LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (2-4, 1-2) vs. BOSTON COLLEGE EAGLES (3-4, 0-4)
Game Time: 12:30 p.m.
Location: Papa John's Cardinal Stadium: Louisville, Ky.
Television: ACC Network
Announcers: Tim Brant (Play-by-Play), David Archer (Analyst) and Roddy Jones (Sideline)
Favorite: Louisville by 7.5.
All-Time Series: Louisville leads 4-3
Last Meeting: Louisville won 38-19 last season in Chestnut Hill
About Boston College:
The Eagle's offense started this year with hopes that it could ride the legs of quarterbackDarius Wade and running back Jon Hilliman to a power run offense that could wear down defenses. The season started off well enough but both Hillman and Wade were lost to injury before the middle of the season. That has forced the offense to rely on two freshman quarterbacks that weren't likely to see significant time this year. Jeff Smith and Troy Flutie (Doug's nephew) have split time at qb with Smith taking all of the snaps last week.
Smith is a wirey kid that is more of an athlete at this point than he is a quarterback. He has shown some flashes of having nice arm strength but he hasn't been able to put the ball on the money too often. Smith hasn't been helped too much by the play calling he's been given. One of the first passes that jumped out to me last week was when they ran a reverse bootleg for him. A freshman quarterback in a night game in Death Valley against one of the best defenses in the country? Let's have him roll out to his weak side and try to throw on the run. Smith, of course, threw the ball into the ground 5 yards in front of the receiver because it's an unorthodox throw that not a lot of guys can make. Smith has speed to make plays with his legs but I wouldn't say that he's a guy that worries you with his passing ability. He will have to hope that his offensive coaches put him in a better position to succeed.
BC plays a lot of running backs. Four different backs got carries last week. I'm not sure if there's a method to he madness with Addazio's use of so many backs, but all of them are fairly good players. Tyler Rouse is the main back and he will remind some of Kenneth Farrow of Houston. He isn't a flashy guy but he puts his head down and he falls forward. Marcus Outlaw is next in line as a guy that is pretty good at finding cutback lanes and getting to the second level. He's probably the quickest of the group. Myles Willis is coming off of a game where he ran for 88 yards against a very good Clemson defense. Willis is the guy I think UofL will see the most of Saturday. He combines the skills you see from Outlaw and Rouse and he also has pretty good open field speed. The fourth back the Eagles roll out is freshman Jordan Gowins. Gowins is the "power" back of the group and he saw a handful of carries last week.
All of the running backs for BC are fairly similar players but none of them really strike fear into you unless they start to do a better job or teaming them up with Smith. A read option factor in this offense could do wonders. Addazio will mix a little bit in, but he tends to stick with more traditional runs between the tackles. If the Eagles attempt to attack the edge with option plays this offense is a different animal.
So far this season, there hasn't been a consistent receiver on the Eagles roster. Thad Smith is averaging over twenty yards per catch, but with only six catches, the 66-yarder he has kind of skews that number. Sherman Alston is the fastest and quickest player on the offense, but he's another guy that the offensive staff struggles to put in a position to win. To put this group of receivers (and the way they're utilized) in context, the team's leading receiver is a fullback. I wouldn't be surprised to see Todd Grantham leave his corners on an island with one safety high, and make these receivers make plays to beat them.
An inexperienced offensive line has been a big issue for BC this year. They have veteran players at four spots on the line, but they didn't have a lot of playing experience coming into the season. The line has been a letdown in many areas as the running game is averaging under four yards per carry against FBS competition. The offense is also averaging seven negative plays a game. With a front seven that has 17 tackles for loss over the last two weeks, Louisville has to feel good about the matchup up front.
KEY PLAYERS: RB Myles Willis, RB Marcus Outlow, WR Sherman Alston
Boston College has what is arguably the best defense in the nation. With any defense you're only as good as your defensive front and BC has a great one. Harold Landry andConnor Wujciak are both having outstanding seasons against some of the lesser opponents they've played as well as teams like FSU and Duke. Landry finished the game against FSU with 3.5 tackles for loss going against the lone returning offensive line starter the Seminoles have. Wujciak has seen his name on multiple midseason All-American teams. Wujciak sets the tone at his nose guard spot for the entire defense. His effort and ability to take on double teams and collapse the pocket makes the job everyone else has behind him much easier. The Eagles have five linemen who have made a good amount of plays behind the line of scrimmage and they have the depth needed to apply pressure for four quarters.
Steven Daniels was once a Louisville recruiting target. Daniels was a high school teammate of Darius Ashley and he fit the mold of the jumbo middle linebackers that Charlie Strong seemed to like. Daniels is a jumbo linebacker that doesn't run all that well, but he has plenty of burst in short areas which makes him a really good blitzer and run-stuffer. Connor Strachan is listed as his backup but he's second on the team in tackles and tends to line up next to him as a weakside linebacker. Both linebackers are extremely sound tacklers but neither are going to run down many players without an angle. Converted safety Matt Milano is the player they utilize to spy quarterbacks. It's an interesting system because they will run man coverage across the board and blitz with Daniels and/or Strachan and leave Milano as kind of a tool to clean up whatever slips through. Milano can't run with a guy like Lamar Jackson, but he does do a good job of reading the holes left by the rush to better position himself behind the rush.
