HOW AH OW-AH RIVALS LOOKIN’?
Believe it or not, the 2021 season and Syracuse Orange football kickoff are right around the corner. “Get to Know” pieces are already in full swing, preview magazines are all expressing maximum skepticism about the Orange, and everyone here is experiencing that annual blend of excitement and dread we’re all pretty familiar with by now.
As is the case every year, the upcoming season means we’re continuing early look at all 12 of Syracuse’s upcoming opponents. Last week, we took at look at Virginia Tech and Justin Fuente’s hot seat. This week, we preview fellow Northeast rival:
School: Boston College
#BRAND Slogan(s): #WeAreBC
Alternate #BRAND Slogan Suggestions: “Not Actually in Boston… College” OR “Hope You Love Doug Flutie Highlights”
Recommended Blog: BC Interruption
History vs. Syracuse: The Eagles are 22-32 vs. Syracuse over the years, taking two straight in the series — including last year’s ugly 16-13 victory for BC at the Dome. Since the two were reunited in the same league, they’ve split the series at four wins apiece, with half being close and half… not so much. Overall, the Orange have owned a decent-sized advantage over the Eagles, mostly courtesy of a 13-5 run in the matchup from 1981 to 1998. BC owns a slight 8-7 edge since.
Coach: Jeff Hafley, second season. The former Siena running back jumped right into coaching after his playing career, quickly moving up from WPI to Albany to Pitt from 2001-10, before a one-year stop on Rutgers’ staff that led to him joining Greg Schiano with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He stayed in the NFL through 2018 before taking over as the co-defensive coordinator of Ohio State in 2019. Last year was his first season as a head coach.
2020 Record: (6-5) (5-5)
Recapping Last Season
BC started the Hafley era with two wins (vs. Duke and Texas State), then split every game for the rest of the season to finish 6-5. They did not play in a bowl game. For the most part, the Eagles were competitive throughout the season — they lost by single digits to Clemson, Notre Carolina and Virginia, but were less competitive vs. Notre Dame and Virginia Tech. Notably, just two wins (Duke and Georgia Tech) came by double-digits, however.
Overall, Boston College’s offense was middle-of-the-road. They averaged 386 yards per game (73rd in the country), while scoring nearly 28 points per game. Phil Jurkovec was a nice change of pace under center after several years of quarterback struggles for the team. He finished the year with over 2.500 passing yards and 17 touchdowns through the air, with another 150 yards and three scores on the ground. BC’s run game is typically a strength, but it struggled mightily last year to the tune of just 3.1 yards per carry. Instead, the focus was on the pass, with two different players, Zay Flowers and Hunter Long, topping 50 catches on the year.
Boston College’s defense had its ups and downs as well, allowing 417 yards per game (73rd in the country) and 28.4 points per. The Eagles were a top 10 team in terms of turnovers with 21 on the year, and their 25 sacks were among the top 30ish totals in the FBS. The team’s back seven put up some great counting stats, with (former Syracuse target) Isaiah McDuffie topping 100 tackles and fellow linebacker Max Richardson finishing one shy of the century mark.
2021 Season Outlook
The close games for Boston College last year were a reason for optimism, but also some potential concern, since luck can swing pretty wildly from season to season, even without a lot of roster turnover. Things get slightly easier from a scheduling perspective as the Eagles start the year vs. Colgate, UMass and Temple. But aside from the road game at Clemson, there isn’t a game on this slate that BC will be counted out of going in.
Jurkovec is back, and appears to be on NFL Draft radars for whatever that’s worth. Leading rusher David Bailey transferred to Colorado State, but Travis Levy (321 yards last year) returns, and they added West Virginia transfer Alec Sinkfield (327 yards). Long, a tight end headed to the NFL — however the top three receivers beyond him are all back. All-conference linemen Alec Lindstrom and Zion Johnson return as well, with what will be a greater focus on opening up holes for the run game than last year.
Boston College’s top two tacklers (McDuffie and Richardson) are both gone, as is DB Deon Jones. That said, the Eagles actually had a decent amount of success in the transfer portal, adding Khris Banks and Isaiah Graham-Mobley from Temple, plus Jaiden Lars-Woodbey from Florida State. It’s possible this year’s group is a lot stronger up front than last year’s was, with an improved secondary — possibly making up for any step back the linebackers take.
Syracuse Game Date: Saturday, October 30
Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.
Odds of Orange Victory: 40%
Very Early Outlook vs. Syracuse
While Boston College wasn’t particularly impressive last year against an injury-ravaged Orange squad (if you recall, JaCobian Morgan started that game), they still got the win and still appear to have the more proven offensive weapons right now aside from the running back spot. With a defense that seems likely to improve as well, I’d give the Eagles an advantage on the road here at the Dome, though we’ll also know a lot more about both teams by this point in the season. And what reads as inexperience in June won’t necessarily be late October, on both sidelines. It’ll be interesting to see how much of last year’s culture change Hafley’s team can build upon.