The Syracuse Orange will look to snap a four-game losing streak on Saturday afternoon when they host the Boston College Eagles from the Carrier Dome. Syracuse (1-6, 1-5 ACC) is winless since Sept. 26 — a 37-20 victory over Georgia Tech, the Orange's first and only win of 2020 — while Boston College (4-3, 3-3) is finishing off a stretch of three road games in four weeks having lost the previous two to Virginia Tech and No. 1 Clemson.
That Boston College-Clemson game was particularly eye-catching, as the Eagles led for a substantial portion of the game before the Tigers ultimately pulled in front. Boston College was up 28-13 at halftime and 28-26 after the third quarter, but couldn't hang on and pull off what would have been a dramatic upset of the top-ranked Tigers.
Syracuse has struggled mightily throughout the 2020 season, with each of the Orange's last four losses coming by an average of 20.3 points. Last week against Wake Forest, Syracuse mustered single touchdowns in the second and fourth quarters, but a 17-7 halftime deficit coupled with allowing 21 third-quarter points to the Demon Deacons was simply too steep of a hill for the Orange to climb.
Syracuse has held the upper hand historically against Boston College, winning about 60 percent of the all-time meetings (31-21 overall). But the two sides have split each of the last four matchups, with each team's win in that span coming on the road. Boston College claimed the most recent meeting in 2019 — a 58-27 victory in Syracuse — which saw the Eagles erase a 17-10 first-quarter deficit with 34 straight points between the second and third quarters to cruise to the win.
Boston College at Syracuse
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 7 at 2 p.m. ET
TV: Raycom Sports Network/ESPN3
Spread: Boston College -14
When Boston College Has the Ball
Boston College will certainly be wondering what could have been after letting what was at one time an 18-point lead become a six-point loss. Quarterback Phil Jurkovec's final line — 12-of-24 passing for 204 yards and two touchdowns — fails to illustrate the shift in Jurkovec's effectiveness as the game progressed. He looked sharp in the first half and gave Clemson's defense all sorts of trouble, but seemed to come undone in the second half and failed to lead the offense on a single scoring drive over the last two quarters. And the final blow came when Jurkovec was called for intentional grounding in the end zone with a little more than a minute left, resulting in a safety and the final points for the Tigers.
The success that the Eagles did have offensively came primarily through the air, as Clemson limited Boston College to just 68 rushing yards rushing on 33 carries. Travis Levy led the way with 10 rushes for 40 yards while David Bailey (14 carries, 32 yards) scored Boston College's only rushing touchdown of the day. Of Jurkovec's 12 completions, five were to CJ Lewis — who totaled 66 yards and a touchdown — as Zay Flowers finished right behind Lewis with three catches for 63 yards and Jurkovec's other touchdown pass.
Syracuse has given up 30 or more points in five of its seven games this season, including four in a row with at least 38 points allowed. The Orange have excelled in one area, though: forcing turnovers. Thus far, Syracuse has racked up an FBS-leading 17 takeaways — nine interceptions and eight fumbles — as linebacker Mikel Jones paces the team in both categories with three picks and two recoveries.
When Syracuse Has the Ball
It isn't a great combination when the defense consistently allows such high scores to opponents while the offense struggles as much as Syracuse's has. The Orange rank in the bottom 20 of FBS teams in passing offense and in the bottom 10 for rushing and total yards. Quarterback Rex Culpepper — who took over after an injury to Tommy DeVito against Duke — threw for just 85 yards against Wake Forest on 15-of-27 passing, with one touchdown and two interceptions before being replaced by JaCobian Morgan. The Wake Forest game was Culpepper's first start in which he connected on more than half of his attempts, as he completed 19 of 40 against Liberty and just 10 of 26 against Clemson.
Cooper Lutz led the way on the ground for Syracuse on Saturday with 15 carries for 81 yards, as only he and Nykeim Johnson (two carries, 22 yards) finished the game with positive rushing yardage. Syracuse's rushing average dipped even lower to just 90.9 yards per game after the Orange managed just 79 on the ground against the Demon Deacons. On the receiving side, the Culpepper-Morgan duo found 10 different pass catchers against Wake Forest. Ed Hendrix only caught one pass, but his 31 yards finished as the high mark on the team. Lutz and Johnson totaled 25 receiving yards with Johnson and Luke Benson each with a touchdown catch.
Boston College's defense is right around the middle of the pack nationally in both yards and points allowed, allowing 392 yards and 26.3 points per game this season. Like the Orange, however, the Eagles have been a very opportunistic unit, forcing 12 turnovers thus far (six INTs, six fumbles). Boston College recorded just one sack last week against Clemson — notched by Max Roberts — but should find a way to cause more havoc this week against a Syracuse team surrendering four sacks per game in 2020.
Syracuse desperately needs some positive momentum to help right the ship in the latter weeks of the season, while Boston College also is looking for a rebound after letting the lead slip away against Clemson. Both teams boast takeaway-savvy defenses, but Boston College's offense will likely be too much for the Orange to overcome.
Prediction: Boston College 31, Syracuse 16
— Written by Juan Jose Rodriguez, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a 2019 graduate of the University of Notre Dame. Rodriguez was an intern for Athlon during summer 2017 and worked for a variety of media outlets on campus, including as the Editor-in-Chief of Scholastic Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @JuanJoseRG02.
(David Bailey photo courtesy of Boston College Athletics)