BC LAUNCHES INTO ACC PLAY THURSDAY AT WAKE FOREST
AJ DILLON, EAGLES LOOK TO START 3-0 FOR FIRST TIME SINCE 2007
By Matt Sottile
Hurricane Florence has already wreaked havoc in the national college football schedule for this upcoming weekend, with an impending category 4 hurricane scheduled to hit North Carolina early Friday morning.
Fellow ACC members North Carolina, Virginia Tech, and NC State all had their games cancelled this weekend, but BC will benefit from a Thursday night slot. The game, originally scheduled to kick off at 7:30 pm, has been moved up to 5:30 pm and will air nationally on ESPN.
Boston College (2-0, 0-0 ACC) has marked this week on the calendar for months as the first major test of the season, when they will travel to Winston-Salem to take on their ACC rivals, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2-0, 0-0 ACC).
BC has propelled themselves up to 28th in the AP poll for the second straight week, where they sit behind only Utah and Texas A&M in the “others receiving votes” category, in their quest to rejoin the Top 25 for the first time since the Matt Ryan era, in 2008.
The Eagles have slowly garnered the national attention that many onlookers around The Heights have deemed appropriate for this dark horse ACC contender. Both CBS Sports and Bleacher Report have BC in their unofficial top 25 rankings this week, and surely, a win this week could be enough to vault the Eagles into the official rankings.
In order to do so, they will have to take down a team who has proven to be one of the most evenly matched against BC in recent years. Prior to last year’s 34-10 defeat at home, the Eagles took down the Demon Deacons 17-14 during their last trip to Winston-Salem, in a regular season finale that secured a 6-6 record and clinched a trip to the Quick Lane Bowl. In 2015, the Eagles suffered one of the more disappointing defeats in recent program history, when they lost by a final score of 3-0, during a season in which they failed to post a single ACC win.
This year, the Eagles will take their revamped offense, experienced offensive line, and talented secondary to BB&T Field, and hope to open the season 3-0 for the first time since 2007, and for just the fourth time since 2000.
The Eagles are averaging 58.5 points per game, after opening their 2018 campaign with back to back 50+ point performances for the first time in program history.
Sophomore running back AJ Dillon was just named the ACC Running Back of the Week after an efficient and punishing first quarter performance vs. Holy Cross en route to a 62-14 victory. He recorded only 6 touches, but posted 3 touchdowns and 149 yards, including a 79 yard run in which he spun past a couple defenders and thundered towards the end zone at Alumni Stadium.
Dillon has also seen his name appear recently in the Heisman Trophy race. ESPN ranked Dillon 10thin their preseason Heisman odds. Vegas now has him listed at 20/1 to take home college football’s most prestigious honor.
Dillon will benefit from running behind the second most experienced offensive line in football, second only to Wisconsin, a perennial Big Ten contender and program that has produced its share of NFL-talent running backs (see: Melvin Gordon, James White, Corey Clement).
Steve Addazio’s commitment to a powerful ground game has been his bread and butter in his first five seasons at Boston College. But what Addazio might have for the first time this year, is a competent quarterback who can truly transform the Eagles into a multifaceted explosive offense.
Sophomore quarterback Anthony Brown has played only three quarters this season thus far, but has gone 17-for-23, with 322 yards, in addition to 4 touchdowns and no interceptions.
After tearing his ACL last November against NC State, one of the biggest question marks heading into this season was if Brown would merely serve as a game manager, or if his athleticism and arm could bring an entirely new dimension to BC’s offense.
“I thought Brown came out and played an outstanding game after coming back from an injury, probably one of the best performances … played around here in a long time,” said head coach Steve Addazio, following a season opening victory vs. UMass. “It was a hell of a game, and he did a great job.”
Wake Forest will counter with true freshman Sam Hartman under center. Hartman is currently filling in for quarterback Kendall Hinton, who was suspended for three games due to a violation of team rules. Hartman has been given full reign over the offense thus far, attempting 51 passes in his first career start against Tulane.
Hartman has thrown for a modest 4 touchdowns and 3 interceptions against inferior opponents. It took overtime for Wake to overcome Tulane, before beating down on FCS opponent Towson, by a score of 51-20 last week.
Hartman will also benefit from playing behind an experienced offensive line, but he has certainly never faced a defense of Boston College’s caliber. Applying pressure and forcing the ball out of Hartman’s hands early on could set the tone and propel the Eagles to a 1-0 conference start.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
- Feed Dillon the rock: No need to complicate things here. Even after coming off a short week, AJ Dillon should be more than well rested after playing for less than a quarter against Holy Cross. If the rain and wind makes its way into Winston-Salem during the game, BC’s best bet will be to keep the ball on the ground and shove the ball down Wake Forest’s throat.
- Pressure Hartman early on: The Eagles will benefit from playing a quarterback making his first big time college start. The nerves will undoubtedly be there, and if Zach Allen and Wyatt Ray can get to him early off the line, BC can focus on slowly driving the ball down the field and controlling the time of possession.
- Convert on special teams: Pretty easy, right? Play good offensively, defensively, and on special teams, and the Eagles will exit North Carolina sitting at 3-0 and firmly atop the ACC Atlantic standings. BC has suffered two blocked punts through the first two games, and special teams has never been a strength for an Addazio-led squad. Senior kicker Colton Lichtenberg only finished 12-for-20 last season, and has yet to attempt a field goal this year. If he can make everything inside 40 yards, and if BC can prevent any catastrophes on 4thdown, they should be in good shape.
Prediction: Boston College 33, Wake Forest 24
When the schedule first came out, BC sat as a 1.5 point road underdog. Now, Vegas is finally starting to buy into the hype, listing the Eagles as 7 point favorites. I think Boston College has the big play potential on offense, and they will not underestimate this rivalry game against a team that has given them trouble in years past. They have a chance at 3-0, and a successful season means getting some gritty road wins this week at Wake and next week at Purdue. Take care of business, give the rock to your Heisman candidate, and get back to Chestnut Hill safely before Hurricane Florence storms in.