After a much needed bye week and some schedule shuffling, Boston College returns to Alumni Stadium to take on 3-6(2-6) Louisville. The Cardinals are a bit better than their record would lead you to believe, as they’ve suffered one score defeats to Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and Virginia Tech, which helps explain why the Eagles are just one point favorites at home.
The time off wasn’t without news, as we learned that Phil Jurkovec has been playing through a separated shoulder since the Clemson game four weeks ago. Coach Hafley noted that BC went more ground-heavy against Syracuse due to the injury, but Jurkovec threw it 40 times the next week against Notre Dame, so it’s difficult to say just how much the shoulder has hindered him. The injury probably had something to do with his season worst 45% completion rate against ND, as well as some uncharacteristic wayward throws towards wide open receivers at Syracuse. Either way, the off week will have provided some valuable healing time.
If the Eagles can win their final two games, Hafley will achieve something that Steve Addazio failed to do during his seven year tenure: finish the season above .500 in ACC play. Only one of Addazio’s seasons (2017) featured a more difficult strength of schedule rating than what BC has faced this season, so a 7-4(6-4) regular season finish would be no small feat for the rookie head coach.
First, Boston College will have to get past Louisville. Let’s take a look at how they line up:
When BC is on Offense:
Even if Jurkovec is fully healthy, Louisville’s pass defense will pose a difficult challenge to the Eagles aerial attack. The Cardinals have held opponents to an ACC best 178.9 passing yards per game. Still, if BC spreads it around to their play-makers, I think they’ll be able to put up some points. Last season, Anthony Brown and Dennis Grosel combined for 304 yards and 4 TDs against the Cardinals, and UL has yet to face any of the top three passing teams in the ACC this season. Hunter Long tallied 6+ receptions and 81+ yards in each of the first four games, and hasn’t hit either of those marks since. Long still has the most receptions of any tight end in the country, and he’s due for a big game. Highlight reel mainstay Zay Flowers will look to extend his touchdown streak, having scored in four consecutive games.
Louisville is not quite as strong against the run, allowing 184.9 ypg, good for 11th in the ACC. David Bailey hasn’t had the 2020 that many expected, and it will be interesting to see how much of the workload goes to Travis Levy. Levy has been the more effective back over the last three games, carrying 36 times for 164 yards (4.55 ypc), compared to Bailey’s 46 carries for 178 yards (3.87 ypc).
When BC is on Defense:
Here’s where things could get a little hairy. Boston College always seems to struggle against dual threat quarterbacks, and Louisville’s Malik Cunningham is just that. In last season’s 41-39 shootout win over the Eagles, Cunningham went 13/18 for 288 yds and a TD through the air, and carried 6 times for 43 yds and a TD on the ground. The junior is having another solid season thus far: 2127 passing yards, 16 TDs, 11 INTs & 438 yards 6 TDs rushing. I have my eye on that 11 interception figure. The BC D has forced 1.9 turnovers per game (3rd best in the ACC), while the Cardinals O has turned it over 2.3 times per game (3rd worst in the ACC), so perhaps some takeaways are in order.
BC does catch a break, as Louisville’s star running back Javian Hawkins recently decided to opt out of the remainder of the season and set his sights on the NFL draft. Hawkins represented a sizable chunk of the offense’s production: he scored a quarter of the team’s touchdowns and totaled 822 rushing yards in 8 games. In his absence last week, the Cardinals used a stable of running backs against Syracuse.
Still, Louisville is not short on offensive weapons—keep an eye on the speedy receiver Tutu Atwell. After a stellar sophomore season (1272 yards, 11 TDs), Atwell has put up 547 receiving yards and 7 total TDs in 2020. He’ll line up alongside senior receiver Dez Fitzpatrick, who leads the team with 574 receiving yards.
Moneyline: BC -115, Louisville -105
The winner in this match-up always scores a ton of points (2019: UL 41, 2018: BC 38, 2017: BC 45, 2016: UL 52), and I don’t think this year will be much different. While a dual threat quarterback typically makes me nervous against BC, the absence of Javian Hawkins renders this situation a lot less threatening than say, Virginia Tech’s Hendon Hooker/Khalil Herbert combo that gave them fits. Sure, Louisville managed to beat Syracuse 30-0 without Hawkins, but the Orange defense is too miserable to serve as a meaningful barometer. I think the well rested, mended and prepared Eagles win a close one, 35-31—bigger bird gets the worm.
***I think I’m allowed to post non-Taylor Swift songs on this site***