Come late October, the Canes football team will travel to Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts to play the Boston College Eagles for the first time since 2012. Back then, both teams had different head coaches, but this 2018 matchup should likely yield the same victorious result for Miami.
For the past five years, Boston College has been in the mire of 7-6. However, an encouraging end to 2017 in which the team won five of its final six regular season games could carry momentum into 2018. Much of that breakthrough was attributed to a freshman duo of quarterback Anthony Brown and running back AJ Dillon. Dillon, recently named ACC preseason player of the year, is a burden to tackle at 6 ft. and 245 lbs., and he amassed 1,589 yards on a whopping 300 carries in 2017. Miami’s front seven will need to corral Dillon near the line of scrimmage as he is the lifeblood of the BC offense. Counterbalancing the running game is QB Anthony Brown who will return this year after undergoing late season knee surgery last fall. Miami fans will see an opposing quarterback similar to its own Malik Rosier in that both can be streaky passers and have athletic abilities outside the pocket. The big-uglies upfront are probably the unsung heroes of the Eagles offense. All five offensive line starters from 2017 return this season and are also arguably the deepest position group on the team. Their ability to create gaps for Dillon and limit sacks went hand in hand with BC’s offensive renaissance.
The good news for Miami is that it will match up strength-for-strength with Boston College: AJ Dillon vs Miami’s entire defense. The Canes’ big, fast defensive line and veteran linebackers should make routine work of limiting the Eagles rushing offense. A play-action call here and there may catch Miami out of position, but the athleticism in Miami’s secondary should outmatch the opposing passing attack. During BC’s hot streak last year, Dillon averaged about 30 carries per game. If that workload remains the status quo in 2018, Miami may catch him with some late season fatigue as November approaches.
Flipping the tables, Boston College’s defense is quite respectable. In 2017, they allowed 5.37 yards per play placing them just inside the top 50 in that category, but their pass defense, which gave up only 6.1 yards per attempt, is its best strength. BC returns both starting safeties, Lukas Denis and Will Harris, who combined for eight interceptions last year. Last year’s cornerbacks are gone, but Taj-Amir Torres and Hamp Cheevers will fill-in with experience. The defense should also be bolstered by the return from injury of its two top linebackers, Max Richardson and Connor Strachan. BC will cross its fingers for a much healthier 2018 because depth is sparse, particularly at defensive line.
If Boston College continues with its staunch passing defense this year, expect a commitment to the ground from a Canes offense intending to wear down the thin front seven it will face. Travis Homer, DeeJay Dallas, Lorenzo Lingard and company should be able to outpace the BC pursuit and keep the chains moving. Miami will again outclass the Eagles on offense from a talent perspective, but we’ve seen Richt’s engine sputter too often despite an advantage on paper. Sticking with the running game and feeding the speedsters like Ahmmon Richards and Jeff Thomas in space should be enough to keep the scoreboard turning.
Overall, Miami holds a 24-5 advantage in the all-time series against Boston College and are again favored heading into this season’s matchup with a 74% win probability. The intrigue around this game will be how AJ Dillon will fare against a top-flight defense and a Miami team overall that will likely still be in the playoff hunt. This oddball Friday night road game comes after Miami’s bye-week, so the Canes’ focus should be on the job at hand in Chestnut Hill. However, college football can be unpredictable, and you never know what magic might happen on a Fall Friday night when a big-name team comes to town.