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Preview: Boston College Football at Clemson

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A Death Valley Smash

Clemson v Boston College Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

Jeff Hafley is going as Steve Addazio for Halloween. His head has been shaved clean and lightly oiled. You probably didn’t notice under the mask, but he’s been growing and grooming a neat mustache for the past two weeks, and Phil Jurkovec’s right wing has been mysteriously clipped—ground and pound baby! Can I get a headset toss?

But seriously, it’s tough to get too down on Addazio for his track record (0-7) against Clemson; they’ve only lost five games since 2015, and three of those were in the College Football Playoff. I don’t expect Boston College to win on Saturday afternoon, but it would be awfully nice if they didn’t completely roll over like in recent years. Over their last four meetings, Clemson has outscored BC a combined 176 to 31. Not pretty.

A bit of additional intrigue was added on Thursday evening, when star signal caller Trevor Lawrence was ruled out due to a positive COVID test result. True freshman D.J. Uiagalelei, a former #1 quarterback recruit who has seen limited action this season, will likely start in his place. I saw some gleeful reactions to this news, which is extremely lame, though not exactly shocking given our national priorities. Wishing Lawrence a speedy recovery.

The national news narrative regarding Lawrence is anchored on his availability for Clemson’s trip to South Bend next week. Perhaps the Eagles can catch the Tigers looking forward. BC is coming off a convincing win over Georgia Tech in which they finally got the running game going, and at 4-2, they’ve already surpassed the 3.5 wins threshold set by bookmakers before the season. Let’s take a look at how these teams match up:

When BC is on Offense:

In their past two meetings with Clemson, Boston College ran the ball a combined 77 times for just 106 yards, and that was with AJ Dillon in the backfield. They’ll have to get more creative if they want to put pressure on a Tiger defense that is allowing just 13.5 points per game. By creative, I don’t mean just throw it upwards of 50 times, because Clemson sports the best passing defense in the ACC, holding opponents to a 46.0 completion percentage and 169.3 yards per game.

The Tigers have a strong defensive front, so Jurkovec will have to navigate a collapsing pocket while protecting the football. Finding Zay Flowers and Jaelen Gill on shorter routes and letting them go to work after the catch might be the best way to keep Clemson honest, especially with linebacker James Skalski out. David Bailey is coming off his best game of the season against GT, and Jurkovec was much more aggressive running the football, finishing with 94 yards on 7 carries. Alas, this is not Georgia Tech, and Clemson is holding opponents to just 2.9 yards per carry.

When BC is on Defense:

With a core of Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne, and Amari Rodgers, the Clemson skill position group might rival that of a few NFL teams. They’re churning out 48.2 ppg and 518.0 ypg, with just one sub-40 points game (37 in week one at Wake) this season. While Uiagalelei can’t be expected to rise to Lawrence’s level in his first collegiate start, the Tigers are positively drunk with talent and depth, and they’ll trot out a potent offense. The scouting report on Uiagalelei has him as a big (6’4” 250 lb.) pocket passer, which might help a BC defense that struggles against dual threat quarterbacks.

There’s no doubt that Boston College’s pass defense has taken a huge leap forward under the tutelage of Hafley, down to 217.3 ypg from 285.5 last season. Additionally, the rush defense has shaved off 26.7 ypg, and overall, BC is giving up 25.0 ppg compared to 32.2 in 2019. But I still don’t believe they have the athleticism to keep the Tigers in check, and those improved numbers might be looking at an uptick after this one. Syracuse hung around with Clemson for three quarters last week by blocking a punt in Clemson territory and scoring a defensive touchdown. If BC wants to put a scare into the Tigers, they’ll have to come up with some big plays like that, and receive more than a few fortuitous bounces.

Oddsmakers:

BC: +31 +24

Over/Under: 61 56

Moneyline: Clemson -5000, BC +1400

Prediction:

If ever there was going to be a bizarro game in which BC took down mighty Clemson, wouldn’t it occur on a full moon Halloween in Death Valley? Unfortunately, I think it will be a macabre affair for the Eagles: Boston College 17 Clemson 49 Since I made this prediction on Thursday morning, spooky action has been set in motion. Still, I think Clemson overwhelms BC, 38-17.

For the record:

Best Halloween Candy: Snickers

Best Halloween Movie: The VVitch

Best Halloween Song: