The release of the 2016 Boston College football schedule came with a couple surprises. Most notably, Boston College's season-ending rivalry game with the Syracuse Orange has been replaced with a road game at Wake Forest. While I've long been a proponent of formalizing a fixed, season-ending rivalry weekend across the ACC, I've now decided moving this game off the season's final weekend is the best for both halves of the famed #OrangeEagle rivalry.
As BC's closest thing to an annual football rival, a season-ending game against Syracuse was as good as any. The problem is that Boston College and Syracuse's similarities as schools foiled this game's place on the schedule.
This is what happens when you pair two northern, small-ish private schools and ask them to play on Thanksgiving weekend, when a large portion of both schools' student bodies and fan bases are home for the holidays. The results at the gate were all too predictable:
2013: 37,917 at Syracuse (360 below Syracuse's home season average)
2014: 30,267 at Boston College (4,003 below BC's home season average)
2015: 30,317 at Syracuse (1,785 below Syracuse's home season average)
With both schools' students home for the holiday and both schools drawing on a season ticket holder population that lives outside the area—making a day trip impractical—attendance predictably suffered. Of course, neither of these programs really held up their end of the bargain either. With the exception of the 2013 game, where Syracuse was searching for that elusive sixth win and Andre Williams was chasing the Heisman Trophy, the last few season-ending games have been duds. When one program is trending upward, the other is going in the wrong direction—or worse, both programs have bottomed out (as was the case this year).
Moving this game to October will allow for more students and fans to attend the game. Hopefully the game has greater importance and the program's aren't going through the motions (i.e. the 2014 and 2015 meetings).
Key injuries have fizzled what has the potential to be a pretty solid rivalry game.
Over the first three years of this rekindled rivalry, the bodies have mounted up by season's end. The combined number of strings between BC and Syracuse starting quarterbacks had to have surpassed six this past season. Only once in three years has BC and Cuse started the same QB that started the year under center (2013 - Chase Rettig and Terrell Hunt). The other QBs to play in this game over the last two seasons are a veritable who's who of obscure college football trivia—AJ Long, Austin Wilson, Tyler Murphy, Jeff Smith (1-of-13 passing for 9 yards, 2 INT!) and Zach Mahoney.
It seems like both these teams have been really, really beat up going into the season finale, making any sort of rekindling of this rivalry pretty difficult.
Be honest. You probably have other games you want to watch that weekend.
Ohio State vs. Michigan
Alabama vs. Auburn
Florida vs. Florida State
Georgia vs. Georgia Tech
Clemson vs. South Carolina
Texas vs. Baylor/TCU/Texas Tech
USC/Stanford vs. Notre Dame
There's no shortage of quality intra- and inter-conference rivalries on college football's penultimate weekend; games rife with conference championship game, College Football Playoff and New Year's Six bowl implications. For a number of macro reasons largely out of BC and Syracuse's control, it's hard to envision a scenario in the near future where BC-Syracuse carries such import.
Moving this game to the middle of the season—perhaps on a dedicated weekend (fourth weekend in October?)—wouldn't bury this game on a stacked college football Saturday and help build up this rivalry's own tradition; not one borrowed from the factories.
The alternative to BC-Syracuse at season's end seems preferable to shoehorning this rivalry in with all the others
Even a game as esteeemed as #therivalry—that of the 3-0 final score variety—buried on the sport's final regular season weekend seems preferable to BC-Cuse getting lost in the shuffle. In an ideal world, BC would be on the road every season for Thanksgiving weekend, given attendance concerns about filling Alumni over the holidays. BC-Wake in front of 10,000 of your closest friends over Thanksgiving weekend seems like as good of a game as any to bury at this point on the calendar.*
The alternative for Syracuse is a season-ending game against Pittsburgh. As much as I hate the thought of staging an ACC Championship Game rematch a week after a regular season encounter, it's hard to imagine Pitt and Syracuse emerging from their respective divisions in the same season moving forward. The Syracuse-Pitt rivalry is pretty 'meh' on both sides, but it works.
For what it's worth, other Power 5 private schools face some of these same challenges over Thanksgiving weekend. Unless you have a set season-ending rivalry of either the hyper-regional or intersectional variety (e.g. Northwestern-Illinois, USC/Stanford-Notre Dame, Vanderbilt-Tennessee, TCU/Baylor-Texas), since many other programs have set rivalry games, schools like BC, Wake Forest, Syracuse and Miami are left to end up paired against one another—minimizing cross-divisional games as much as possible—because math.
* Actually, the ideal here is an annual Boston College-Miami game over Thanksgiving weekend, but, you know, ACC divisions.