While this may not be the sexiest matchup of the college football bowl season, it carries a good bit of weight for each team as the two put a bow on their 2016 campaigns.
For Boston College, the Eagles had to deal all season with the possibility that an extra loss here or there could result in the firing of head coach Steve Addazio. After posting a winless record in ACC play in 2015, Addazio came into this season on the hot seat.
But with a couple of late wins in conference and a 17-14 triumph over Wake Forest in the last game of the regular season, it appears that Addazio just may have saved his job with a 6-6 record.
No, the progress Addazio and Co. made over the course of the season was not earth-shattering, as the Eagles had blowout losses to the best opponents on their schedule (Virginia Tech, Clemson, Louisville and Florida State all beat Boston College by 38 or more points). However, in Addazio's fourth season at The Heights, he has now brought the program to three bowl games, so the chance to finish on a high note is significant for what has no doubt been a trying year for him, his staff and his players.
The Terrapins also come into this game with a 6-6 record following a 3-8 season the previous year, but the trajectory and overall feeling in the program is a bit different.
DJ Durkin, in his first year as Maryland's head coach, came over from his position as Michigan's defensive coordinator and proved that there may be some reason for optimism in the wake of the failed Randy Edsall era, which ended after he began last year with a 2-4 record and 0-2 mark in Big Ten play.
The Terps started this season hot, winning their first four games and five of their first seven. The rebuild process obviously hit its inevitable wall late in the season with blowout losses to two of the best teams in the country in Michigan and Ohio State, but the Terps generally beat who they were supposed to and survived perhaps the best division in college football to make a bowl.
If Durkin and Co. beat Boston College, the Terps can feel even better about turning around a program that, like its counterpart, is looking up toward some pretty daunting teams in its division every year.
Quick Lane Bowl: Maryland vs. Boston College (Detroit)
Kickoff: Monday, Dec. 26, 2:30 p.m. ET
Where: Ford Field (Detroit)
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Maryland -1
Three Things to Watch
1. Ground and pound
This will not be a wide-open, 7-on-7 type of shootout. Both of these teams make a living on running the football; and the matchup on both sides will be interesting to see play out. For the Terps, they have a bit of an underrated attack in this regard, ranking 40th in the country — just behind Florida State and ahead of teams like Wisconsin and Tennessee. The Terps have suffered some injuries in the backfield, but leading rusher Ty Johnson, who has gained 845 yards at nearly nine yards per carry, is a capable weapon. He will be going up against a Boston College defense that is ranked eighth in the nation against the run. Like Maryland, the Eagles have battled through some injuries in the front seven, but linebackers like Connor Strachan and Matt Milano have combined for 125 tackles, including 19.5 for a loss, and made life difficult for opposing backs all year. The Eagles have at times really struggled to move the ball on the ground, as they rank 100th in rushing offense this season. But, really, the offense in general has been poor for them this season, and if they can find a way to get running back Jon Hilliman going, they'll be in better shape. And despite Boston College’s struggles on the ground, it's possible the Eagle find some success against Maryland's run defense, which at 101st in the nation, has been porous this year.
2. Making connections
Neither passing game is all that much to write home about because it's not really the focus. However, in a game where the rushing attacks could cancel each other out, whichever team throws the ball better could come out on top. Maryland's Perry Hills has been solid, if unspectacular, for the Terps this season. After battling through injuries to both shoulders late in the season, he finished the year completing 66 percent of his passes with 10 touchdowns to three interceptions. That is a bit of a step up from what Boston College quarterback Patrick Towles has been able to accomplish, as the graduate transfer from Kentucky is completing just 51 percent of his throws. However, each player presents a bit of a threat to run, adding an element of dual-threat ability to the position.
In a game that figures to be close throughout, one big sack can swing momentum, stop a drive or force a turnover, and each team has a disruptive pass rusher. Boston College’s Harold Landry already has 15 sacks this season, and the defensive end has boosted his draft stock to the point where some feel the junior should declare early. For Maryland, junior defensive lineman Jesse Aniebonam has nine sacks on the year. Neither team is expected to live by the pass, but when they do, expect all eyes to be on either Landry or Aniebonam.
This game is far from a marquee matchup, and with it taking place in Detroit and neither school being all that close to Ford Field, don't expect a great atmosphere, either. Still, both teams would desperately love to finish over .500. Look for a low-scoring, defensive struggle. Neither team has the greatest offense, but Maryland's passing game is more efficient and should have enough to push the Terrapins over the top.
Prediction: Maryland 17, Boston College 16
— 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.