As we countdown to kickoff in September, we’re going to be doing a team-by-team opponent preview each week over the spring/summer. This week, we’re previewing Syracuse’s matchup with Boston College on Nov. 26 with their major storylines.
The Boston College Eagles are probably a better team than their 6-6 record showed last year.
Having been a six win team for the last three years, it shouldn’t be a shock that they arrived at that number once again. In 2021 though, it was more important how they got to that number rather than the number itself.
Their rising star quarterback Phil Jurkovec was hurt in the second game of the year and although the team got off to a 4-0 start, the offense struggled and the problems got worse once conference play began. They dropped six of their last eight games and despite Jurkovec returning for the final four games, his wrist injury hadn’t fully healed and he struggled along with the rest of the offense.
Their defense was above average last year, and despite ranking 93rd in the country against the run they finished 28th in total defense thanks to an absurd 3rd overall ranking in passing yards allowed with just 173.5 per game.
Going into 2022 there’s reason to be optimistic for the Eagles, despite one large area of concern. Let’s take a look.
JURKOVEC HAS REAL NFL TALENT
The best thing Boston College has going for them happens to be at the most important position in the field- QB Phil Jurkovec. In 2020, his first year after transferring from Notre Dame, Jurkovec had four games with 300+ passing yards in his first five starts, a school record. His 2,558 passing yards over 10 starts was another record, and his 255.8 yards per game was second to only Matt Ryan- an NFL veteran going into his 15th season.
Jurkovec was off to a great start to 2021, going 16-24 for 303 yards and three touchdowns in a 51-0 shutout over Colgate. Then he hurt his hand the next game and the offense went off the rails with Dennis Grosel under center, finishing 103rd in the country with just 350.1 yards per game.
When Jurkovec came back in week nine, his injury wasn’t fully healed and it showed. Though he was able to put together an impressive performance in a win over Georgia Tech with five total touchdowns and 300 passing yards, the injury popped up again and he was only able to throw for 167 yards in the final two games combined.
While proficient as a passer, Jurkovec has shown an ability to produce with his legs as well, rushing for at least 60 yards in each of his last five games- as well as notching five rushing touchdowns- to make up for the injury to his hand. It’s clear he’s very talented and a full 2021 season with Jurkovec may have looked very different for Boston.
OFFENSIVE LINE IS THE BIGGEST QUESTION MARK
Without a doubt, the biggest area of concern for BC going into next year is the offensive line. What was a strength in 2020 now sits as the determining factor in how far the team will go.
The Eagles lost four or their starting five offensive lineman this offseason to the NFL, with just the left guard Christian Mahogany returning. But the preseason All-ACC selection is done for the season with a torn ACL he suffered while working out from home in New Jersey.
Guard Zion Johnson was a first round pick by the Los Angeles Chargers, while tackles Tyler Vrabel and Ben Petrula, and center Alec Lindstrom were undrafted free agents by the Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Browns, and Dallas Cowboys respectively.
Replacing those offensive line spots is no easy task. But Boston College has long been known to develop offensive linemen so it’s safe to assume that they’ll get at least an average group together on the field.
This uncertainty at the offensive line position however leads right into what I expect to be the most important match up for Syracuse.
MATCH UP THAT MATTERS FOR SYRACUSE
The offensive line. As we’ve gone over, BC is in a tough spot in the trenches on their offense. That puts due pressure on Syracuse’s defensive line to attack- though they’re dealing with the same issue on their side.
Much is left to be determined for Syracuse’s d-line after losing Josh Black, Kingsley Jonathan, Cody Roscoe, and McKinley Williams. While we have proven talent ready to take the next step at outside linebacker in Stefon Thompson and Marlowe Wax, help will be needed inside where Caleb Okechukwu looks to build off a promising year, and Terry Lockett tries to prove he can anchor as a run stuffer in the middle.
With BC reeling from a loss of NFL caliber talent, the onus will be on the Orange to show that they’ve built cohesion on their defensive line and dominate what could be a weakness for the Eagles when they meet near the end of the year.
It’s tempting to say Boston College is headed for another six win season and isn’t much of a team to worry about. On the other hand, they’re heading into their third year under head coach Jeff Hafley and have an NFL-caliber QB coming back from injury, which makes them dangerous for any team they play. Their defense returns most of their starters, and though it will be hard to match their 3rd overall finish against the pass last year, should still be a top 20 unit.
I expect the Eagles to be less of a pushover within the ACC this year and make it to seven wins. Will that extra win come against Syracuse though? I doubt it.