The Syracuse Orange football team has another game on Saturday, and they’re now trying to avoid a fifth straight loss. That’s no easy task against any opponent lately, but especially competent ones. If nothing else, the Boston College Eagles at least look more competent this season compared to previous ones.
Since we’re not Boston College fans, we went ahead and asked one about what to expect in this game. BC Interruption’s Niraj Patel joins us to talk about the Eagles. You can check out those responses below. We also provided some notes on Syracuse over there, which you can check out here.
How’s the coaching change going so far? Are BC fans impressed with Jeff Hafley?
Jeff Hafley has been a revelation. BC fans were so jaded after the past few years, but Hafley has energized the fan base, and he has outperformed expectations already. Fans are impressed with how quickly he’s been able to modernize the team. The shifts in philosophy have made watching BC football more fun. It’s as simple as that. Not having a predictable offense where the average fan in the stands (tbt) can easily yell out the play has gone a long way. It’s also helped from a recruiting standpoint. Prospects have often commented on the stark shift in play style and how much fun it looks like the team is having.
Besides the on-field results, Hafley’s personality has resonated well with BC fans. He is full of passion and energy. You can tell how much he cares about his players. His transparency is pretty striking, and he gives off a major ‘run-through-a-brick-wall’ vibe whenever he gives an interview.
Phil Jurkovec has been a major improvement at QB compared to recent years for the Eagles. How important has getting his wavier accepted been to the product Boston College has put on the field this season?
Oh it’s meant the world. BC wouldn’t be close to the same team without him. All respect to Dennis Grosel who crushed it during his cameo fourth down conversion last week, but Jurkovec can simply make more plays. He makes the whole system go, and allows the Eagle offense to spread it out and make use of some dynamic weapons available in the passing game. Jurkovec is currently top 5 in the country in passing yards, and that’s not a stat you’d expect coming from Boston College given the past couple of years. Each week it seems like he’s breaking BC records for passing in his first ‘x’ starts, or at least matching the output of Matt Ryan. He’s not perfect, but his toolkit has helped usher in a modern offense. You can understand why he had the offer sheet he had, and why he ultimately went to Notre Dame. He’s a real gamer, and can very casually make an eye-popping throw every so often.
Looking at recent years, I think Anthony Brown (now quarterbacking Oregon) was ultimately held back by the previous offensive system. We’ll see more what he’s fully capable of beginning this weekend. I still would consider Jurkovec’s play an improvement and I think he has more potential, but he’s less limited by play-calling.
On the other hand, are you disappointed that the offensive line perhaps hasn’t looked as good as advertised, and/or the run game’s sputtered compared to previous years?
The offensive line performance has been rough, and in turn the run game has been nonexistent. It’s probably the biggest disappointment collectively for BC fans. Given the makeup of the team, I think I expected a slower transition to the pass-happy offense we see now. The poor play has probably been the result of a system change and might me more than the growing pains initially chalked up. The team switched to a zone-blocking scheme and despite returning four out of five starters on the offensive line, each ended up switching positions. Needless to say, it has not gone well so far.
David Bailey, for all of his efficiency and production last year, is only averaging about 3.5 yards a carry (vs 5.7 in 2019), and the offense as a whole is averaging less than 100 yards a game on the ground. While I think BC is at its best chucking it all around the field, it makes it harder for the Eagles to maintain leads against quality opponents. Jurkovec also likes to hold the ball longer to try and make the big play, and even though he’s proven quite tough to take down, it doesn’t make the offensive line’s job any easier.
Thoughts on the ACC’s division-less setup this year? Are you a fan, or would you rather they go back to the Atlantic/Coastal setup? Or perhaps another alignment altogether?
I would say I am generally a fan of the new setup. I’m always jealous of the Coastal and its parity. We’ve seen each of the seven teams in that division win and head to the championship game. It just makes you look better than you probably actually are, which can go a long way with fan buy-in and recruiting. BC has been able to play some different teams than usual, and it puts the conference as a whole on a more even playing field. While I miss our little rivalry with Wake Forest, it’s interesting getting to play against the likes UNC, Duke, Virginia, and Georgia Tech all in the same season to see where everyone really stacks up. I’m all for scrapping the divisions. That pod idea intrigues me more than this, but this is a welcome change of pace, even though we still had to play Clemson, and Notre Dame spoiled the party.
While Trevor Lawrence didn’t play against BC last week, it still would’ve been a big deal to upset No. 1 Clemson. How crushed were you that the Eagles couldn’t hold onto the lead?
It was painful to watch. To be honest, I fully expected Clemson to win the game, but was devastated at how it transpired. I would say I’m at least more elated by the performance from the first half. BC started the game brilliantly, making plays and moving the ball, and you’ll take a 28-13 lead to the bank every time. It was fantastic and refreshing to watch. You shouldn’t lose a game playing as well as you were, but how the offense absolutely collapsed in the second half to score zero points was agonizing. Right now, I’m somewhere between moral victory and are-you-kidding-me.
Name one unsung Boston College player that Orange fans should get more familiar with.
He’s been getting more praise of late, but I would be remiss not to mention wide receiver CJ Lewis. Lewis became a starting receiver in the offense due to injury to top receiver Kobay White. Lewis has taken advantage of his playing time. He posted a career high against Clemson with five catches and 66 yards, and he’s scored three touchdowns in the past two games. He has been a consistent performer and helps the offense move. He has solid hands and has been finding ways to get open every drive. He seems to have built quite the rapport with Jurkovec. And if there is a two-minute situation, look for Lewis to do his best Larry Fitzgerald impression making sure the ball gets back to the line as quickly as possible.
Is there a specific Syracuse player that has you concerned heading into this matchup?
I probably wouldn’t say overly concerned, but anyone fast is a threat against this Eagle defense. Someone like Nykeim Johnson might fit the bill. BC has struggled containing guys running around the edge particularly. Team speed is one of the biggest issues on this defense, and so anyone that can make plays in open space is cause for concern. The two Syracuse corners Melifonwu and Williams aremtop notch too, and I think Melifonwu was close to coming to BC and is from the area if I remember correctly. There’s always added motivation with those kinds of storylines. If Jurkovec is off on any of his throws, I fully expect these guys to get their hands in the action.
If the Orange can pull off an upset on Saturday, what will they need to do?
Cuse will need to make Jurkovec uncomfortable. If they’re strong in coverage, I can see him trying to force some throws. He’s continued a trend of throwing a couple of really bone-headed passes each game. BC has been fortunate very few have ended up turnovers, but they are worrisome nonetheless. The Orange in their own right can’t turn the ball over either. The turnovers the Eagles have forced this season have been complete game-changers. They’ve come at opportune times when the offense was stalling. If ‘Cuse coughs it up once or twice, I think it will be too much to overcome, so this is a big no-no.
Prediction time: Who wins this one and why?
I think the Eagles bounce back and win this one 38-20. Between the injuries and question marks on offense, I think it will be too much to keep up with the firepower BC has shown on offense. I don’t think ‘Cuse will be able to avoid turnovers, and that will probably be a back-breaker. I wouldn’t be surprised if the game started out slow or close, but this has all of the makings of a second half rout.