Where to Watch: Noon on ESPN2
Odds: LOU -25, O/U 55
Last Time: Louisville grinded out a 17-14 win over Boston College, overcoming four turnovers to start a late-season surge where the Cardinals won six of their final eight games in 2015. Louisville’s defense played an outstanding game, holding a paltry Boston College offense to 79 total yards (-14 rushing). Lamar Jackson had 245 total yards (230 passing, 15 rushing) and a rushing touchdown, while Sheldon Rankins added a 46-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
Louisville leads the all-time series 5-3, with the Cardinals winning the last three since joining the ACC.
About the Boston College Eagles
Boston College is an interesting team to analyze, if you look at their entire package. They’ve had one of the best defenses in the country the last couple of seasons, but head coach Steve Addazio has also had one of the worst offenses in the country. It’s a very rare combination to have, but that’s been the story of the Eagles in 2015 and 2016.
Addazio had an awful 3-9 season last year, also going winless in conference play. But because of their insanely stout defense, almost none of their losses were necessarily blowouts. A great defense will always keep you in games, and that’s a large reason why Boston College is at 4-4 right now. They recently ended a 12-game losing streak to conference foes, downing NC State 21-14 after Louisville thoroughly dominated them two weeks ago.
When you look at Boston College, it’s easy to see what they want to do. Play physical defense, run the football, and hit a team with the play action pass is BC’s brand in the Addazio era. Even if Addazio got Kentucky transfer quarterback Patrick Towles to help stabilize the QB situation, Addazio’s identity is playing a smashmouth style of football and then letting the quarterback manage the game, but the lack of a quarterback able to consistently hit teams over the top with a play-action pass has defenses stuffing the box and bottling the Eagles’ offense.
Players to Watch
- DE Harold Landry: Louisville has continued to struggle in pass protection since the loss at Clemson, and Landry will likely be one of the better pass-rushers that Louisville faces all season. Landry has nine sacks and five forced fumbles, both of which are tied for first nationally. Landry also won ACC Co-Defensive Lineman of the Week with a sack and forced fumble in Boston College’s win over NC State. His presence on the edge can open doors for the Eagles to try and contain Jackson in the pocket, forcing him into turnovers.
- RB Jon Hilliman: A lot of the discussion will be on former Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles getting one last shot at Louisville — and dedicating his season to Internet legend Harambe — but if you watch Boston College, they love to run the football and they do it with extra lineman to help. Hillman is the starter and bellcow of the Boston College running game, someone that is tremendously physical and has stellar size (6’0″, 229 lbs.) Hilliman has yet to rush for over 100 yards since the opener against Georgia Tech, but he should be the focal point of the offense.
- QB Patrick Towles: You can easily make the argument for linebackers Ty Schwab or Matt Milano, but I am going with Towles solely based on his connection to the Louisville/Kentucky rivalry. Towles is an interesting quarterback with size that NFL scouts love, but hasn’t quite clicked as a fifth-year transfer for the Eagles. Towles has a decent skillset as a dual-threat and being able to hit medium-to-long passes, which he’ll usually go towards sophomore receivers Jeff Smith or Michael Walker. However, he’s struggled against pressure and trying to hit short passes, where Louisville could thrive once again. This will be Towles’ third and final attempt to beat Louisville, as he came up short in 2014 and 2015 as the UK quarterback.
Keys to the Game
- Louisville Passing Game Must Play Big: Last year, Louisville struggled against protecting the football and trying to attack Boston College’s secondary, mostly due to the offensive line struggling against the Eagles’ superb pass rush. If Louisville can shore up its recent issues in pass protection, they will have opportunities to attack a vulnerable secondary. Boston College has struggled against quality receivers in each of their losses, allowing 12 touchdowns in three of their four losses to Virginia Tech, Clemson and Syracuse. This is a game that based on recent trends, you could see Lamar Jackson attempt to stay in the pocket and have a decent passing game.
- Can Louisville stop BC’s run game? Even with a more stable quarterback situation that Boston College has, Boston College’s run game is unique in that they will use extra linemen. If Devonte Fields is able to dress for the game tomorrow, it’s important that Louisville’s defense returns to form. Against a Boston College defense that will likely make the game closer than the oddmakers predict, Louisville’s defense will have to play better and avoid sloppy issues that plagued them at Virginia. Stopping the run is the key element, as it will allow them to pin their ears on third down and pressure Towles.
- Louisville needs pressure and turnovers. Seguing into the third point of emphasis, Louisville needs to focus on winning at the line of scrimmage and forcing Towles into turnovers. Louisville did an outstanding job last year of stifling Boston College’s running game and generated many turnovers on a hapless offense, including a defensive touchdown from Sheldon Rankins. With Bobby Petrino expecting Fields to come back, this is a perfect opportunity for the Louisville front seven to get back to form.
Justin Krueger: 30-13. Given that other teams that have stalled Louisville’s offense and found success, it would not surprise me that Boston College intends to do the same against Louisville. The Cardinals will find some more success than last year if they keep the turnovers and negative plays down, but I’d expect Boston College’s defense to keep it close. However, BC’s offense might doom them here with multiple turnovers, allowing Louisville to pull away in the second half.
Jacob Pratt: 42-20
Jeff Nunn: 48-10
Jeremy Wahman: 30-13
Mitch Motley: 54-13
Paige Sherrard: 28-10