Boston College vs. Duke: Final Thoughts & Predictions
After months of uncertainty, the Eagles finally kick off the Jeff Hafley era in Durham against the Duke Blue Devils on Saturday. With the spectre of COVID-19 casting a shadow on the sport, Boston College football has been able to stay safe, with over 2,000 tests and only one positive case back in June. Having been diligent with that, the team can now focus on the task at hand, a tough Duke team that put a big scare into a top ten Notre Dame team last Saturday.
What can we expect from the Eagle, let's digest.
Three Biggest Questions
1. How much has the defense improved? We have to turn the page on 2019, but there still remains questions on that defense. Last year's defense was bad, and finished near the basement of almost every statistic including points allowed, yards allowed, and sacks. This group with three graduate transfers, a major contributor returning (Isaiah McDuffie), and a defensive minded coach should improve, but the big question remains. How much?
2. Can BC shake the rust off quickly? If you watched college football last weekend you saw it. Teams took quarters to really find themselves. Whether this was due to the COVID-19 chaos, or other reasons, the first couple of quarters were almost universally tough to watch. Boston College can ill afford that kind of start, because Duke has a game under their belt. BC needs to come out of the gate quickly.
3. What will Hafley look like as an in game coach? Talked a lot about this on the site, Hafley has done a remarkable job keeping his team together during unprecedented times. His calm, personable demeanor has been perfect given everything going on in the world and on his campus. But now we have the big question, how will he look in game situations. Will he be aggressive? What will he do when games get tight? These can't be answered until we see the team on the field.
When Boston College Runs The Ball: Edge- Boston College. This isn't a huge advantage, but Boston College's front five should, along with David Bailey should give BC an edge here. Duke's defense did play well against Notre Dame but also allowed 178 yards on the ground.
When Boston College Throws The Ball: Edge- Duke. This is a big unknown right now. As of this writing, Boston College still has yet to announce a starting quarterback. The team changed from a system of ground and pound to a balanced pro style offense. Duke's secondary played well against Ian Book. Could BC's passing attack surprise them? Sure, but as neutral observer, you have to go with the Blue Devils until we see that.
When Duke Throws The Ball: Edge- Duke. The Blue Devils were able to throw for 259 yards against a very good Notre Dame secondary. Again BC's defense may improve drastically, but we need to see it first. This is basically the same group (but with Deon Jones) from last year, so this will be a "prove it" game. This is going to be a tough matchup for that group.
When Duke Runs The Ball: Edge- Boston College. Here is where I pivot on my "show me" philosophy, and I will explain why. In terms of BC's offense throwing the ball, and defending against the pass, there are some very big variables we haven't seen yet. On the run defense, the changes made can be quantified. Chibueze Onwuka, Luc Bequette and Shitta Sillah all have game film and stats to base their contributions on. And the biggest addition, the return of Isaiah McDuffie, we already know what he can do for this defense. Stir all those together, and it isn't a stretch to say the defensive front will be much improved and be able to contain the Duke rushing attack.
Beer of the Game
Treehouse Julius IPA: Treehouse is the best in the business, and when college football is back you need the best. Even if you hate IPAs--which I know many of you do--their beers are very smooth and perfect for any palate.
Song of the Game
For many who have followed my predictions post, you know I usually pick a rap song. This season I'm changing it up, and showing off my versatility. For a season that is unusual, and frankly, weird, we are going to go with funk and soul all season long.
Fan Excitement: 8/10
If this game was not during a global pandemic, and was held with fans this would be a 10/10. But for many there is still that uneasiness that college football is returning, and the worry that players won't be safe. However, for everyone else, there is a buzz for the start of the Jeff Hafley era. This game will be a welcome respite for many in BC nation, and a win would set a tone for the remainder of the season.
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We will have a live game thread for Saturday's game and instant reactions as soon as it's over.
AJ's Prediction: Boston College 28 Duke 27. Close game, back and forth, but some late heroics start Jeff Hafley's tenure with a win.
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