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Louisville Cardinals vs. Boston College Eagles Preview and Prediction

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Phew.

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That has to be the prevailing sentiment for head coach Bobby Petrino's Louisville team after the Cardinals pulled out a last-minute, 32-25 win over Virginia last weekend. It was the type of game where the team's College Football Playoff chances flashed right before its eyes until quarterback Lamar Jackson found Jaylen Smith on a 29-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds remaining.

Simply put, the Cardinals (7-1, 5-1 ACC) were lucky to come away victorious, and they can't avoid another slip-up, as their earlier loss to Clemson has them on the outside looking in.

This week, as they travel to face Boston College at Chestnut Hill's Alumni Stadium, the Cardinals will be going up against a team that just earned its first ACC win since 2014, breaking a 12-game conference losing streak with a 21-14 victory at NC State last Saturday.

The Eagles, once believed to be bound for the Atlantic Division basement, now have new life, and at 4-4 and 1-4 in the league need two wins to earn bowl eligibility and perhaps save head coach Steve Addazio's job.

In other words, these are two teams with still plenty to play for. Louisville has to keep winning and do so in more impressive fashion to keep the attention of the playoff selection committee, while Boston College has to find a way to build on last week's momentum

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Louisville at Boston College

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 5 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: Louisville -24.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Back on the Fields
One of the reasons for Louisville's less-than-dominant showing against Virginia was a lack of a pass rush. The Cardinals had just one sack in that game and only three in the past four contests after putting up 15 in the first four games of the season. That's clearly not the type of production this defensive front needs going forward, but a big factor in that drop-off has been the loss of outside linebacker Devonte Fields to an undisclosed injury. The 6-foot-4, 242-pound Fields left the NC State game in the first quarter and didn't play last weekend against Virginia. Fields has just two sacks on the season but is still considered one of the top pass rushers in the conference and his return would mark a major boost for his team.

2. Heisman watch
Right now, Jackson is the leader in the race for the Heisman Trophy and no one else is all that close behind him. Even though the Cardinals didn't dominate the Cavaliers last weekend, Jackson still completed 24-of-41 passes for 361 yards, four touchdowns and an interception while adding 88 rushing yards. Top that off with the game-winning touchdown pass in the waning moments, and there's another Heisman moment for a player who has been simply sensational this season. This week, he will be going up against a defense that has at times struggled against the likes of Clemson and Virginia Tech, but otherwise been strong, particularly against the run. The Eagles come into the game with the seventh-ranked defense in the nation in yards allowed per game and fourth in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game.

3. Towles time
Although he won't be confused with Jackson anytime soon, Boston College quarterback Patrick Towles is integral to the Eagles' success in this game. After suffering a hamstring injury against Syracuse the previous weekend, he was basically a game-time decision against the Wolfpack. He played, and even though he didn't exactly light it up, Towles did just enough to put his team in a position to win. For the game, Towles completed 18-of-33 passes for 204 yards and an interception, enough to give the Eagles adequate balance for a rushing attack that produced 168 yards and a touchdown on 44 carries (3.8 average). Towles looks good to go against the Cardinals, and while this will again be one of the more challenging defenses he faces this season, his presence alone gives the offense the best chance to succeed against it.

Final Analysis

The Eagles finally have a little mojo going in their favor, but it probably won't be enough to overcome what the Cardinals bring to the table, as it is unlikely that Lamar Jackson and Co. have another game come down to the wire. It's possible that the Boston College defense keeps the Eagles in the game early on, but Louisville should pull away for a comfortable victory.

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Prediction: Louisville 42, Boston College 17

— 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.