Louisville will get a break from playing against an outstanding boundary cornerback for what seems like the first time this year against BC. The defensive backs for BC aren't bad at all but they don't have the speed or skill that Louisville has faced so far this year. The Eagles play press man coverage across the board with their safeties even coming up to press slot receivers at times. That means that they don't have a safety deep a good amount of the time. Clemson did a good job of exploiting this by just playing backyard ball. Clemson just started running go routes in the second half last week and trusted their better athletes to beat the defense. What this also did was negate the pass rush. Deshaun Watson was getting rid of the ball within seconds. Louisville will have to attack this defensive backfield the same way. Their corners get called for pass interference a lot and they've been shown to be a group that can get beat deep repeatedly.
KEY PLAYERS: The Front Seven
Excitement Level: 6.7
I've never lied to to you all, and I'm not going to start now. It's been an exhausting week, the team is coming off its most disappointing half of the season, it's a 12:30 kickoff, and Boston College isn't exactly the most thrilling opponent on the 2015 schedule. It's an important game, but that doesn't mean it's easy to get up for.
Pregame Meal: Coffee, breakfast sandwich, beer
Mike Rutherford fact of the day: I rarely eat lunch. I like to get busy work done for a few hours in the morning, roll with more coffee and a late breakfast around 11 or 11:30, and then I hold out until dinner. Probably not healthy, but I have a system and it's taken me this far ... talking to you people about what I'm going to eat before a football game.
Anyway, this has been a long-winded way of saying I might be taking advantage of the McDonald's all-day breakfast revelation for the first time.
Game Attire: Jeans, black U of L pullover with red U of L Titleist hat
I'm running out of options here.
Bold Prediction: Louisville doesn't allow an offensive touchdown
Not ultra-bold given Boston College's offensive performances this season, but still less likely to happen than the alternative in most people's eyes.
Predicted Star of the Game: Sheldon Rankins
Cole Hikutini Touchdown Alert Level: Jungle Green (Don't feel good about it, which means it will probably happen)
--Louisville is 24-2 over the last three seasons when attempting at least 35 rushes in a game. The only two losses came last year at Clemson, and in the 2015 season-opener against Auburn.
--Through the first half of the season, Boston College is allowing just 146.3 yards per game, which is best in the nation. The Eagles are allowing only 51.7 rushing yards per game, which is also tops in the country.
--Louisville is 14-6 all-time under Bobby Petrino in games played in the month of October.
--Louisville has won nine consecutive games when kicking off to begin the game, and has lost seven of its last 10 when receiving the opening kickoff, including three of four games this season.
--A week ago, Louisville saw its streak of 21 straight games forcing at least one turnover come to an end.
--Boston College is the first FBS school to allow two or fewer touchdowns through six games since Wisconsin allowed only two in 2004.
--Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson is 107 yards away from breaking John Brewer's U of L record for rushing yards in a single season by a true freshman.
--Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 192 games dating back to the 2000 season. The streak ranks as the third longest in the ACC behind only Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech.
--Louisville is 166-9 all-time when scoring 35 or more points in a game. The Cards are also 5-100 all-time when allowing opponents to score 40 or more points.
--"We've got to learn it takes four quarters. It also shows you there's a small difference between being really, really good and not being where you want to be. You've got to make sure you hone in on your detail." --Todd Grantham
--"It's never about how well you start, it's all about how you handle adversity. When you get knocked in the mouth, it's about how you respond. This is a perfect challenge because Louisville is a very explosive team with a quarterback that can make explosive plays." --Boston College safety Justin Simmons
--''They play physical and fast, (and) do a great job of tackling. That's certainly a challenge for us.'' --Bobby Petrino
--"Obviously we're a young team, so we're having a hard time making explosive plays and we've made some mistakes along the way. That's a sign of a team that's not very (experienced), especially on the offensive side of the ball. But they play hard, which lays the groundwork for the future, where we know we've got some talent." --BC head coach Steve Addazio
--"That quarterback is really fast, extremely fast, so we have to be really disciplined keeping him inside the pocket. Like we've been doing all season, we just have to keep up with that stuff." --BC defensive tackle Truman Gutapfel
--"What you have to do is say, ‘OK, whether we were 2-4 or 4-2 or whatever, you have to put everything behind you and move forward.' We do want to get the seniors to a bowl game. I think that is something that is real important, and it gets the young guys to practice more and get better. But the No. 1 way to do that is to focus on this ... game right now, at home on homecoming and come out and perform well for four quarters." --Bobby Petrino
Card Chronicle Prediction: Louisville 20, Boston College 9