Everything you need to know: Louisville v. Boston College

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET

TV / Radio: ACC Network / 93.9 The Ville

Spread: Louisville -13.5, O/U 54.5 (FanDuel Sportsbook)

Last Time:

Louisville and Boston College battled in a high scoring affair last September in Chestnut Hill. The Cardinals held a 23-20 lead at halftime and led 33-28 entering the fourth quarter, but two field goals by Connor Lytton, including the go-ahead 26-yarder with 1:56 left, gave the Eagles a 34-33 win over the Cardinals. Boston College was powered by a strong afternoon from quarterback Phil Jurkovec (18/21, 304 yards, three touchdowns, INT), and receiver Zay Flowers (five receptions, 151 yards, two TDs).

Louisville leads the all-time series 8-7. Louisville and Boston College have split their eight meetings head-to-head since Louisville joined the ACC in 2014.

Heading in: Boston College

The win against Louisville turned out to be one of very few highlights in Boston College’s 2022 season. The Eagles would go on to finish 3-9 last season, their only other wins coming against Maine and NC State, the latter by one point.

The 2023 season hasn’t been a strong start for head coach Jeff Hafley and the Eagles. Boston College enters the Louisville game with a 1-2 record, losing to Northern Illinois and #3 Florida State by a combined five points, and their only win coming against FCS Holy Cross by three points.

Boston College Offensive Outlook

Boston College is on their third offensive coordinator in as many seasons, elevating Steve Shimko from being a tight end and quarterbacks staff on Hafley’s staff to the coordinator position. They also had to replace a lot of key players from last year, including Zay Flowers to the NFL Draft and Phil Jurkovec through the transfer portal.

Boston College sought to get their own quarterback through the portal, picking up UCF transfer Thomas Castellanos to lead the offense in 2023. Castellanos is completing 59.5% of his passes through three games, but his most impactful contribution is his running ability so far. For a team that was statistically the worst rushing in all of FBS last season and among the worst in allowing sacks and tackles for loss, his dual-threat ability has been invaluable to this offense. He’s coming off a 300+ yard passing game against Florida State and also nearly had 100 rushing yards, so he’ll have some momentum heading into Saturday.

Losing Zay Flowers was obviously a huge void for BC to fill in the offseason, but they have a pair of playmakers at receiver that should make the Eagles offense very fun to watch this season. Lewis Bond and UCF transfer Ryan O’Keefe are quick receivers that can make plays after the catch, they have combined for half of the team’s completed passes and 45% of the team’s receiving yards through the first three games. Bond has shown some ability to break tackles and be able to get 15-20 yards after, Louisville will need to have strong open field tackling to contain these two.

They returned leading rusher Pat Garwo from last year’s team and added Kye Robichaux from Western Kentucky in the portal to bolster their running back room. Both guys are straightforward power backs that can get 4-5 yards on carries, both are north-south runners that can just move the pile forward.

Players to Watch: QB Thomas Castellanos (59.5% completion, 875 total yards, seven total TDs); WRs Lewis Bond (12 rec., 175 yards, two TDs) and Ryan O’Keefe (15 rec., 128 yards)

Boston College Defensive Outlook

After losing defensive coordinator Tem Lukabu to the Carolina Panthers, Hafley opted to promote both Sean Duggan and Aazaar Abdul-Rahim to co-defensive coordinator positions from within the staff. So far, Boston College has been hovering around the middle of the pack in defensive metrics, ranking tenth in the ACC in total defense (358.7 YPG). They are, however, fifth in the conference in passing yards allowed per game (171.3 YPG) and hold a +2 turnover margin heading into the game.

Boston College hasn’t had much luck with creating negative plays, only having two sacks (T-12th in ACC) and ten tackles for loss (13th) through three games. But they do have some talent along the front seven, led by defensive linemen Donovan Ezeiruaku and Shitta Sillah. Ezeiruaku finished last season with 14.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks and was All-ACC Second Team last season, he’s an athletic presence on the edge that has a great first step and good finesse moves to get around opposing tackles. He’s been limited so far due to both double teams and the offenses they’ve played, but if BC can get Ezeiruaku back to last season’s form, this team’s potential can elevate really quickly.

Sillah and Neto Okpala play opposite of Ezeiruaku and they’ve been among the most productive players on the line so far, both tied for the team lead in tackles for loss (two apiece) and holding the team’s only sacks (one apiece) through three games. If Ezeiruaku can get going, these two can also benefit and create a very strong pass rush for the Eagles.

Boston College also returned two veterans at linebacker with Vinny DePalma and Kam Arnold both coming back for their senior seasons. Both are among the team leaders in tackles (28 and 22, respectively) and should play a pivotal part in trying to contain Louisville’s explosive rushing attack. Boston College has yet to record an interception this season but they have been able to attack the ball nonetheless, forcing four fumbles and recovering all of them. Elijah Jones is back after a solid 2022 season where he led the team with 13 PBUs and two INTs, he’s a playmaker on the ball that should be able to contest Louisville’s intermediate and deep passing game.

Players to Watch: DE Donovan Ezeiruaku (14.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks in 2022); LB Vinny DePalma (28 tackles)

Things to Watch For

  • Louisville will need to improve on finishing plays behind the line of scrimmage

One thing that has stood out to me in Louisville’s last two games is the issues with creating plays behind the line of scrimmage, especially on passing downs. Louisville has generally been solid at getting penetration and getting guys through the line, it just hasn’t translated to finishing the play there. Louisville currently ranks 116th in tackles for loss (13) and 128th in sacks (two) in FBS after three games.

Louisville will need to improve there this week, as they face a dual threat quarterback that is capable of creating big plays with his feet. Forcing third and long situations will help the defense as they try to bottle the explosive receiver duo of Bond and O’Keefe, who can keep drives going if Louisville isn’t able to get multiple bodies on them after the catch.

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