For Virginia, head coach Bronco Mendenhall's second year has put the team right where it wants to be, as the Cavaliers are 5-1 overall and 2-0 in league play. Although the schedule so far hasn't been all that tough, the Cavaliers do own a road win over Boise State and are playing up to their potential, something they did not do under former head coach Mike London, who had only one winning season out of six.
Since losing a non-conference game to Indiana, the Cavaliers have won four straight, and last weekend's 20-14 win over North Carolina keeps them in a position to control their own destiny in the Coastal Division. They still have to face the likes of Georgia Tech, Miami and Virginia Tech, but the Cavaliers are playing their best football in years and are just one win from bowl eligibility.
Boston College made some serious headway last weekend with a 45-42 upset win over Louisville. Although the Eagles are only 3-4 overall and 1-3 in the ACC, to knock off reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and a Cardinals team most pegged as a top-three team in the Atlantic Division during the preseason has to be viewed as progress for the Eagles.
Bowl eligibility is still within reach for the Eagles, but this is the type of game they need to win to keep that hope alive.
Boston College at Virginia
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 21 at 12:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ACC Network
Spread: Virginia -7
Three Things to Watch
1. Dandy Dillon
You probably saw the video of Boston College's true freshman running back body-slamming a Louisville defender with one hand, then running down the sideline for a 75-yard touchdown. If not, you're in luck (see below). With last Saturday's performance, Dillon announced himself as a national name to watch at the position and the Eagles' bell-cow back, as he carried 39 times for 272 yards and four touchdowns. The 6-foot, 240-pounder is a house on wheels who can either pummel defenders with his strength or leave them in the dust with his speed. Or, as was the case with the 75-yarder last weekend, he can do both in the same play. The Eagles desperately needed an identity on offense against quality opponents, and in Dillon, they may have found it.
2. Killer B's
The two quarterbacks will be under the microscope for this game, although BC's will be there for a different reason. Eagles signal-caller Anthony Brown is recovering from a shoulder injury he suffered against Louisville, while Virginia's Kurt Benkert has drawn praise for an efficient season behind center. Brown has played adequately, but Darius Wade came in and completed 7-of-10 passes for 91 yards after Brown, a redshirt freshman, suffered his injury against the Cardinals. Benkert has completed 63.7 percent of his passes for 1,680 yards, 15 touchdowns and just three interceptions this season, and if he continues to play that well against a BC defense that will bring a heavy pass rush, that may tip the scales in the Cavaliers' favor.
3. Fast and furious
Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of the Virginia offense has been its ability to produce big plays from the wide receiver position. Although Olamide Zaccheaus can be a threat on the ground or through the air, last week he made his big impact as a receiver with an 81-yard touchdown catch that proved key in the win over the Tar Heels. Fellow receiver Andre Levrone is fourth in the nation and tops in the ACC with an average of 25.13 yards per reception. He caught a 73-yard touchdown pass against UConn and grabbed five throws for 141 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Boise State. The Eagles have allowed a number of chunk plays this season and will be susceptible to more this weekend against Virginia.
Both teams have reason for optimism as they turn toward the latter portion of the season. AJ Dillon gives the Eagles the type of back that they can ride against the toughest opponents on the schedule, and the defense still has one of the better players in the country in defensive end Harold Landry. Virginia has all the markings of a team that should win close games, as the Cavaliers are in the top 15 in the nation in turnover margin and fumbled for the first time all season against the Tar Heels. Expect a close game, but Virginia, which has never beaten Boston College in five tries, should end that streak Saturday.
Prediction: Virginia 23, 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.