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Syracuse football 2023 opponent preview: Boston College Eagles

SU home games aren't just a social construct.

NCAA Football: Boston College at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Believe it or not, the Syracuse Orange do actually play football games in the Dome. After the Hunt for Orange October kept SU on the road an entire month, ‘Cuse football finally returns to the Loud House for the first weekend in November. This time, they’ll at least have two... technically, three... let’s go with two-and-a-half home games to enjoy.

After witnessing the best college football entrance at Virginia Tech, the Orange should have an electric tunnel-walk of their own ahead of this matchup under the Friday Night Lights....

Boston College Eagles

School: Boston College

Nickname: Eagles

Mascot: Baldwin the Eagle

#BRAND Slogans: #ForBoston, #GetIn

Alternate #BRAND Slogan Suggestions: #ForTheFringesOfBoston or “The Flutie Effect is Outdated Anyway.”

Recommended Blog: BC Interruption

Conference: ACC

History vs. Syracuse: SU leads the battle for the Orange-Eagle Trophy 34-22 in football. The series has continued in different forms - as independents, in the Big East, and now in the ACC, where SU has a 7-4 advantage. Recent memory includes some incredible rushing performances - Sean Tucker turned the tide in both of the last two matchups, while A.J. Dillon silenced the Dome crowd in 2019 with 242 yards and three TDs. Bad blood between the two sides is nothing new, and the ending of last year’s game was a reminder of how quickly it can return. ‘Cuse and BC will meet in each of the next four seasons as part of the 3-5-5 schedule arrangement.

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

Coach: Jeff Hafley, fourth season. We’ve finally arrived at a coach who is likely on the hot seat to start the fall. After a pair of six-win seasons in Chestnut Hill, that number was cut in half last season - a massive disappointment for the Eagles, who could not participate in those two previous bowl games due to COVID. Despite being a wide receiver in college, Hafley coached defensive backs almost exclusively before arriving at BC. He had NFL stops with Tampa Bay, Cleveland, and San Francisco, along with college jobs at Albany, Pitt, Rutgers, and Ohio State.

2022 Record: (3-9) (2-6)

Recapping Last Season:

For the second straight year, BC won only two conference games. Losing to Rutgers at home is usually a sign your season won’t go well, and the loss in Week 2 at Virginia Tech backed that up. After a gimme against Maine, BC lost by 30 at Florida State. A one-point win over Louisville was short lived, as the Eagles dropped the next four games in rather unceremonious fashion. They surprisingly came back to beat a ranked NC State in the closing seconds (also by one point), but by then it was far too late. Notre Dame shut them out, then Syracuse rallied in the 4th quarter of the final game, ending their worst season since 2015.

Zay Flowers was the heart, soul, and easily top contributor of the offense. Racking up over a thousand receiving yards and an even dozen touchdowns is impressive, but to do it while on a team with so many issues? He more than deserved his first-round selection by the Ravens. To give you a sense of how bad things were otherwise: BC was the worst rushing team in FBS... by almost 20 yards-per-game less than the next team! It’s a shocking decline after primary back Pat Garwo hit 1k on the ground in 2021. Then again, when the o-line surrenders 46 QB sacks on the year (most in the conference), you can’t only blame him. Quarterback Phil Jurkovec’s season was again cut short by injury - he finally had enough and transferred to Pitt.

The BC defense had a similar issue: just a couple guys playing head and shoulders above everyone else. Two names come to mind: first is DE Donovan Ezeiruaku, whose 2022 stat line reads 61 total tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, and a pair of pass deflections. The other is a surprise. Josh DeBerry was the top corner going into the year, but senior Elijah Jones overtook him with an ACC-best 13 pass breakups and two picks. Marcus Valdez did fairly well on the other edge, contributing four more sacks. Kicker Connor Lytton fell from 11/12 on FGs in 2021 to just 9/17 last year.

Boston College v NC State Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

2023 Season Outlook:

BC’s out-of-conference schedule involves a trip to West Point, along with home games against Northern Illinois, Holy Cross, and UConn. ACC home games are against FSU, Virginia, VT, and Miami. Rounding out the conference slate are trips to Louisville, Georgia Tech, ‘Cuse, and Pitt.

The offense can’t be much worse than scoring under 18 points per game... can it? Emmett Morehead started the last four games at QB, but UCF transfer Thomas Castellanos prevents him from winning the job outright. Another Central Florida export, Ryan O’Keefe, should be the new leader of the WR room - he has 157 catches over the past two seasons. Garwo’s back for one more ride, but if he struggles again, Alex Broome showed enough flashes as a true freshman to warrant next-man-up status. Like SU’s own LeQuint Allen, Broome also seems like a good pass-catching back.

Ezeiruaku and Jones will still provide the one-two punch between pressure and coverage, but what about everywhere else? LBs Kam Arnold and Vinny DePalma ought to remain busy moving both directions in the 4-2-5. The biggest additions are senior Khari Johnson, a Boston native who spent three seasons at Arkansas, and a pair of FCS transfers. Most help will need to come from within the underclassmen ranks.

Syracuse Game Date: Friday, November 3

Location: JMA Wireless Dome, Syracuse, New York

Odds of Orange Victory: 85%

Very Early Outlook vs. Syracuse:

Boston College has gotten progressively worse in the Hafley era, and they may go even deeper in the hole after a poor 2023 recruiting class. Expecting to replace the production of the undisputed best receiver in program history is a pipe dream, so the best case is more variety emerges on the offensive side of the ball. And say what you will about SU’s relative mediocrity within the conference, but they still have a fantastic crowd who will be starved after a full month without home football. If SU is on the verge of another bowl berth, that will only tip the scales further in their favor.

The already-hobbling Eagles QB gets MOBbed while the Orange offense runs wild against their easiest ACC opponent of the season. SU moves to 9-4 on Friday nights under Dino Babers.