Saturday's meeting between the Boston College Eagles and the Missouri Tigers will be plenty impactful — not only in the short-term but also in updating some of the history books in Chestnut Hill. The matchup will mark the first time these two historic programs have squared off on the gridiron, and it will also serve as Boston College's first game against an SEC opponent in 13 years (loss to Vanderbilt in 2008 Music City Bowl) and the Eagles' first time hosting an SEC foe since taking down then-No. 13 Tennessee in 1987.
Missouri hasn't had the smoothest of starts to the 2021 college football campaign, winning both of its first two non-conference home games — though its 10-point win over Central Michigan wasn't exactly a major confidence boost — and coming up a touchdown short at Kentucky two weeks ago.
Boston College, meanwhile, can secure its first 4-0 start to a season in more than a decade, most recently doing so in 2007 when Jeff Jagodzinski, Matt Ryan, and the Eagles opened with eight straight wins — seven of the eight by double digits — en route to an 11-3 season and a Champs Sports Bowl win over Michigan State.
Missouri at Boston College
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 25 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Missouri -1.5
When Missouri Has the Ball
Driving the Tigers' stretch of three straight games with four or more touchdowns — most recently contributing to a 59-point output last week against Southeast Missouri State — has largely been quarterback Connor Bazelak and Missouri's passing offense. The redshirt sophomore enters with top-three marks among SEC signal-callers with 299 yards passing and three passing touchdowns per game. He also has thrown just one interception, the only turnover which the Tigers have lost so far this season.
Bazelak has done quite well to spread the ball around in the early going. At least nine Tigers have caught a pass in each of the first three games, with running back Tyler Badie (10 rec., 88 yds., 1 TD in Week 2 at Kentucky) the only Tiger to post double-digit receptions in a game so far in 2021. Badie has also made his presence felt quite noticeably on the ground, standing atop the SEC and sixth in the FBS with 164 all-purpose yards per game. He has notched three rushing and receiving touchdowns each, which ties him with LSU's Kayshon Boutte for the SEC lead in total scores.
The Tigers will certainly have their work cut out for them on Saturday, though, as Boston College boasts the nation's fifth-best scoring defense with just 10.3 points allowed per game, trailing only Clemson — the Eagles' opponent next week — for the ACC lead. They also have kept their first three opponents to an average of just under 257 total yards, with Syracuse the only ACC team possessing a better per-game mark.
When Boston College Has the Ball
It's not uncommon to hear coaches say that they strive for a balance on offense between the run and the pass. Boston College has done a pretty strong job of that to begin the 2021 season, passing for a per-game average of just over 209 yards and rushing for 202 more across its first three games. That balance will be plenty necessary in the weeks to come as quarterback Phil Jurkovec missed last week's win over Temple with a hand injury (suffered against UMass) that could sideline him for the remainder of the season.
Dennis Grosel completed just five of his 13 passes against the Owls for a minuscule 34 yards, along with a touchdown and an interception. The ground game carried the load with 187 yards rushing, paced by Pat Garwo III's 16 carries for 49 yards and a touchdown, followed closely by Grosel's 47 yards and a touchdown on five carries. Travis Levy hasn't led the team in rushing yet this season but has rushed for a touchdown in each of the first three games, someone to keep an eye on in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
The Eagles' increasingly run-focused trend is hardly good news for the Tigers, who have allowed 332 and 294 yards on the ground in their last two games against Kentucky and Southeast Missouri State, respectively. Even after keeping Central Michigan to only 174 yards rushing in the season opener, the 267.3 yards rushing per game that Missouri has given up this season is by far the worst in the SEC — Vanderbilt, the second-worst run defense, is more than 70 yards per game better — and the fifth-worst total in the FBS.
Missouri's offense has proven very capable in the early going, entering as one of just four SEC teams to average at least 500 total yards per game thus far and the only SEC offense with 10 or more red-zone trips and either a touchdown or field goal on all of them. Boston College has played extremely well defensively, though, and the potential for the Eagles to take a 4-0 record into next weekend's showdown with Clemson should produce plenty of intrigue in Chestnut Hill.
Prediction: Boston College 27, Missouri 23
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— Written by Juan Jose Rodriguez, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a 2019 graduate of the University of Notre Dame. Rodriguez was an intern for Athlon during summer 2017 and worked for a variety of media outlets on campus, including as the Editor-in-Chief of Scholastic Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @JuanJoseRG02.