Boston College concludes their three game homestand on Saturday against the Pitt Panthers. Led by quarterback Kenny Pickett and a vicious defense, the Panthers have rolled to a 3-1 start. But what does Boston College have to do to get back into the win column? Let's explore.
Can the Eagles establish any sort of run?
Boston College is 4th from the bottom in the country in rushing yards this year (70.33 ypg). It seems like every game the offense veers away from the rushing attack as soon as the team falls behind. Jeff Hafley has said that running back David Bailey's role is going to increase, but wouldn't say when. It seems like Pitt would be a perfect game to do it. Pitt's pass rush is relentless, but honestly so is their rush defense. As we saw last year however, their front can be beat up in the trenches, AJ Dillon ran for 178 yards against them last season. Maybe it would just make sense to just do some simple runs with man to man blocking up front, get those four yards a rush which will hopefully open things up for the passing attack.
Can BC stop taking points off the board?
It has been an epidemic for the Eagles, as they have had touchdowns called back in each of the first three games. Hafley has stressed that the team needs to clean up the mental mistakes. That is going to be crucial against a team that is stingy in the red zone, only 42.86% of trips in the red zone end up in touchdowns against the Panthers. BC can ill afford to have touchdowns taken away due to mistakes, and will need to have a cleaner game than the previous three.
Can the Eagles defense contain Kenny Pickett?
Kenny Pickett is a good quarterback, he may not be at the same level as Sam Howell, but he is experienced, playing in 30 games so far at the collegiate level. He is also certainly good enough to cause matchup problems on defense. He's multifaceted in how he can beat you, having rushed for four touchdowns already this season, but has a nice arm too throwing for 1123 yards. BC had mixed success last weekend against Howell, can they improve upon that and slow Pickett down? Don't let him escape the pocket, and finish tackles. That will be a key.
How will the offensive line look against the best defense they have faced?
Expectations for the offensive line have certainly scaled back since the beginning of the season. They haven't played up to the vaunted expectations many (myself included) put upon them. However, they haven't played poorly--more like above average to good. The run blocking hasn't really been there, but for the most part, Jurkovec has had time in the pocket. This weekend the Panthers, who have 19 sacks on the season will give them the biggest test. BC can not afford to have blown assignments, or holding penalties. They need a clean, efficient game out of the line. But can they do that?
Can the Eagles have another solid game from special teams?
One of the overlooked aspects of Saturday's loss was the play of the special teams. Punter Grant Carlson has been vital to the Eagles, flipping the field over and over again. Aaron Boumerhi has been consistent as the field goal kicker, hitting 4/5 field goals, and Travis Levy/Jaelen Gill have prevented any mishaps on kick/punt returns. This unit could be very important on Saturday. If this game turns into a slog where teams are going three and out, field position will be vital. BC needs to rely on yet another big game from this unit.
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Video courtesy of BCEagles.com