It's been a long and bumpy regular season for Boston College's football team this year, and it all comes to a close on Saturday afternoon when the Eagles face rival Syracuse on national television at the Carrier Dome (12 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Saturday's meeting between old rivals Boston College and Syracuse marks the first time since 2004 that the two teams have played and the 46th time overall. According to BCEagles.com, it is the second-longest series in Boston College football history.
Boston College (6-5) started its season out with two consecutive wins over FCS Weber State and Kent State but lost its next five games. Seemingly out of the bowl conversation, the Eagles went on a remarkable run that saw them win four in a row.
With their fourth straight win, a 17-13 win over ACC foe Virginia last Saturday, the Eagles became bowl eligible for the 12th straight season. In the win, junior running back Montel Harris rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries and true freshman Andre Williams rushed for 108 yards on 10 carries.
It was a bittersweet win for the Eagles, as they lost Harris after he suffered a torn left lateral meniscus in his left knee on the final play of the third quarter. It was later reported that Harris had arthroscopic surgery and would be inactive for Saturday's game against Syracuse.
Williams will start in his place, but realizes that it won't be easy taking Harris' place (via BCEagles.com)
"Montel has some big shoes to fill," Williams said. "Early in the year, we weren't jelling as an offense yet but I think Chase [Rettig] definitely feels more comfortable behind the line. His pass game is pretty solid so I think with us back there it will be a good balance and we'll be able to do some things."
Boston College's turnaround has been led by true freshman Chase Rettig and sophomore linebacker Luke Kuechly. Rettig has completed 75% of his passes (75-of-142) thrown for 1,007 yards, six touchdowns and six interceptions.
Kuechly, who is the nation's leading tackler with 136, has had 10 or more tackles in 20 consecutive games, which is the longest streak in college football. Earlier this week, Kuechly was named as a finalist for the Butkus award, honoring the nation's top linebacker.
"It's a great honor and I think it really is a reflection of the team," Kuechly said yesterday (via the Boston Herald). "I think back to all the workouts in the weight room and getting through camp and I know I wouldn't have been able to do it without my teammates."
Kuechly is also a finalist for the Nagurski Award, which honors the nation's top defensive player. He is five tackles shy of Tom McManus' 141 tackles, which is the most in school history. Kuechly is 23 tackles shy of the NCAA single-season record for tackles, currently held by Texas Tech's Lawrence Flugence back in 2002.
Syracuse (7-4, 4-3 Big East) is coming off of an embarrassing 23-6 loss to Big East rival Connecticut last Saturday. Quarterback Ryan Nassib completed 20-of-36 passes for 171 yards and threw an interception while Delone Carter collected just 67 rushing yards on 19 carries in the loss.
Michael Jones split the uprights from 35 yards out with 0:31 seconds left in the first quarter to score the only three points for Syracuse.
The Orange loss bumped them into third place in the Big East, making it less likely that they would capture the conference's Bowl Championship Series bid.
Syracuse, which is bowl eligible, hasn't been able to establish a solid stretch of games, with their biggest winning streak being three games against Maine, Colgate and South Florida from September 18th to October 9th.
Nassib has completed 174-of-313 passes for 1,948 yards, 16 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in 11 games this season. Carter leads the team in rushing with 1,005 yards and seven touchdowns on 198 carries.