Surging Eagles visit struggling Orange in the Carrier Dome
The Boston College Eagles and Syracuse Orange handled their midseason success in very different ways. Boston College has used it as springboard into more wins and optimism, while Syracuse has seen the luster wear off significantly.
The Eagles, after a 45-42 win at Louisville, have won three out of four games with the one loss a narrow, three-point defeat at home to NC State. Now at 6-5 and 3-4 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, BC has a shot at its first eight-win season since 2009.
For Eagles head coach Steve Addazio, that would be a huge accomplishment, as the program has won eight or more games only five times since joining the ACC in 2005. With new athletic director Martin Jarmond keeping a close eye on Addazio's work, it appears his job is safe for now, and the coach has also done a good job in recruiting.
Syracuse (4-7 overall, 2-5 in the ACC) seemed to have things turned around in coach Dino Babers' second season in Central New York after the Orange beat Clemson, 27-24, on Oct. 13. Since then, it's been a steady decline full of injuries and near misses. The Orange have lost four in a row. The last two have been particularly ugly, as the defense has given up a combined 120 points in those losses to Wake Forest and Louisville (more on that later).
Bowl eligibility is not an option for Syracuse, so a win at home over a geographic rival would be a nice way to send the program out on a good note heading into next season.
Boston College at Syracuse
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 25 at 12:20 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ACC Network
Spread: Boston College -3.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Super frosh
It doesn't happen often, but a true freshman basically saved Boston College's 2017 season. Running back AJ Dillon, out of New London, Connecticut, has been a dominant force for the Eagles. The 6-foot, 240-pounder can beat you with size, speed and strength, and he has amassed 1,239 yards rushing on the season, good for second nationally among all freshmen. He put up 200 yards and two touchdowns against Connecticut this past weekend to earn ACC Rookie of the Week honors for the second time this season. Even behind an offensive line that has suffered some major injuries this season, Dillon has been an emerging superstar. Syracuse must slow him down to have any shot.
2. Where's the "D"?
At one point in the season, the defensive breakdowns that plagued Syracuse in Dino Babers' first season were nowhere to be found. The improvement was tangible, and combined with an offense that was hitting its stride, one could see why Orange fans had big dreams of making some real headway. Those thoughts are becoming a distant memory, though, after Wake Forest put up 64 points on the Orange two weeks ago and Louisville followed with 56 last week. Both of those opponents have good offenses, but those numbers are embarrassing. There have been injuries, sure, but the Orange still have their two best players on that side of the ball in linebackers Zaire Franklin (above, right) and Paris Bennett. They need to step up to avoid another shootout.
3. Backup play
A huge component in this matchup will be how the quarterbacks are able to supplement the running game. Syracuse starter Eric Dungey has a foot injury and isn't likely to play. Backup Zack Mahoney was decent against Wake Forest, but neither he nor Rex Culpepper did much against Louisville. Both threw two interceptions and were a combined 13-of-34 for 138 yards and no touchdowns. Boston College lost starter Anthony Brown for the season to a knee injury in the NC State loss. His replacement, Darius Wade, did not do much against UConn, completing 7-of-15 passes for 55 yards and a touchdown. But with the way Dillon is running, Wade just has to manage the game and not turn the ball over.
If Eric Dungey were playing and the Syracuse defense were performing at the level it showed near the beginning of the season, then a Boston College team coming to the Carrier Dome without Anthony Brown would be the underdog. But with the current state of affairs, you have to like where the Eagles stand. Expect AJ Dillon to have another big day and for the Boston College defense, which has not had star defensive end Harold Landry for three straight games and still been solid, to make life difficult for the Orange.
Prediction: Boston College 31, Syracuse 17
— Written by Adam Kurkjian, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and is a reporter for the Boston Herald. He has covered the World Series, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup playoffs, Boston Marathon and Little League World Series, among other events from the high school, college and pro ranks. Follow him on Twitter @AdamKurkjian.