Syracuse and Boston College are coming off two games that couldn't be further apart on the spectrum of program momentum.
Last weekend, the Orange beat a ranked Virginia Tech team, 31-17, to improve to 3-4 and give new head coach Dino Babers his first ACC win at Syracuse. The Hokies were riding high from a blowout win over reigning Coastal Division champion North Carolina and left the Carrier Dome with a shocking loss.
To say the very least, the victory confirmed that Babers is making progress in his rebuilding effort. Even though the Orange aren't likely to be favored much down the stretch, there is some hope that he can eventually bring about the same type of turnaround he did in previous stops at Eastern Illinois (FCS program) and Bowling Green (from the MAC).
What is happening in Chestnut Hill at the moment can only be described as the exact opposite. Before last weekend's bye, the Eagles were embarrassed by Clemson at Alumni Stadium, 56-10, to drop their record to 3-3. Boston College still has not won an ACC game since 2014, and while many of those previous losses were at least competitive, its three defeats in league play this season have been by a combined 122-24.
In his fourth year with the Eagles, head coach Steve Addazio's seat has never been hotter. The only thing that could cool it a little is an ACC win. Even though his team comes into this game favored, not many are expecting the Eagles to come out on top.
The silver lining? The last team Boston College did beat in ACC play was Syracuse, 28-7, two years ago. The Eagles need a similar performance to stop the bleeding.
Syracuse at Boston College
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 22 at 12:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ACC Network
Spread: Boston College -5.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Diversified options
For the better part of the season, Syracuse wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo has been the main threat for quarterback Eric Dungey. However, over the last two games, that has not been the case. While no one really got going in the loss to Wake Forest two weeks ago, the Orange spread the ball around well in the win over the Hokies, as Ervin Phillips and Brisly Estime combined for 19 receptions for 270 yards and two touchdowns. For Etta-Tawo to rack up just 54 yards and the Orange to still score 31 points against an opponent of Virgnia Tech's caliber says quite a bit about how far Babers' offense has come through the season's halfway point.
2. Turning a corner?
The statistics are a bit deceiving because of who the Orange have played, but any way you cut it, their defense has been awful for the greater part of this season. In terms of total yardage, the Orange are ranked 113th in the nation. But even though Syracuse didn't completely shut down the Hokies, the 17 points allowed counts as progress, as it marked the lowest total since the 33-7 season-opening win over FCS Colgate. Going against an offensively-challenged Boston College team, this could be a chance for the Syracuse defense, led by middle linebacker Zaire Franklin, to build off that performance.
3. Back to basics
The reverse is true for Boston College when it comes to how the defense looks statistically compared to how it's actually performing. The Eagles are ranked fourth in the nation in yards allowed, but the games against UMass, Buffalo and Wagner – two of the worst FBS teams in the country and an FCS team, respectively – tilt those numbers. The Eagles returned quality personnel from last year's unit, but the loss of defensive coordinator Don Brown to Michigan over the offseason has made a difference against the better offenses on the schedule. If the Eagles want to break their ACC hex, a solid defensive effort against Syracuse's high-flying, up-tempo attack would be a great place to start.
Maybe Vegas knows something the rest of us don't, but all signs point to the Orange trending up as the Eagles continue to spiral downward. This could be a bit of a hangover for Syracuse after last week's big win while Boston College has the benefit of a bye week. However, Orange head coach Dino Babers' offense has rounded nicely into form and the defense finally made enough stops last week to resemble a competent unit against quality competition. The Eagles don't quite have much to hang their hat on at the moment and need to find something fast or a second straight year of no ACC wins is a distinct possibility.
Prediction: Syracuse 30, Boston College 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.