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Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets vs. Boston College Eagles Preview and Prediction

Justin Thomas

Justin Thomas

Only the truly devoted college football fan will get a chance to watch this showdown of two rebuilding ACC teams.

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If you want to see it in person, you'll have to travel across the Atlantic Ocean and find your way to Dublin, Ireland's Aviva Stadium. If you want to see it on television, you'll have to set your alarm for a Saturday morning hour that is usually reserved for the work week. If you are on the West Coast, that hour is 4:30 a.m. So, yeah, this isn't in prime time.

Regardless, after a long offseason, it will be worth seeing just how far these programs have come after disappointing 2015 campaigns where Boston College went winless in ACC play and Georgia Tech was victorious just three times overall. However, there is reason for optimism for each fan base, as the Eagles promise to again have a stingy defense, and several of Georgia Tech's losses could have gone the other way. Don't forget, too, that one of the Yellow Jackets' wins came at the expense of Florida State.

So while these teams start the season well off the Top 25 radar, getting back to respectability is well within reach starting Saturday morning.

Georgia Tech vs. Boston College (at Dublin, Ireland)

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 3 at 7:30 a.m.

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: Georgia Tech -3

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Three Things to Watch

1. Georgia Tech's option

This will be the ultimate strength vs. strength matchup. The Yellow Jackets under Paul Johnson perennially sport one of the nation's top rushing offenses, while BC is coming off a season where it allowed the fewest yards per rush and number of rushing touchdowns in the nation last season. While the Eagles suffered a few key losses from last year's starting defense, the return of linebackers like Connor Strachan and Matt Milano, along with defensive end Harold Landry should again give the Eagles a stout front seven. On the other side of the ball, Tech quarterback Justin Thomas is in line for his 27th consecutive start, so there won't be anything the BC defense throws at him that he hasn't already seen. Outside of Thomas, maybe the most important position on the Yellow Jackets' offense to monitor will be at B-back, where both Marcus Marshall and Dedrick Mills are expected to get carries.

2. BC's passing game

Under head coach Steve Addazio, the Eagles have featured offenses that generally run to set up even more runs. Last year, the Eagles were 124th in the nation in passing yards per game. That aspect of the offense has been so inept that transfers out of the program from the wide receiver position have become a bit of a problem. But new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler promises to bring a semblance of balance after coming over from Virginia Tech. New quarterback Patrick Towles, a graduate transfer from Kentucky, is expected to start, but both he and Darius Wade have looked better throwing the ball this spring than their recent predecessors. There are still plenty of concerns surrounding the pass protection, but a competent air attack for the Eagles is long overdue, and this will be a good chance to show it off.

3. Mental edge

The fact that this game is being played in such an unusual venue cannot be overstated. No matter how well the teams prepare, playing in such an unfamiliar place at a time when the players would normally be finishing breakfast is going to be difficult for both teams to overcome. Whichever team is able to deal with this adversity the best will have a more tangible advantage than your typical regular season game. Embracing the challenge and enjoying the game in Europe can be a positive if the team takes the right approach. Both coaches will be looking to achieve that mindset.

Final Analysis

Although Tech stumbled last season, the Eagles' 0-fer in conference play has warmed the seat significantly more for Addazio because Johnson has a better overall track record. In other words, expect to see an Eagles team that is a little more desperate to put last season's failures behind it. Neither offense promises to be clicking on all cylinders, Tech's because the Eagles are so stout against the run and BC's because of having to break in a new offensive coordinator. At the end of the day, or morning, as the case may be, Thomas' experience may make the difference in what should be a low-scoring and at times sloppy game.

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Prediction: Georgia Tech 17, Boston College 14

— 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.