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Boston College Football Preview: A Q&A With NunesMagician about the Season Opener vs. Syracuse

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Boston College v Syracuse Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Assuming this game takes place, it will be the 54th contest between BC and Syracuse. The last time they met in the month of September was back in 1964, so this feels a bit strange. I think I’ll mostly miss the Thanksgiving leftovers themed tailgate. How do you feel about opening up the season at BC?

Well first off, I’d like to thank BC for bailing us out of some terrible scheduling on our part that could’ve handed Syracuse a week one bye this week if not for the Eagles moving the Holy Cross to October.

As far as opening at Boston College, I don’t think it’s the worst time to be catching a familiar team given the coaching staff turnover for the Eagles. That doesn’t assure they’ll fail early by any means (look at how the Orange got clobbered in week two by Maryland with a new coaching staff last year). But if I’m facing a team that’s making some changes to coaching, scheme and personnel, early’s definitely preferred.

Syracuse had a tremendous 2018, going 10-3 and finishing the season ranked 15th. But the departure of dual-threat QB Eric Dungey left a significant hole in 2019—the Orange went from scoring 40.2 points per game in 2018 to just 28.2 in 2019, and they finished the year 5-7. Tommy Devito looks promising at quarterback, but who else on offense might provide a spark?

DeVito and the rest of this offense will go as the offensive line goes in 2020. That group was a disaster for most of last year, which contributed heavily to the team’s (and DeVito’s) struggles. With SU seemingly figuring out the line issues over the final three games, we should be in better shape there now. Bringing in Sterlin Gilbert to run the offense could also be exactly the sort of shake-up this group needs.

As far as who may provide a spark on the field, Taj Harris can be a major playmaker out wide if he’s on the same page with DeVito this year, and tight end Aaron Hackett (six scores last year) has become a real red zone threat. We also saw glimpses of what the speedy Jawhar Jordan could do at running back last year, and I think there’s a chance Syracuse plugs him in as a slot receiver this year, just to try any way to get him on the field.

AJ Dillon and David Bailey ran all over Syracuse last season, combining for 414 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns. The Orange surrendered 56 points or more three times last year. Is there an expectation that the defense will improve in 2020? How about a player to watch out for on that side of the ball?

Woof. Don’t remind me of that game...

After Boston College ran through Syracuse’s defense, coordinator Brian Ward was let go, so hopefully that winds up addressing part of the issue. Ward’s defense moved from a Tampa-2 when he arrived to a sort of 4-2-5 that was based on taking risks to flip the field and blitzing a ton. We’ll see some more of that this year, but in the context of new DC Tony White’s 3-3-5 that potentially leans into personnel better. Losing most of last year’s front seven certainly doesn’t provide a lot of optimism on paper, but I’m intrigued by the young players we have coming back and think they could see a lot of improvement by year’s end. It’s also going to be hard to be worse than Syracuse’s defense was for much of last season.

The man you need to know on Syracuse’s defense is safety Andre Cisco. He’s the active interceptions leader in the FBS and is one of the better ballhawks I’ve ever seen at the college level. Cisco also does a great job of making corrections over the course of a game, so throw near him at your own risk.

Is this a statement year for head coach Dino Babers? Even with the aforementioned 10 win season, he enters 2020 with a .469 winning percentage at Syracuse. Would another sub .500 season put his job in jeopardy?

Barring a complete collapse at like 1-11 or 0-12, I don’t see Dino being shown the door for a subpar 2020. However, the seat does get a little warmer from boosters and much of the fan base if he fails to deliver a winning campaign this year (all assuming we’re getting a “normal” season of course, for the time being).

Most Syracuse fans are reasonable, and think bowling four of five years is a decent expectation provided the schedule is set up to help there (and it is most years lately). If we can’t at least get to a second bowl in five years, it’s worth questioning why certain aspects of this regime aren’t working and how to fix them.

Let’s say they manage to play this game on September 4th, as scheduled. The road team has won each of the last 4 games in this series, does Syracuse keep the streak alive in Chestnut Hill?

I know the last few games in this series have been one-sided, but I actually think this winds up being a fairly close game. As always, the keys will be who can avoid turnovers and if Syracuse can find a way to stop BC’s run game this time around. SU’s tempo can quickly make it a boulder rolling downhill if the defense is able to flip the field, but the Eagles’ line is pretty formidable. To win, the Orange need to take Boston College out of their game and force them to try and play with some pace and maybe beat them through the air. That gets more feasible since leaving the old system behind, but I’m not so sure they’ll be ready enough in week one. Could easily say the same about the Orange defense given those changes as well.

Still, give me Syracuse, but by the slim margin of 34-30. Wouldn’t take much to make it go the other way though, obviously.