Boston College Eagles — 2019 Syracuse Football preview

As we countdown to kickoff in August, we’re going to be doing a team-by-team preview each week over the summer. SU will continue its ACC schedule when it hosts Boston College on Nov. 2.

SEVEN WINS (AGAIN)

The 2018 season seemed like it was finally going to be a breakthrough year for head coach Steve Addazio.

The Eagles raced out to a 7-2 overall record and a 4-1 conference record. Rising to No. 20 in the polls, College Gameday visited Chestnut Hill when it hosted then-No. 2 Clemson with a shot at the ACC Championship game on the line.

But like so many seasons before that under Addazio, the Eagles fell back to earth. A 27-7 rout on Nov. 10 was followed by two more losses to close the season. Boston College lost to a 5-win Florida State team, and then was handily defeated on its home field by Syracuse, 42-21, on Senior Day.

Addazio’s bid for his first 8-win season was further thwarted in the 2018 First Responder Bowl against Boise State, when the game was cancelled after repeated delays due to lightning storms in Dallas. It was the first postseason game at the FBS level that was canceled because of weather.

It also continued a stagnant trend for the Eagles. Since Addazio arrived on campus in 2013, he’s guided BC to seven wins in five of his six years (the exception in 2015, when the Eagles went 3-9), but never more than that. The bowl results haven’t been good either, with just one win (the 2016 Quick Lane Bowl) and three losses.

The tepid results led to a modest contract extension for Addazio through 2022.

“While all of us wish our regular season in football had ended with more victories, we took important steps in the right direction this year,” athletic director Martin Jarmond said in a statement. “Returning to the national rankings for the first time since 2008, capturing the nation’s attention with ESPN’s College GameDay on-campus, being in the running for the conference championship in November and playing in another post-season bowl.”

The reaction among the Boston College community was lukewarm at best.

Addazio will be doing so with two new coordinators to try to get to eight wins. After OC Scot Loeffler took the head coaching position at Bowling Green, Addazio tapped Mike Bajakian, formerly the quarterbacks coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to fill the position. On defense, he demoted three-year defensive coordinator Jim Reid, and replaced him with linebackers coach Bill Sheridan.

“Bill has got a great background, tremendous background as a coordinator in the NFL, been in every major college program, but has coordinated at the Tampa Bay Bucs, coordinated at the New York Giants, and he’s going to do a fantastic job here with our defense,” Addazio said in a statement.

» Related: Previewing Syracuse’s matchup with Florida State

WHO TO WATCH FOR

Boston College’s biggest concern in the offseason for the offense has been rebuilding an O-line that lost four starters from 2018. The good news is that its remaining starter, tackle Ben Petrula, was an All-ACC Honorable Mention after appearing in all 12 games.

The Eagles also landed Miami transfer Hayden Mahoney, who started 10 games for the Hurricanes at left and right guard. BC also returns John Phillips who played extended time at guard in 2018 and reserve center Alec Lindstrom.

If the line can come together, Heisman Trophy candidate AJ Dillon can start creating buzz again. Despite playing only 10 games last year, he rushed for 1,108 yards and 10 touchdowns, earning First Team All-ACC Honors.

Anthony Brown was solid in 2018, throwing for 2,121 yards and 20 touchdowns, but never looked the same after suffering an injury early in the loss to Clemson. He was thrown hard to the ground by defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, and though he returned the next week against FSU, he threw a combined four interceptions in his last two games.

He’ll have sophomore wide receiver Kobay White to throw to. White emerged as a top target at the end of the season, including a breakout game against the Seminoles where he hauled in seven passes for 121 yards. He finished with 526 yards and three touchdowns on the season.

The turnover on offense was exceeded by the talent BC lost on defense, starting with the defensive line.

That was an area of strength last year, but the Eagles lost defensive ends Zach Allen and Wyatt Ray to the NFL.

There is some experience returning with Brandon Barlow and Marcus Valdez in the mix to start. Clemson defensive end transfer Richard Yeargin also figures to be in the mix for snaps, as well.

The Eagles also lost Hamp Cheevers and his seven interceptions to the NFL and safeties Lukas Denis and Will Harris. But the Eagles are high on sophomore defensive back Brandon Sebastian, who started seven games last season and finished with 49 tackles and an interception.

PREDICTION

Boston College’s early part of the schedule lines up favorably, with three home games to start the year against Virginia Tech, Richmond and Kansas. A Big 10 matchup at Rutgers seems manageable and after a home game against Wake, the Eagles play at Louisville, which is undergoing a complete rebuild.

The Eagles second half of the schedule gets more dicey. After a home game against NC State, the Eagles play four of their last five games on the road. Those road matchups are Clemson, Syracuse, Notre Dame and the regular season finale against Pitt. So it’s possible to see a repeat of last season where BC starts the season well before fading at the end. Another bowl game is certainly within reach, but with the turnover on the roster and coaching staff, Addazio’s team will need a lot of things to break right for them to win more than seven games.

As for a game prediction, the Eagles head to Syracuse the week after they play at Death Valley, so I see a 28-14 Syracuse win.

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Wes Cheng
About Wes Cheng 2437 Articles
Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also worked for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @ChengWes.