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Which games are most important for Syracuse football this weekend?

What do you need to be watching pretty closely without Syracuse on TV?

NCAA Football: Boston College at Florida State Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange are up against the Bye Week Fightin’ Byes this weekend. But since you can’t watch that game, you’ll be watching others instead. Even though those teams aren’t Syracuse, and thus don’t matter in the traditional sense, they do matter with regard to what SU has left on the schedule.

So with that in mind, which games should we be paying close attention to during week nine, as it sets the stage for an exciting/terrifying home stretch where we need two wins to go bowling?

NCAA Football: Louisville at Florida State Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Friday: Florida State Seminoles (2-4, 2-3) at Boston College Eagles (4-4, 2-3), 8 p.m. ET/ESPN

As Dan and I explained on this week’s podcast, this game is fraught with awful possibilities for the Orange schedule. Should Florida State, Syracuse’s next opponent, lose, they’ll be 2-5 with their backs against the wall to extend their bowl streak. Win and they could be back on the upswing, further complicating a tough road game for SU next Saturday.

BC brings similar degrees of awful. An Eagles win would be the latest sign that BC’s finally figured something out on offense and at five victories, they’d be well-situated to be bowl-eligible this year. Boston College losing, however, could set up a desperate scenario where both the Eagles and Orange are 5-6 going into the final game of the season. That’s worrisome.

I’m tempted to believe FSU’s talent outweighs Boston College’s still, especially with a stronger defense up against the new-look Eagles offense. In any case, maybe best to just go with your gut and root for the ‘Noles.

NCAA Football: Louisville at Florida State Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday: Louisville Cardinals (5-3, 1-3) at Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-3, 1-3), 12:20 p.m. ET/ACCN

Against another strong defense, Louisville may show some real vulnerabilities. That’s not going to tell us much about what Syracuse can do to this mess of an offensive line, mind you. But a beleaguered Cardinals line is much preferred to one that appears resurgent against a reasonably good Wake team.

Wake, on the other hand, has shown glimpses of an actual offensive attack this year -- and even a running game (elusive for them in recent years). If they can find some quality production against Louisville’s banged-up defense, that could provide them with momentum, at the very least, to finish strong this season. At least we face the Deacons at home, however, where we’re more likely to be able to keep up.

Whichever team loses this game has a real shot to finish below SU in the league standings. The one who doesn’t still could, provided the Orange beat them. I have no idea what to root for in this one, except chaos and a blueprint to slow down Lamar Jackson.

Saturday: N.C. State Wolfpack (6-1, 4-0) at Notre Dame Fighting Irish (6-1), 3:30 p.m. ET/NBC

This one has no consequences for the conference standings. But considering NC State’s best win so far is either against us or Louisville, this could be a better litmus test for how the Pack can finish this season. Notre Dame’s mean, can run the ball ridiculously well and should really challenge NCSU in the trenches (where they typically excel).

Saturday: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (4-2, 3-1) at Clemson Tigers (6-1, 4-1), 8 p.m. ET/ABC

I’m going to preface this with the full knowledge that Syracuse will not be winning the ACC this year. However, if there was any ridiculous reality in which that could happen, this game is pivotal.

With one loss, Clemson needs to fall once more in the last three league games to end up in a tie with Syracuse (assuming no more losses for the Orange). They also need to deal NC State a loss, so that game’s out. FSU looks down, and I’m not banking on them to beat Clemson, so it really comes down to Georgia Tech taking it to the Tigers if we have any outside shot (again, nope) of winning this Atlantic Division title.


Plenty more games to highlight around the country, and we’ll have a watch thread up tomorrow. But considering this your guide to what truly matters for SU in week nine.