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Louisville Cardinals vs. Boston College Eagles Prediction and Preview

Boston College Eagles head coach Steve Addazio

Boston College Eagles head coach Steve Addazio

Two reeling ACC birds will look to get back on track on Saturday afternoon after rough stretches. Boston College will return home to face Louisville after the Eagles' rally came up short last week in Raleigh against NC State. Prior to that, the Eagles had ascended into the Top 25, only to get smacked on the road by Purdue before topping Temple in a shootout.

Things for Louisville seem to be significantly worse. The Cardinals are on a three-game losing streak and just 2-4 for the season. During the skid, Louisville has blowout losses to Virginia and Georgia Tech and a home loss against Florida State that it seemingly had in hand.

Louisville has never won fewer than eight games in any season under head coach Bobby Petrino, but it is in serious danger of sitting home for bowl season. Despite the recent struggles, Boston College, at 4-2, is looking for its best seven-game start under head coach Steve Addazio. The Eagles beat Louisville last season, 45-42, in Chestnut Hill after losing to the Cardinals in each of the three prior seasons.

Louisville at Boston College

Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 13 at 12:30 p.m. ET

TV: ACC Network

Spread: Boston College -13.5

Three Things to Watch

1. The status of AJ Dillon

Few teams are thrilled about facing Boston College's sophomore running back, and Louisville would certainly be OK with his absence come Saturday. Dillon missed last week’s 28-23 loss to NC State with an ankle injury, and his status for the Eagles’ contest with Louisville remains up in the air. The preseason ACC Player of the Year, Dillon has continued to be productive this season with 652 yards rushing and seven total touchdowns on just 106 carries.

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In last season’s contest against Louisville, Dillon had the best day ever by an Eagles running back, and that’s a history that includes names like Mike Cloud, Mike Esposito, Andre Williams and Montel Harris. On 39 carries against the Cardinals last season, Dillon rumbled for 272 yards and four touchdowns in a thrilling 45-42 victory. Ben Glines finished with 90 yards on 16 carries in Dillon's absence last week, but as a team, the Eagles managed just 125 yards on the ground. Louisville yielded 542 yards to Georgia Tech’s triple-option attack last week.

2. Louisville pass offense vs. Boston College secondary

After a dreadful start to the season, sophomore quarterback Jawon Pass has seemingly figured things out in the last two weeks. In two losing efforts, Pass finished with 325 yards passing against a good Florida State secondary before throwing for 299 turnover-free yards and two scores in last week’s 66-31 loss to Georgia Tech. While backup Malik Cunningham has provided the only semblance of a running game for the Cardinals this season, Pass has a decent group of pass catchers in Dez Fitzpatrick, Jaylen Smith and tight end Mickey Crum who should put the Eagles’ secondary to the test.

Defending the pass hasn’t been a strength for BC in recent weeks as Wake Forest’s Sam Hartman, Purdue’s David Blough and NC State’s Ryan Finley have all put up big numbers against the Eagles. The one thing that Boston College has been is opportunistic. The Eagles lead the ACC with 10 interceptions on the season and rank fourth nationally in that category. Senior safety Lukas Denis is the name to know for Boston College in the secondary, but it’s junior Hamp Cheevers who leads the team with three interceptions.

3. Boston College's pass rush vs. Louisville's offensive line

With Louisville’s running game virtually nonexistent this year, the Cardinals will have to win the game through the air, and to do that, they will need to keep Pass upright. They have failed to do so for most of this season, as only Florida State has given up more sacks among ACC teams. Louisville starts two redshirt seniors and a redshirt junior up front, but that hasn’t translated to added protection.

When it comes to sacks, Boston College ranks fifth in the ACC with 18 this season, and that’s thanks largely to the most underrated duo of defensive ends in the conference. Wyatt Ray and Zach Allen, both seniors, rank fifth and seventh, respectively, in the ACC in sacks, combining for nine this season. Pass is hardly a statue, but he’s not the runner that Cunningham is or that predecessor Lamar Jackson was. He’ll need to avoid taking sacks and find a way to get rid of the ball quickly on Saturday.

Final Analysis

Whether or not AJ Dillon is ready to go on Saturday will go a long way toward determining Louisville’s upset chances, but either way, the Cardinals have their work cut out for them. Pass has made significant strides in the last couple weeks, but at the same time, the Louisville defense seems to be heading in the opposite direction. Boston College has lost two of its last three but played well late last week to build some momentum for Saturday’s contest. Regardless of whether Dillon plays, the Cardinals have way more weaknesses for the Eagles to exploit. This one also happens to take place at Alumni Stadium.

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Prediction: Boston College 38, Louisville 20

— Written by Mike Ferguson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and the editor of The Daily Nole. Like The Daily Nole on Facebook and follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.