Matchup Preview: Syracuse at Boston College

Complete preview and breakdown of Saturday's matchup between Syracuse and Boston College.

The Matchup: Syracuse (3-8, 1-6) vs. Boston College (6-5, 3-4)
Date: 11/29/14
Time: 12:30pm Eastern
Location: Alumni Stadium (Chestnut Hill, MA)
Television: ESPN3

Key Players

QB A.J. Long - Syracuse: If Syracuse’s offense is going to get back on track during the regular season finale, it starts with Long. He has to be better with his accuracy down the field and make solid reads in order to keep moving the chains.

MLB Zaire Franklin - Syracuse: Syracuse knows that Boston College will want to run the ball against them on Saturday. They key is to shut them down, specifically quarterback Tyler Murphy. Franklin will be a key weapon in doing that, using his instincts and tackling technique to try to limit the Eagles on the ground.

QB Tyler Murphy – Boston College: The leading rusher for the Eagles, he makes their offense go. When he is making plays on the ground and is effective in playaction, Boston College is tough to stop. When he’s not, they can be average offensively. He is a dynamic runner, however, and will test the Orange defense.

LB Josh Keyes – Boston College: Keyes leads the Eagles in sacks and tackles for loss. Against a struggling Syracuse offense, he could be in for a big day pressuring Orange quarterback A.J. Long. Look for him to come off the edge frequently on Saturday.

Boston College Offense vs. Syracuse Defense

Boston College will run, run, and run some more on Saturday. The combination of Tyler Murphy, Jon Hilliman, Myles Willis and Tyler Rouse will test the Syracuse defense. They can run power out of 12 personnel, spread with some zone-read action, or hit the outside with jet sweeps and off tackle runs.

Starting the game successful on the ground will set up the rest of what the Eagles want to do. They will run a lot of playaction to try to get receivers running open downfield and have Murphy deliver strikes to them for big plays. They won’t throw it often, but when they do, it will be off of playaction most of the time.

The key battle here will be at the line of scrimmage. The Eagles’ offensive line features five fifth-year seniors. The Syracuse defensive line has been strong against the run for most of the season. The Orange were strong against the Boston College ground attack last season. Can they do it again?

The good news for Syracuse is that Wayne Williams is back. He could be key in their efforts this week.

Syracuse Offense vs. Boston College Defense

Boston College’s defense is physical and plays mistake free football. Syracuse’s offense has struggled throughout most of the season, in large part because of a plethora of injuries on that side of the ball.

Freshman quarterback A.J. Long has to make some plays in this one if Syracuse is going to stay in it. They will try to establish the run, but the Eagles stout front seven should be able to limit that.

This could force Syracuse into a lot of third and medium or third and long situations, the exact spot they do not want to be in with a true freshman at the helm. Steve Ishmael’s ability to gain separation on cornerback Manual Asprilla will be an interesting battle.

Boston College is not particularly strong at sacking the quarterback, though they do pressure somewhat frequently. They make their hay with physical play up front and limiting opposing ground attacks. They then utilize a skilled secondary to limit throwing windows.

Long will have to be accurate and the Syracuse receivers will have to gain separation down the field.

The battle along the line of scrimmage will be interesting as well. Syracuse’s offensive line is finally healthy again, while the Eagles defensive line has some strong, run-stuffing players. Connor Wujciak in the middle for the Eagles will be key. Look for his matchup with the interior of the Syracuse offensive line against the run.

On the edge, defensive end Kevin Kavalec is the best pass rusher and will test tackles Ivan Foy and Sean Hickey.

Final Thoughts

Boston College plays physical football and gets more out of their talent than the sum of the whole would suggest. Syracuse has been battling significant injuries all season, and their offense has suffered as a result. This is a tough spot for the Orange, and they will likely struggle to move the ball all game. Their defense should keep them in it for most of it, but Boston College has an edge heading into this matchup.

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