, who is leading the conference in rushing with more than 1,000 yards to his name.
As a team, the Eagles rank third in the ACC in total offense and behind only Clemson in rushing. Dillon is the focal point for Boston College, but sophomore David Bailey is a competent No. 2 and just two games removed from a 181-yard rushing effort. Sophomore Dennis Grosel has stepped in for the injured Brown, but pass attempts are few and far between for Boston College. Sophomore tight end Hunter Long at 6-5 has been the top target for the Eagles this season with team-highs of 20 catches for 400 yards. Fellow tight end Korab Idrizi has just 11 catches, but a team-high four touchdown catches.
The strength of the Syracuse defense is its front seven, but the Orange have allowed 100-yard rushers in each of the last two weeks. Senior defensive end Alton Robinson gets most of the attention, but he has just 2.5 sacks so far this season. Senior Brandon Berry and junior Josh Black have combined for 9.5 sacks, but a pass rush may not be what the Orange need to beat the Eagles.
Syracuse has been better against the run than the pass this season and will try to force Grosel to make throws on third down. Linebacker Lakiem Williams leads Syracuse this season with 62 total tackles, which ranks sixth in the ACC. Senior Christopher Fredrick is the most experienced player in the Syracuse secondary, while cornerback Andre Cisco leads the team with two interceptions.
When Syracuse Has the Ball
Statistically, Syracuse ranks 11th in the ACC in total offense and 12th in scoring. The Orange haven’t scored a first-half touchdown since beating Holy Cross more than a month ago. Tommy DeVito has nearly 1,800 yards passing and 13 total touchdowns, but against ACC competition, the Orange are averaging just over 13 points per game. Three of Syracuse’s four ACC opponents have held DeVito to fewer than 175 yards passing.
The Orange have nice skill players. In the backfield, Moe Neal and Abdul Adams have combined for seven touchdowns. At receiver, Trishton Jackson and Taj Harris have combined for eight to go with more than 1,000 total yards receiving. The problem for Syracuse is the offensive line. The Orange have yielded 42 sacks in eight games this season. That’s four more than Old Dominion, the next-closest FBS team.
The remedy for a struggling Syracuse offense may be facing a Boston College defense that allows more yards and points per game than any other team in the ACC. In two ACC road games this season, the Eagles have given up 100 total points. In eight games this season, the Eagles have managed just eight sacks. Among Power 5 programs, only Arizona has tallied fewer.
While Boston College struggles to generate a pass rush, it does excel in other places. Linebacker Max Richardson leads the ACC and ranks 11th nationally with 79 total tackles and 12 tackles for a loss, to go with a team-high 2.5 sacks. Boston College has also been opportunistic with nine interceptions and 14 total takeaways. Only Clemson has more among ACC teams in both categories. Junior safety Mike Palmer leads the team with two interceptions to go with 61 total tackles.
With no real slam dunks left on the schedule for either team, Saturday’s contest in Upstate New York may be a must-win if either team hopes to become bowl-eligible. While DeVito has had a rough year against ACC competition, he should be the best quarterback on the field Saturday and will be facing a Boston College defense that hasn’t been able to generate any pressure this season. The Eagles also aren’t a team that is likely to test Syracuse’s suspect pass defense. With all that said, Boston College may still have the best player on both sides of the ball with Dillon on offense and Richardson on defense. The Orange, at 3-5 and 0-4 in ACC play, also just allowed Florida State to rush for a season-high 241 yards last week.