Thanks to the 2020 COVID-19 adjustments to the ACC schedule, Boston College will have the pleasure of playing at Clemson for the third year in a row. But you won't hear Eagles head coach Jeff Hafley complain, as it is his team — his 4-0 team — that the conference is pinning its hopes on. The Eagles won a wild one against Missouri last weekend and stand with Wake Forest as the only conference teams with an unblemished record.
Clemson remained in the AP Top 25 this week, but with two losses on their resume, 2021 goals have to be adjusted. The College Football Playoff will not be part of the Tigers' immediate future, and at this point, even dreams of an ACC title have to be put on the backburner. Improvement each week is the primary goal and that must be done despite mounting injuries.
The Eagles have not won a game in this series since 2010, but last year they took the Tigers right to the end before falling 34-28.
Boston College at No. 25 Clemson
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 2 at 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network
Spread: Clemson -14.5
When Boston College Has the Ball
Good teams are able to adapt when situations change and Boston College has done just that this fall. The Eagles' offense was expected to rely heavily on quarterback Phil Jurkovec and his talented receivers led by Zay Flowers. But when Jurkovec injured his hand early in the season's second game, BC quickly and efficiently became a running team. It is quite remarkable considering that Boston College was 118th in rushing offense in 2020 — now they are 19th, averaging more than 220 yards per game.
It helps when you have a stellar offensive line. Everyone returned up front, and the All-ACC teams at the end of the year will feature several BC offensive linemen. The unit has also allowed just two sacks, proving they are far more than just punishers in the run game. With plenty of time to operate, quarterback Dennis Grosel has been OK. Flowers has still put up nice numbers, though the passing game as a whole is not the same as it was with Jurkovec.
This week, the Eagles will need something through the air because Clemson's rush defense is a little different than the one they saw from Missouri last week. However, injuries to defensive tackles Tyler Davis and Bryan Bresee change the look of the Tiger D. Linebacker James Skalski also left last week's game, but he is expected to be back. NC State did rush for 148 yards last Saturday, but those came on 51 carries and Wolf Pack quarterback Devin Leary was efficient in the passing game. Boston College needs similar balance to score enough to win this week.
When Clemson Has the Ball
Oh boy. It just isn't getting any better. In their three games versus FBS opponents, the highest single-game offensive output was the 284 yards against Georgia Tech. It's unfathomable, but Clemson is last in the ACC in passing offense, total offense, and scoring offense. Plus, their rushing offense is only ahead of Virginia and is 99th in America.
There are troubles galore, but the quarterback always gets the blame. D.J. Uiagalelei has not been decisive and is only completing 56 percent of his throws at just over five yards an attempt. Making matters worse is that Clemson doesn't have an offensive line capable of holding off defenders while the quarterback methodically goes through progressions. This has been a big, hot mess to this point. Without running back Will Shipley, who injured his leg in Raleigh, Clemson may have to call Uiagalelei's number as a runner more times this week.
The Tiger offensive staff has to figure out what they want to do before attacking any BC defensive weaknesses … and there aren't a whole lot of holes to find anyway. Granted, the level of competition, for the most part, has not been good and Missouri's Connor Bazelak did throw for 303 yards. But Boston College also picked him off twice, including the game-clincher by Brandon Sebastian in overtime. The Eagles are allowing just 98 yards per game on the ground, and while they are not a team that creates a lot of negative plays, they don't give up a lot of big chunks either, meaning the Clemson offense will have put together some long drives to score.
If you have seen Clemson play this year, you know this won't be a pretty game. Throw in the fact that Boston College is on the other side and it's likely this one will be a rock fight. Expecting the Clemson offense to find its groove is wishful thinking at this point, so the Tigers will have to rely on their defense. And despite the injuries up front, I believe that will be enough. Home field and the Death Valley faithful will be the difference on Saturday night as Clemson squeaks out a win.
Prediction: Clemson 20, Boston College 17
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— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.