A new era begins for the Eagles on the road at Duke
The Jeff Hafley era will begin for the Boston College Eagles at the home of their ACC rival Duke Blue Devils, Wallace Wade Stadium. Hafley arrives with no head coaching experience, fresh off a stint as the Ohio State co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach. With an assistant coaching record that has both college and NFL experience, Hafley's reputation for strong defenses and relentless recruiting have Boston College fans believing that better days lie ahead for the football program.
Hafley's task, like those for all college football coaching staffs this season, has been compounded by the impact of the coronavirus on the program. With little to no spring football, a new staff like Boston College, piloted by a brand new head coach, will have its share of growing pains, especially as the 2020 college football season unfolds.
Unlike Boston College, Duke has a veteran coaching staff in place, led by head coach David Cutcliffe. Cutcliffe has 12 years on the job and has earned the respect of college football fans everywhere for making the Blue Devils a competitive unit. In the eight years before Cutcliffe's arrival, Duke only won 10 total games, and Cutcliffe as a 72-80 mark, including 51 wins since 2013.
Also unlike Boston College, Duke comes into this game with some legitimate game experience in 2020, albeit a losing one, having dropped the season opener at 2020 ACC opponent (how strange that was to type that) Notre Dame, 27-13. Duke was competitive at Notre Dame, actually leading the Fighting Irish 3-0 after the first quarter before Notre Dame took control in the second half.
Following the loss to Notre Dame, Cutcliffe stated, "The story of the day was they made more plays than we made... We have to play better in the second half that we did on offense." Considering how Duke had outgained Notre Dame in yardage 151-13 after the first quarter, the Blue Devils will be looking for a way to sustain their offensive capabilities.
A bright spot for Duke was the emergence of Clemson transfer quarterback Chase Brice. Brice completed 20-of-27 passes for 259 yards and had a rushing touchdown against the Fighting Irish.
Boston College at Duke
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 19 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Duke -5.5
When Boston College Has the Ball
With an inexperienced quarterback in Notre Dame transfer Phil Jurkovec a possible starter, look for Boston College to rely upon the running game to set the offensive tempo. Junior running back David Bailey had a strong 2019 season platooning with AJ Dillon, who is now earning his keep for the NFL's Green Bay Packers. Bailey ran for 844 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2019, averaging 5.7 yards a carry.
Another intriguing offensive weapon to see for the Eagles will be Ohio State transfer Jaelen Gill. Gill is a hybrid running back/wide receiver, and practice video seems to indicate that he's developing a rapport with Jurkovec.
When Duke Has the Ball
As stated up above, Duke had opportunities against Notre Dame but seemed to run out of gas in the second half. Duke ran a no-huddle offense against the Fighting Irish, and was effective, especially in the first half, when the Blue Devils had a 246-228 yardage advantage.
Besides Brice's encouraging play, Duke was helped by a solid performance by Blue Devils senior running back Deon Jackson. Jackson carried 15 times for 52 yards and may be the focal point of the offense as Brice becomes better acclimated to Cutcliffe's offensive scheme.
There is an old axiom in college football that a team will make substantial improvement from the first game to the second game. Considering Duke is playing at home, with an experienced coaching staff, while Boston College is going on the road with an inexperienced coaching staff, the Blue Devils should be able to get themselves into the win column for the first time this season.
Prediction: Duke 21, Boston College 14