Our Boston Globe style look at tomorrow's game between Boston College and Syracuse.
Syracuse (3-4 overall, 1-2 ACC) at BC (3-3 overall, 0-3 ACC)
When: Saturday, 12:30 PM
Where: Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, MA (44,500)
Line: Westgate Vegas - Boston College by 4.5, The Book - Syracuse by 0.2
Series history: Syracuse lead 30-19, in Boston - BC leads 13-10
Last game vs BC: at Syracuse 20 BC 17 - 2015
Last game at BC: at BC 28 Syracuse 7 - 2014
Last BC win: 2014 - at BC 28 Syracuse 7 - 2014
Win Streak: Syracuse 1
When Syracuse Runs:
Advantage: Boston College
Syracuse run offense: 134.1 ypg, 109th in the nation, Boston College run defense: 103.3 ypg, 9th in the nation
This isn't the way Syracuse wants to operate. The Orange run/pass split is roughly 50/50 (46/54 actually), but even against defenses spread out by their passing attack, SU only averages 3.38 yards per carry. The run is there to keep you honest and is really most effective when Eric Dungey is run on QB draws. Dungey averages as many carries per game as their leading rusher Dontae Strickland. Even against a BC defense that will not be looking to stop the run, the Eagles should be effective at least statistically at handling it. The impact of the Dungey carries at critical stages in the game will be the determinant as to their total success.
When Syracuse Passes:
Syracuse pass offense: 346.1 ypg, 9th in the nation, Boston College pass defense: 148.7 ypg, 4th in the nation
On the surface, this looks like strength on strength, but we know better. The Boston College pass defense, although fourth in the nation has been victimized and traumatized by the two spread/tempo teams they have played, allowing 9 of their 10 touchdowns, 531 of their 898 yards and a passer rating of almost 200 in the Clemson and Virginia Tech games.
I am not saying that Syracuse is the caliber of either of those teams, but they did beat Virginia Tech and more importantly put 405 yards in the air on a unit that BC could only muster 80 against. The ball comes out quickly and often and with the Eagles much more base against this style than more traditional offenses, has exposed the weaknesses in the secondary and limited the effectiveness of the Eagle linebackers as well as the pass rushing brilliance of Harold Landry.
When Boston College Runs:
Advantage: Boston College
Boston College run offense: 161.7 ypg, 79th in the nation, Syracuse run defense: 195.6 ypg, 93rd in the nation
Similar to two weeks ago against Clemson, it simply has to be. Boston College hasn't shown the ability to consistently throw the ball against anyone and although Syracuse looks to be the cure to the common cold when it comes to airing it out, it is unlikely based on a typical Eagle games plan and the anticipated intermittent showers that we see Air-BC. BC is as much likely to use the run as a defensive weapon as an offensive one, in an attempt to keep the Syracuse offense off the field and the defense rested.
When Boston College Passes:
Boston College pass offense: 159.8 ypg, 114th in the nation, Syracuse pass defense: 278.3 ypg, 111th in the nation
Much like the Presidential election, this is a case where the only passing game that Syracuse could stop would be BCs and the only defense that the Eagles could exploit is Syracuse's. The Orange have been horribly inconsistent in defending the pass, but one can make the case that they played two excellent offenses in Virginia Tech and Louisville and one who was playing well at the time in Notre Dame and got lit up, but they have had some fair games as well, particularly in the loss at Wake Forest. BC on the other hand has averaged just 106.7 yards per game against their three power five opponents. Not a big edge, but the lean toward Syracuse.
Boston College Keys To Victory:
1. Be aggressive defensively - In games against tempo, spread teams, the Eagle defense under Jim Reid has gone very vanilla. Soft coverage on the corners, limited blitzing and has essentially taken the strength of the team, that being the defensive line and linebackers and turned them into non factors. Yes the ball comes out quickly but this is not a game where BC wants to be on the field for 90+ plays.
2. Control the ball via the run - This one goes without saying, but it is the design of the Boston College offense, it is the kryptonite to spread offenses due to ball possession and it should also play well on a questionable weather day.
3. Make Eric Dungey One Dimensional - The Orange have gone from the option days of Donovan McNabb to a throw first and ask questions later outfit. Syracuse has allowed almost 2 1/2 sacks per game, while BC averages getting 3, but although the sack yardage has hurt Dungy's rushing numbers, his ability out of that spread to make plays with his feet, particularly on designed QB draws to move the sticks is something BC cannot allow, understanding they will have a hard enough time in coverage.
Syracuse Keys To Victory:
1. Confidence - It's something that Syracuse has in spades after the Virginia Tech victory and something BC is sorely lacking. Did Dino Babers turn the corner last week or was that a bit of an aberration and will we see the Orange we saw at Wake Forest just two weeks ago.
2. Control the Eagle run - pretty obvious if the Eagles need to run to win it, then SU needs to stop it on the other side, but much like BC (at least until last week), Syracuse has put up the vast majority of their stats in their two wins against Colgate and Connecticut, where they have 116 yards per game. In the losses on the other hand, 255 yards per game.
3. Touches for Amba Etta-Tawo - the breakout star in the new Orange offensive attack, the senior is averaging 132.9 yards per game, good for fourth in the nation. He has 6 touchdowns on his 56 catches, giving him just one fewer than the entire Boston College roster.