Boise State (10-3, 7-1 MW) comes into the game disappointed with how its season turned out. The Broncos lost the Mountain West Championship Game to Fresno State in overtime, sending them to Dallas instead of Vegas. Be that as it may, head coach Bryan Harsin and his squad will be motivated to notch their third 11-win season in the last five years.
After starting the 2018 campaign 7-2, Boston College (7-5, 4-4 ACC) backed its way into bowl season with three straight losses. They'll be anxious to get back on the field and finish the year on a high note against one of the very best Group of 5 teams in the country.
SERVPRO First Responder Bowl: Boston College (7-5) vs. Boise State (10-3)
Kickoff: Wednesday, Dec. 26 at 1:30 p.m. ET
Where: Cotton Bowl Stadium (Dallas)
Spread: Boise State -2.5
Three Things to Watch
1. AJ Dillon vs. the Boise State front seven
Dillon has been one of the best backs in the country during the last two seasons. He is the heart and soul of the Eagles' offense, and this team goes as he goes. Four of Boston College's five losses came when Dillon logged fewer than 20 carries or did not play. The coaching staff must make a concerted effort to get Dillon the ball early and often, and he must be able to consistently move the ball against a defense that has allowed fewer than 123 rushing yards per game. Wearing down the Boise State front seven early will be key for Boston College.
2. Brett Rypien vs. the Boston College secondary
Boise State wants to push the ball downfield through the air. It's what the Broncos do, and they've done it well for a long time. They've got one of the most seasoned and capable quarterbacks in the country under center (or in the shotgun), and he can pick apart any defense you put in front of him. He'll need to be careful against Boston College — especially in the red zone. The Eagles do allow plenty of passing yards (247.9 per game), but they also lead the nation in interceptions with 18 and have only surrendered 17 TD passes all season. A turnover in the red zone could leave to a significant swing in this game (and on the scoreboard). Boston College defensive back Hamp Cheevers — the nation's leader in interceptions with seven — will play a vital role in how this all plays out. This matchup could end up being the difference.
3. Can Boston College stop Boise State on third down?
Boise State possesses the ball for about 33 minutes a game. One of the biggest reasons the Broncos are able to do this is their efficiency on third down. Their 52.7 percent success rate is third in the nation and Boise State's 106 conversions are tops. For a team like Boston College that wants to run the ball, it is absolutely imperative that the Eagles' defense gets off the field on the third down so Dillon can pound the ball and the offense can eat up clock. If Boston College can't stop the Broncos on third down it will be a long afternoon for head coach Steve Addazio and company.
Despite Boston College leaning on the run, the Eagles score points at a decent clip (32 per game). They are facing a Boise State offense that puts up more than 35 points per contest. Suffice to say, possessions will be key, and Boston College needs to figure out a way to get more of them. The Eagles are among the nation's leaders in turnovers gained with 26. Unfortunately, the Broncos are stingy when it comes to giving them away. having turned it over just 13 times in as many games. The pace of the game and Boise State's ball security will end up being the difference in this one. The Broncos simply have more ways to score and can do so from anywhere on the field. Look for dynamic running back Alexander Mattison to play a huge role in that effort. A close contest early will eventually evolve into a sound Boise State win.
Prediction: Boise State 44, Boston College 24
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! SBNation and Bleacher Report. He is a three-time FWAA writing contest award winner. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.