We’re now into July, and the Syracuse Orange football season is drawing ever closer (just over 60 days out!), which opens the floodgates for me to talk about 2018’s team at any and all opportunities. With this post, we’ve already officially completed the early opponent previews (with plenty more hot #content arriving this summer).
Syracuse faces yet another challenging schedule this year (and odds say we’re looking at something between four and five wins). So it’s not going to be easy, even with an improved and/or healthier team. Still, we’re looking at the positives wherever possible. Today’s foe:
School: Boston College
Screamin’ Golden Eagles
#BRAND Slogan: #DecideToFly
Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference
Coach: Steve Addazio, 6th season. After playing for Central Connecticut, he bounced around the NFL, CFL and USFL before jumping into coaching at Western Connecticut in 1985. From there, he was off to Cheshire High School, and then those strong CT ties got him an invite from Syracuse from Paul Pasqualoni in 1995. Addazio moved onto Notre Dame in 1999, then hopped to Indiana in 2001. The Hoosiers’ gig led to an extended stay at Florida from 2005 through 2010 until he became the head coach at Temple. He was alright using Al Golden’s players there, and a four-win 2012 was enough to get him the BC job. Since arriving at Boston College, he’s gone 7-6 four separate times, and also won just three games in 2015. His tenure’s been pretty weird.
2017 Record: (7-6) (4-4)
Recapping Last Season:
The Eagles started out 2-4 and Addazio’s job was in real peril as the offense continued to sputter. However, everything changed on October 14. BC added some tempo and just went back to what made them successful at the start of the coach’s tenure: handing the ball off to a star running back until he’s exhausted. Enter: A.J. Dillon, who ran for 272 yards against the Cardinals and never looked back. He’d miss the 140-yard mark just once for the rest of the year (an 89-yard effort in a 41-10 win over Virginia). After 13 games, he had 1,589 yards and 14 scores. Boston College ended up with seven wins and was just a touchdown away from overtime against Iowa in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Through six games, the Eagles scored just 88 points (just 14.67 per game). In the final seven, they averaged nearly 33.7 per outing. Obviously that was led by the rushing attack, but the passing game actually held their own in parts as well, with three different 200-yard performances (four if you count the September effort against Notre Dame). That may not sound like much, but it’s more 200-yard passing games than the previous three BC seasons combined. Why any receiver or quarterback would commit to this program over Syracuse is beyond me...
Defense has become the calling card of Addazio’s Eagles squads, but last year’s wasn’t nearly as strong as some previous vintages. BC allowed nearly 383 yards per game last year (57th in FBS), though their 22.8 points per game allowed were better, comparatively. Despite a strong rushing attack, the Eagles were ironically terrible at stopping opposing teams from moving the ball on the ground. Foes topped 190 rushing yards per game and 4.81 yards per carry (94th in the country).
2018 Season Outlook:
If you ask Phil Steele, Boston College is a top-25 team. The Eagles return pretty much everyone on offense — a good sign for a unit that closed the previous year so strong. QB Anthony Brown was hot and cold as a starter, then a November injury kept him out for the remainder of the season. The one-time Orange target will be back under center and throwing primarily to Tommy Sweeney, Kobay White and Jeff Smith, who combined for 95 catches, 1,231 yards and six scores last year (so... worse than Steve Ishmael’s stat line on his own). Dillon returns, though, and could be a darkhorse Heisman candidate if the Eagles actually live up to what Steele prescribes to them above.
The defense is really where the doubts come in. As mentioned, last year’s unit wasn’t necessarily as strong as previous BC iterations under Addazio, and that group loses six starters. Last year’s leading tackler, Ty Schwab (107 stops) is gone, and same goes for fellow seniors Isaac Yiadom, Kamrin Moore, Noa Merritt and Harold Landry. There are still a lot of top tacklers on the team — five of the top six — but the same can’t be said for the pass rush. This year’s squad could lean more heavily on the secondary, especially with with Lukas Denis (seven picks) back.
This year’s schedule will be the biggest challenge for the Eagles. All five road games (Wake Forest, Purdue, NC State, Virginia Tech, Florida State) could prove challenging, and they’ll also host Miami and Clemson. That’s a lot to get past, right off the bat.
Syracuse Game Date: Saturday, November 24
Location: Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Odds of Orange Victory: 35 percent
Very Early Outlook:
Despite the less-than-optimistic look at the schedule, BC’s still a pretty good team this year even if they can’t go bowling. And sure, there were injuries for Syracuse in last year’s 42-14 loss, but there are also a lot of key departures for this year’s Orange team. Playing this one on the road will make it a bit tougher, and SU will need to figure out how to stop the run after the last few seasons where they’ve struggled mightily to do so. Until they can pull that off, it’s hard to see a win against this veteran Eagles group.