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Syracuse vs. Boston College preview: Five things to watch

A ‘Cuse - BC Game with legit stakes? Oh how the #OrangeEagle yearns...

Notre Dame v Syracuse Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

The Syracuse Orange vs. Boston College Eagles rivalry is certainly odd, in that it they are more of a football “rival” than Pitt, but definitely less of one than West Virginia.

But this year’s game has a legitimate edge to it; Syracuse, in particular, puts itself in the Camping World Bowl with a victory (while BC likely gets some sort of shot if they prevail). What will determine the winner? We’ve got five key things to watch for that will help determine this coinflip game..

Can BC pass when ‘Cuse knows they will?

Boston College is actually better in the air than on the ground via S&P+ (45th vs 106th), but the passing game hasn’t been very effective when teams know the Eagles will throw. They’re 103rd in Passing Down offense, and 103rd in passing down efficiency. If AJ Dillon can’t go, Syracuse has to stop the run, because BC’s offense goes from good to bad in a hurry, a huge key to swinging this game. And that’s because...

Can Syracuse continue to blitz effectively?

In a matchup in the Orange’s favor, the Eagles are 107th versus the blitz. Syracuse’s defense is second in the country, hold offenses to just 16.2%. You take an offense that struggles to pass when SU knows they’re going to pass and can’t handle a blitz? Brian Ward is salivating, as are Kendall Coleman and Alton Robinson — who have a combined 16 sacks on the year. Robinson could get himself into the top-10 single season totals in school history if he picks up at least one in this game.

NCAA Football: North Carolina at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Orange win with big passing plays; Is that on the table?

Boston College has the 36th best passing defense in the country, but they’re only 62nd in limiting explosive plays. While they may be able to stop a lot of ‘Cuse offense, they won’t be able to stop big plays if the Orange keep testing the Eagles. The question is: will the Orange be able to set these plays up? DeVito can hit the deep ball, but it’s far too telegraphed (at least what we saw versus Notre Dame) to surprise BC and take advantage. We know what Dungey can do, but this could be DeVito’s biggest test to date.

Will Moe Neal and Dontae Strickland get a chance to work through adversity?

BC isn’t the best defensive team in the world, but they’re solid. They’re 50th versus the rush, and 24th at limiting explosive plays on the ground. Syracuse has the 44th best rushing offense, and it isn’t very explosive without Dungey. SU will need to attack often on the ground, but there could be a lot of 2-3 yard gains that just aren’t sexy. They are effective, and I’d love to see Neal and Strickland get the chance to just put their heads down and beat BC at their own game.

Let’s see an Andre Szymt bouceback

There was nothing that encapsulated ‘Cuse’s day in the Bronx than Andre Szymt’s first field goal chance clanging off the uprights. While he did make another attempt later, that play definitely killed the fans’ emotions and I’m sure there was an impact on the sidelines. In a game that’s a 53% game in favor of BC, every point matters. Szymt making his first try could be a big tone setter for the Orange.