After a pair of bubble-bursting losses against Clemson and NC State, Boston College will look to bounce back this weekend on the road at Louisville.
As we mentioned last week, thanks to the NC State loss, this week’s game no longer carries the stakes of being on the razor’s edge of the top 25 or making a national splash. But this does carry the stakes of being a game that can help us re-set expectations in one direction or the other.
After Louisville struggled to a 4-7 record last year, many had this one circled as a “W” in preseason, but the Cardinals seem to be at least somewhat on the right path this season, and are installed as 6.5-point favorites at home on Saturday.
A look at Louisville:
Louisville is 3-3, with wins over Eastern Kentucky, UCF, and Florida State. Their last two games were narrow losses - 37-34 at Wake Forest, and 34-33 at home against Virginia.
At first glance, it looks like the key to this week’s game will be BC being able to get their passing attack off the ground for the first time in ACC play. The Cardinals have struggled to stop teams through the air, and have the worst-ranked passing defense in the ACC, allowing nearly 300 yards per game through the air.
In the first half against NC State, Dennis Grosel showed poise and quality on some mid-range passes and was victimized as much by drops as anything else. In the second half the whole thing came unglued - but if the offense can find a little bit of the rhythm it had in the first half they might be able to find more success against a Louisville defense that isn’t quite as stout as State’s.
Stopping Malik Cunningham:
Defensively, the bright spot when looking back on Saturday is that when you look back at it, there’s not a lot you can pin on the defense directly.
NC State’s first touchdown was a circus catch by Devin Carter that you can’t really pin on the D at all. The second touchdown came off the fumbled punt. The next drive, Grosel threw a pick and the defense had to run right back out there, and by that point the wheels were falling off - NC State scored two touchdowns in quick succession.
What does concern you is that for the first time all year, BC got beat multiple times by explosive, deep-ball plays - something that is concerning going up against a Louisville team that has a strong offense.
Louisville QB Malik Cunningham has continued to show the arm strength and running ability he showed last year, but has limited the turnovers that were such a killer for the Cardinals last season. He will be a handful for the Eagles on Saturday night.
Don’t beat yourself
Unlike the Clemson game, NC State was a blowout, so you can’t point to one play and say ‘if this had gone differently, we might have won.’ But nonetheless it was the second straight week where a critical self-inflicted issue totally swung the game. At Clemson, it was Grosel’s fumble on the potential game winning drive; at home against NC State it was the fumbled punt.
Fumbles, offensive/pre-snap penalties, and other issues have rared their head over the course of the first two ACC games. That has to improve this week.
Boston College @ Louisville
Saturday, October 23