The Syracuse Orange football team got back to their winning ways last Saturday, with a last-second victory over Virginia Tech. Now can they make it two in a row as the Boston College Eagles come to town? It would certainly be nice...
So what should we be keeping an eye on when these long-time rivals kick off on Saturday?
John: Testing Boston College’s run defense early and often
Last week, we pointed out that Virginia Tech’s run defense was questionable, allowing 4.3 yards per carry going in. The Hokies would give up 6.98 per carry to Syracuse, despite slowing Sean Tucker for a short stretch. So can Boston College fare any better against the nation’s No. 8 rushing offense?
I wouldn’t necessarily bank on it. BC’s allowing 4.42 yards per carry (95th in the country), though interestingly have surrendered just nine scores on the ground. The Eagles front should have their hands full between Tucker and Garrett Shrader. And if Shrader’s running ability is occupying a linebacker or two, that should mean more passing opportunities, too — if SU can take advantage (questionable aside from fourth quarters so far).
Steve: What will Syracuse’s offensive line look like?
It’s a contractual obligation, but actual required watching this weekend. With Carlos Vettorello going down in the fourth quarter of the game against Virginia Tech, a large question mark opened up on the right side of the line. To keep this machine running at the rate it’s been going, and I mean literally running, as we’re near the top in the nation in rush offense and Sean Tucker is the only player in Division I over 1,000 rushing yards this season, we need a pertinent sub for Vettorello. Whether it’s Josh Ilaoa at center and Airon Servais at tackle, or one of the backup tackles in Anthony Red or Jakub Bradford, they need to be up to the challenge of stepping into the starting role in a big way.
Christian: Learn from Virginia Tech
Boston College, in many ways, is very similar to Virginia Tech on offense. The quarterback play isn’t exactly the flashiest, especially with no Phil Jurkovec under center. The same can be said for Braxton Burmeister, and he led the Hokies with some fine drives early to put the pressure immediately on the Orange. At this point, you know what Boston College’s limitations are, much like Syracuse on offense. The Eagles are going to want to run the ball like Virginia Tech did a lot last week early in the game. It’s up to Tony White to avoid the slow start from last week to make sure the Orange aren’t fighting from behind in a game that SU is favored in.
Kevin: Playing from the lead
During ACC play Syracuse has found themselves chasing the game too often. Against an injured team which is struggling getting up two scores early would be advantageous. You’ll keep the Dome crowd engaged, force BC into being one-dimensional on offense while allowing the Syracuse offense the opportunity to do what it does best in running the ball. The worst thing the Orange can do on Saturday is give the Eagles hope early and let them control how the game will be played. We’ll see if Syracuse can build off last week’s win in a game that is crucial for any bowl hopes.
Andy: Don’t Play Hero Ball
We all alluded to the success Syracuse had versus Virginia Tech and the need to repeat those good habits. Multiple times during the Orange win, I expressed praise for Sterlin Gilbert’s playcalling and offense philosophy, as he incorporated multiple vertical elements to the passing attack, different option looks to counter what Tech was doing on defense, and knowing his players tendencies well enough (Shrader’s insistence on keeping every option look in the red zone) to use those to the Orange’s advantage. However, the moments where he looked weakest where overly relying on Shrader’s arm in multiple early down situations that created third and longs that kept the Orange one dimensional. He did this after drives where Shrader looked good passing, and I get the idea of keeping the QB’s confidence up, however, Sean Tucker exists, and the Orange should not be turning it’s offense on it’s head so regularly, especially when it continues to fail. Stick to the system that works, and keep the defense off balance instead of becoming predictable.