The last two months for the Syracuse Orange (3-8) and the Boston College Eagles (3-8) have not been friendly. The Orange have lost eight in a row and on Monday fired their head coach, Scott Schafer, after he went 13-22 in three years at the helm. The Eagles have lost seven straight and are coming off a tough loss at Fenway Park against Notre Dame.
Syracuse and Boston College will play each other in their final game of the fall Saturday at the Carrier Dome. Besides their records, the two teams have both struggled with injuries throughout the year and have had to rely on underclassmen to play a lot of downs.
One stark difference between the two squads lies in their defenses. The Eagles boast the nation's top-ranked unit on defense while the Orange are ranked 111th.
|Total Defense Rank:||1||111|
But offensively the Orange and the Eagles are similar. Both teams are without their opening day starters. For BC, Darius Wade broke his ankle against Florida State that ended his season and Syracuse hasn't had their starting quarterback, Eric Dungey, since Nov. 7 at Louisville. Out of every FBS team, Boston College ranks second-to-last (127th) in yards per game, accumulating while the Orange are just nine slots ahead at 117.
Without Dungey, Schafer has had to rely on second-year gunslinger Zack Mahoney to take over the quarterbacking duties. Mahoney has thrown about a third less than Dungey, as he has completed just 47% of his passes. Against NC State last week, the Illinois-native threw for 152 yards on 10 of 21 passing, adding two touchdowns and an interception.
But like Dungey, Mahoney has also been able to show off a little spark with his legs. After replacing the Orange's second-leading rusher, Mahoney has scored two touchdowns, averaging 4.4 yards per carry.
Lined up behind Mahoney will be runningback Jordan Fredericks who is 'Cuse's leading rusher. The freshman has tallied 559 yards on the ground with five scores.
If the Eagles stifle the run game (they lead the nation in run defense), Mahoney has a few options to throw to. Two players to look out for are Steve Ishmael, the team's leading receiver. The sophomore wide receiver has gained 526 yards and six touchdowns. Runningback Ervin Phillips is the Orange's go-to red zone threat, as the sophomore leads the team in total touchdowns.
But if Boston College wants to end the season on a high note, they have to focus on their own play and not the team on the other sideline. Connor Strachan told the MetroWest Daily that he things the biggest thing for the Eagles is "not to worry about them. It’s just playing our football. It’s playing BC football and being sound and getting after them. We want to play well. We want to play BC football.”
Eagles head coach Steve Addazio spent four years coaching in Syracuse and said in his weekly press conference remarked that Schafer, who will be leading the Orange out of the tunnel for the last time Saturday, is a "hell of a football coach and he is a hell of a guy."
On the bout between the two teams, Addazio believes it will be a "super challenge for us... We really need to get our energy. We need every ounce of passion, energy and intangible that we have and loaded up to play a great closing game."
A win tomorrow would help both teams move on from embattled seasons and propel them into 2016. Who that will be will be decided Saturday at 12:30 in the Carrier Dome.