When the 2018 season started we knew that the schedule would be tricky. With nine Big Ten games and two non-conference games against Power 5 teams are tricky for any program, let alone on in a rebuild like Purdue. Still, the benefit was supposed to be four straight games at home to start the year. That was going to keep the momentum going and even with three of the four against pretty good teams a 1-3 mark was considered a worst case scenario.
Well, the insurance policy of Eastern Michigan bit us, and now Purdue has to get its first win over a top 25 team in seven years in order to keep any fledgling bowl hopes alive. That is the nice part of a struggling Big Ten, however. Nebraska and Illinois do not look great. A win over Boston College absolutely could propel the Boilers to 3-3 at the season’s midpoint (an excellent recovery). From there, a likely loss to Ohio State would follow, but with an improved offense could Purdue win 3 of 4 against Michigan State, Minnesota, Iowa, and Indiana?
Of course, that is thinking too far ahead. Purdue still needs to learn how to close out games with three losses by 8 points and get a win. Boston College can be looked at as an obstacle or an opportunity. A win on Saturday is possible, just as it was last week against Missouri. It would also restore a lot of much needed momentum.
The Eagles are a much different team than they have normally been under Steve Addazio. In four of his five season there they have gone 7-6 and have been known for a stout defense, but not much offense. That manifested itself the most in 2015 (the lone season they weren’t 7-6), when they have up only 183 points, but scored just 206. Of that 206, 100 came in wins over FCS teams Maine (24-3) and Howard (76-0). They never scored more than 20 points against an FBS team that year, but only gave up more than 25 twice.
Through three games this season they have an offense scoring more than 52 points per game with a balanced attack. The defense has been slightly suspect, giving up a pair of 100 yard rushers at Wake Forest last week, but they are a solid team that will not be an easy out. Purdue is going to have to play its best game of the season to win.
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 (34-33 in 6th year at Boston College, 47-44 in 9th year overall)
Who to Watch on Offense
AJ Dillon – RB – Purdue is probably not going to stop AJ Dillon. We have given up big games so far to Jeremy Larkin and Larry Rountree III, and they are not even in the same league as Dillon. The sophomore is an absolutely load at 6’ 245 pounds and he had a 1,500 season last year. This year he has 432 yards and 4 TDs on 59 carries. He is a power back with breakaway speed that can turn a short gain into a long touchdown. He might be the best back we face all year depending on what you think of Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor.
Anthony Brown – QB – Another sophomore, Brown was a bit of a question coming into the season after throwing for only 1,367 yards and 11 TDs against nine interceptions a year ago. He has answered that question emphatically. So far he has 626 yards and nine touchdowns without an interception. He has only attempted 48 passes, but the threat of Dillon has made him incredibly efficient. Against Wake Forest he was 16 of 25 for 304 yards and 5 TDs.
Jeff Smith – WR – Smith is part of a receiving duo that has made big plays all season. He has only 8 receptions, but they have gone for 168 yards and a score. He broke the Wake Forest game open with a 71 yard TD after the BC defense had gotten a stop on downs inside the 10.
Kobay White – WR – White has also been a big play receiver with only 6 receptions, but for 163 yards and 3 TDs. BC quarterbacks (three have played) have spread the ball around quite a bit with 15 different players catching at least one pass, but none with more than 8. Smith and White have been difference makers, however.
Who to Watch on Defense
It is hard to judge Boston College’s defense in the first two games because UMass and Holy Cross did not present much of a challenge at all. Both of those games were blowouts that had extensive garbage time. The Wake Forest game is a better sign and the Demon Deacons were able to move the ball. They had more than 500 yards of total offense and a pair of running backs that rushed for 100 yards. Had quarterback Sam Hartman been a little more efficient (he was 20 of 45 for 214 yards and had two picks) things might have been different. Enter David Blough, who is coming off of the best passing yardage day in school history.
BC has given up just 530 yards through the air in three games, which is less than Blough just had against Missouri. They have given up 561 yards on the ground though, so Markell Jones and DJ Knox should have room to run.
Wyatt Ray – DE – Purdue’s offensive line performed much better with Shane Evans starting at guard and Matt McCann moved out to right tackle. It will need to keep that up against Ray, who has five sacks on the season through three games. He had a school record four sacks last week. This came after only getting 2.5 sacks last year, so he is off to an incredible start.
Connor Strachan – LB – Strachan has been great coming off of a knee injury. He leads the team with 25 tackles and a sack. He is a former honorable mention all-ACC player and one of the most experienced players on their defense.
Hamp Cheevers – DB – Cheevers has been Mr. Turnover with a pair of interceptions and a fumble recovery. He also has returned an interception 81 yards for a score. The Boston College defense has picked off 6 passes and recovered one fumble compared to losing two fumbles. That has them at +5 on turnovers this year while Purdue is -4. We’re going to need some turnover luck for sure.
Who to Watch on Special Teams
Surprisingly, Boston College has not attempted a field goal this season. The kicking game may be suspect as they have missed three extra points with a pair of kickers splitting placekicking duties. They ranked 110th in the S&P rankings for special teams, while Purdue is 46th, so this is the one area where we have a significant advantage. Grant Carlson only averages 37 yards per punt.
Michael Walker – PR/KR – With seven attempts on the season Walker is averaging a respectable 25.1 yards per return. On punt returns he is averaging 7.2 yards per return.
Any gameplan for Boston College begins with Dillon. He is a next level talent that is going to get his yards. We just have to make sure it is more in the neighborhood of 120 yards and a score as opposed to 250 and four scores. Against Holy Cross he had only 6 carries, but they went for 149 yards and three scores. We cannot afford to let him run wild all day.
Of course, we can’t just play an 8 man front and dare Brown to beat us, either. Our secondary has been picked apart the last two weeks and if Brown has time to throw he is efficient. It is a tricky team to play against because the Eagles have a decent passing game to go with an all-world ground game.
Honestly, I think we can expect a bit of a shootout here. Wake Forest showed you can move the ball on them and they will give up some points. That means the winner will be whoever makes a few critical stops and who can get the most turnovers. Our turnover luck has been pretty awful so far with a couple rainy fumbles against EMU and some forced throws that led to interceptions. I guess you could say Brown is due for some picks, but you can never trust this.
Brown has been sacked only twice, so we have to get pressure on him on passing downs. We also can’t let Dillon go crazy. If we get this in a shootout we have a chance because our second half defenses have been better this year (23 points given up in the second halves vs. 68 in the first halves). That tells me a good start is even more critical.
If Purdue can get its running game going, have some lengthy drives, and safely keep Dillon on the sidelines that will also help. This is still a winnable game despite the team’s records. We just need to execute.