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Syracuse vs. Boston College rivalry can’t survive post-Thanksgiving

Maybe some rivalry games don’t need the post-Thanksgiving treatment?

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Boston College Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

When the Syracuse Orange (4-7, 2-5) take on the Boston College Eagles (6-5, 3-4) on Saturday, little will be on the line in terms of actual stakes.

Sure, there’s the #OrangeEagle trophy we ruined by being too good at non-revenue sports. And the rivalry aspect of things is fine, I suppose. We never want to lose to BC, no matter what our record is.

But as we were worried about from the beginning of this post-Thanksgiving ACC scheduling arrangement, the placement here really has the potential to kill whatever sense of rivalry these two programs have.

It didn’t necessarily have to be this way, obviously.

Foy Celebration

In 2013, Syracuse hosted BC at the Dome. At 5-6, the Orange needed a win over the resurgent Eagles in order to make a bowl. They’d mount a furious late comeback and take home a 34-31 win and a bowl bid to boot. This matchup worked.

The 2014 edition was garbage, on the other hand. Syracuse was ravaged by injuries all year and limped into the final weekend just trying to avoid going 3-9 with a backup quarterback at the helm. They’d lose by 21. The most notable thing to occur was a fight.

With Scott Shafer already out the door in 2015, and us staring down the barrel of another 3-9 record, SU managed to outlast a listless Eagles offense and win by three. Cole Murphy hit the game-winner to send Shafer out with a W. If it weren’t for the Shafer narrative, you wouldn’t remember anything about this game or this win over a 3-9 BC squad.

Last year, we got a respite from the post-Thanksgiving date, and the game was moved to late October. Fresh off the Virginia Tech upset, Syracuse fended off a tough BC defense and some rain to win by eight. Dungey got feisty with Eagles players. It was actually a fun game with stakes for both teams at the time.

Let’s be real. Syracuse and Boston College have not historically had the best track record of games truly mattering in late November — whether that’s against one another or different opponents. Due to the limited talent in the Northeast, it’s tough for more than a couple of those programs to be good at the same time. So it’s a rarity that these two private schools have been able to pull off the feat.

Thing is — that’s fine, in a lot of ways. Plenty of rivalries exist without national championship aspirations or even winning records. But many of those exist on dates other than the toughest to get fans in the door (two days after Thanksgiving). If two eventual 4-8 teams play on that Saturday, it’s tough for anyone involved to care. But if those teams play in October? You’re still likely in bowl contention, win or lose.

This is exacerbated for Boston College and Syracuse by the lack of proximity for the two programs and their respective fan bases. Sure, many alums from both schools inhabit New York City. But a) many NYC residents depart the city for the holiday, and b) it’s also not that close to either campus.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

For fans and alums more local to Syracuse or Boston, traveling to a home game for your respective school is fine. But going on the road is no easy feat and requires travel during the busiest weekend of the year. Who’s signing up for that, especially for two teams struggling to make a bowl?

Look at many of the other rivalry games positioned around Thanksgiving, and you’ll see a lot of them actually rely on that proximity to matter. It’s families with differing allegiances, all living close enough to make the trip for the game. Even without bowl aspirations, there are stakes.

Last year showed us that this game probably works better mid-season. Sure, Syracuse could’ve just done its part and won any of the close games it dropped earlier in the season, but we can’t revise history. Just change the game date, and let’s make this matchup matter again.

(still, if you want to lose on Saturday, BC, go right ahead)