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Know Thy Opponent 2018: Boston College Eagles

A week after playing an explosive offense in Missouri Purdue hosts a strong defensive Boston College team.

NCAA Football: Boston College at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Purdue’s schedule this season, while difficult, is set up for early success. We begin with four straight home games. Three of them are against major conference teams, so they will be tough. Still, playing at home is a nice advantage to have. We also get to have the experience of seeing new foes come to Ross-Ade Stadium. That is what I like the most about non-conference games. It often offers a break from the same Big Ten and MAC opponents that come through.

Arizona, Wake Forest, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, North Carolina State, Rice, Central Florida, Nevada, Cincinnati, Syracuse, Marshall, and Oregon are teams that we have gotten to see in the past 25 years come through as part of a non-conference home-and-homes. They are often fun games that offer different looks. This year we get two such games, as we have the back end of a home-and-home with Missouri and the front end with a first time opponent in Boston College.

Surprisingly, Purdue has never met Boston College on the football field. We have a common regular rival in Notre Dame, but this was a series announced just two years ago. The Eagles will come to West Lafayette this season and Purdue will be headed to Boston in two years on the return trip. I like this matchup because it gives us a couple games against an opponent in similar standing to us in a major conference. Purdue is obviously much higher in the Big Ten than it was a year ago, while Boston College is a good mid-tier ACC team.

This could be fun.

Boston College Eagles

2017 Record: 7-6, 4-4 ACC Atlantic

Bowl Result: Lost 27-20 to Iowa in Pinstripe Bowl

Blog Representation: BC Interruption

Series with Purdue: First Meeting

Last Purdue win: None

Last Boston College win: None

Head Coach: Steve Addazio (31-33 in 7th year at Boston College, 44-44 in 9th year overall)

Last Season for the Eagles:

The Eagles had a bit of a slow start to last season, but won five of their final six games to head into the postseason with some momentum. They ended up losing their bowl game to Iowa on a touchdown with 3:09 left, but a 7-5 regular season after a 2-4 start was pretty good.

They opened with a decent road win at Northern Illinois 23-20. Three straight losses to Wake Forest, Notre Dame, and Clemson followed before a home win against Central Michigan. After a 23-10 home loss to Virginia Tech the season turned around with a surprising 45-42 shootout win at Louisville. They then blasted Virginia and Florida State in successive weeks, showing an unexpected offensive prowess. The Eagles would drop a home game to North Carolina State 17-14, but finished with a 39-16 win over UConn and 42-14 win over Syracuse.

For years under Steve Addazio the Eagles have been a defense first team. In 2016 they were 7-6, but it was a very ugly 7-6. The offense averaged only 20.4 points per game (119th nationally), but the defense gave up only 25 per game. The 2015 season was even more stark. The stout defense gave up only 15.2 points per game and was 4th nationally, but the offense scored just 17.2 per game (121st nationally) as the Eagles went 3-9.

Basically, this is going to be the exact opposite of the Missouri game. The Tigers are going to be just fine getting into a 45-42 shutout with big plays all over the place. Boston College wants to drag us down into a 10-7 slugfest.

Boston College Offense

Last season the Boston College offense was the best it has been in a while. It averaged 25.9 points per game and had a few spots where it was positively lethal. In five of the seven victories the Eagles scored 35 or more points. Conversely, in the five losses they never scored more than 20 points.

Much of the offense revolves around A.J. Dillon, a featured back who is getting some fringe Heisman consideration coming into this year. As a freshman last season Dillon rushed for 1,432 yards and 13 touchdowns. He is going to get the majority of the work and he is a legit threat to rush for 1,500 yards this year if not more.

At quarterback, Anthony Brown is the expected starter. He threw for 1,176 yards and 9 TDs against 8 interceptions before suffering a major knee injury in November. He si expected to be back and start. He is a mobile quarterback too, as he rushed for 200 yards and a score. He put forth all of this last year as a true freshman, so he has some enormous promise if healthy.

Kobay White (28-347-2) and Jeff Smith (22-278-0) are the top two receivers, but the passing game is not what got his offense moving. The running game was huge at 226 yards per game compared to just 164 yards per game through the air.

The offensive line is strong and it gave u p just 13 sacks last season, so the running game with Dillon should be just fine. They had some explosive games, but this is not an offense that has huge expectations. They are going to try and grind things out with Dillon and rely on the defense.

Boston College Defense

Boston College brings in an excellent defensive line. Zach Allen had 91 tackles and 6 sacks last season as one of the best defensive ends in the ACC. Ray Smith is also a great nose tackle with 61 stops last year. He is at 6’1” 305 pounds of brute strength and he can more than hold his own in the middle.

The secondary has one of the nation’s best shutdown players in Lukas Dennis. In addition to 79 tackles he intercepted 6 passes and defended another 8. As a unit, Boston College gave up only 10 touchdown passes through the air. They finished the year as one of the best pass defenses in the country. They picked off 17 passes as a team and held opponents to less than 200 yards through the air. Will Harris was also very good at safety with 73 stops.

The Eagles lost their top linebacker, but Josh Lamont should be great as their top returning linebacker. He finished the year with 63 tackles, 2 sacks, and an interception. Connor Strachan also led the team in tackles in 2016, but missed all of last season with an injury.

Overall, this is going to be a very good defense once again. It will probably be one of the toughest defenses we face all year, if not the best. The offense may not have the firepower of other teams we play, but the defense will provide a very stiff test.

Boston College Special Teams

Colton Lichtenberg handled placekicking duties last season, and with points likely at a premium in this game he could be huge. He was just 9 of 17 on field goals last season, while our platoon of J.D. Dellinger and Spencer Evans was a combined 17 of 24. That should give us an advantage.

The Eagles must find a new punter, which gives Purdue another edge in the field position battle. Michael Walker was a solid return man for both kickoffs and punts. He averaged 13 yards per punt return and 23.6 per kickoff return.

Game Outlook

Like I said above, this game is pretty much the opposite of the Missouri one a week before. We could very easily see this one end something like 10-7 after a 45-42 shootout a week earlier. Dillon is one of the best running backs we’ll face, but they had an inefficient passing game for much of last season. We should have a pretty large offensive edge.

Defensively though, Boston College is going to be good. Addazio is a well known defensive coach. His units are among the best in the country year-in, year-out. It will be a fun chess match to see what he can do against the Brohmfense.

Way-too-Early Prediction

This should be a fun game. As I said above, I really like seeing new opponents at Ross-Ade. Can their defense frustrate our offense, which should be better this year? Can our defense slow down Dillon? When in doubt, go with home field. Purdue 24, Boston College 20