Two teams look to bounce back in ACC Atlantic Division clash
After a 23-10 loss to Virginia Tech last Friday night, the Eagles have fallen to 2-4 overall and 0-3 in the ACC. Looking ahead, it's hard to find too many other wins on the schedule, and a 3-9 record with a second winless season in the conference in the last three years is not totally out of the question. Although head coach Steve Addazio has kept the team afloat in the face of adversity before, his seat will become extremely hot with new athletic director Martin Jarmond if the bottom falls out.
Louisville, at 4-2 and 1-2 in the league, is coming off a 39-25 loss last Thursday night to a surging NC State team. For a Cardinals team that already has a loss to Clemson, it appears that head coach Bobby Petrino's team is just about out of it when it comes to winning the ACC Atlantic Division, which was not a pipe dream at the beginning of the season.
For both teams, Saturday's game at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium and Louisville's homecoming is a chance to make sure all that negative momentum doesn't snowball into something far worse.
Boston College at Louisville
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 14 at 12:20 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ACC Network
Spread: Louisville -21.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Defending Lamar
Last year, eventual Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson had no trouble running and passing all over Boston College's defense in a 52-7 Cardinals win. He rushed for 189 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries and completed 12-of-17 passes for 231 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. It's safe to say that the Eagles cannot allow that to happen again. Chances are, though, the defense can make Jackson work much harder this time around (low bar, yes, but still true). Although the BC defense doesn't have great numbers, the Notre Dame loss was the only one where it looked totally outmatched, and that includes the losses to Clemson and Virginia Tech. If the BC defense can keep Jackson from fully exploding, this can be a more competitive game than most expect.
2. Time for a stop
The real breakdown for this Louisville team has been on defense. As some feared when Louisville lost defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to Mississippi State and that school's defensive coordinator, Peter Sirmon, came to the Cardinals, there has been a major drop-off in play on that side of the ball. In all four of Louisville's games against Power 5 opponents, the Cards' defense has allowed 28 or more points. Against all teams in 2016, that only happened six times in 13 games. Yes, there were some personnel losses that have contributed to that, but the bottom line is this defense is worse than it was a year ago, and Sirmon bears the brunt of the responsibility for that. The BC offense has not scored more than 21 points against an ACC opponent since a 28-7 win over Syracuse on Nov. 29, 2014, so the Cardinals need to show they can put together a complete performance on defense for once.
3. No hangover
The last time the Cardinals lost on a Thursday night, their season fell apart at the seams. In 2016, Louisville dropped a 36-10 decision at Houston on a Thursday night game in November and proceeded to lose to in-state rival Kentucky the next week and LSU in its bowl game. Again, the Cardinals have hit adversity and, much like last year, have seen many of their goals fall by the wayside in the loss to NC State. With the talent that Louisville has on hand, even though its defense is underperforming, it cannot let a repeat of last year occur.
With the emergence of true freshman running back A.J. Dillon, the Boston College running game has gained traction, but the strength of the Louisville defense has been stopping opponents on the ground. Still, there is hope for the Eagles that they can keep the Cardinals' offense off the field and maybe limit Lamar Jackson by controlling the ball and keeping the standout quarterback off the field. That said, Jackson is still a major mismatch for any defense, and the Eagles can only hope for turnovers or mistakes to slow down the Cardinals' offense enough to grab the win. This may be closer than most expect, but Louisville should prevail.
Prediction: Louisville 37, Boston College 20
— Written by Adam Kurkjian, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and is a reporter for the Boston Herald. He has covered the World Series, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup playoffs, Boston Marathon and Little League World Series, among other events from the high school, college and pro ranks. Follow him on Twitter @AdamKurkjian.