Neither Virginia Tech nor Boston College has had a memorable season so far. The Hokies' high hopes generated by their victory over North Carolina to open the year were quickly washed away with four losses in five games. For Boston College, things went south when star quarterback Phil Jurkovec suffered a season-ending wrist injury. The Eagles managed to get to 4-0 with Dennis Grosel taking snaps, but BC stumbled to a 0-4 record in October, all losses to ACC teams.
November allows for a fresh start for the 4-4 teams as they meet up in Chestnut Hill on Friday night. The former Big East rivals are divisional crossover opponents in the ACC and play each other every year. Virginia Tech has a 19-10 series advantage and won 40-14 in Blacksburg last year.
Virginia Tech at Boston College
Kickoff: Friday, Nov. 5 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Virginia Tech -3
When Virginia Tech Has the Ball
There have been some encouraging signs for the Hokies over the past two weeks. The running game, which was stagnant for much of 2021, exploded for 501 yards in the games against Syracuse and Georgia Tech. That ascension coincides with Malachi Thomas playing a larger role in the offense. The freshman running back rushed for 151 yards against the Cuse and followed that up with a 103-yard effort in Atlanta. Thomas got help on Saturday from Raheem Blackshear, who chipped in with 83 yards of his own.
The progression of the running game has also led to a more efficient Braxton Burmeister. The Hokie quarterback had his best game of the year versus the Yellow Jackets, connecting on 15 of 25 for 254 yards and two touchdowns, 187 of those yards going to Tré Turner. Though Boston College will have plenty of eyes on Turner and fellow wideout Tayvion Robinson, the rushing surge will help keep the Eagle defense honest.
And as for that Boston College rush defense, it's trending in the wrong direction in a big way. The past two weeks, Louisville and Syracuse combined to throw just 31 passes because they didn't need to put the ball in the air. The two schools combined to rush 94 times for 624 yards and six touchdowns against the Eagles. In five of their first six games, with Clemson's 231 rushing yards being the exception, BC held their opponents to 130 rushing yards or fewer. Granted, the Boston College front generated a lot of pressure on Syracuse's few pass attempts, and much of the rushing yards came on a few big chunk runs by Sean Tucker. But Thomas and Blackshear are capable of hitting home runs, and the Eagles can't allow that to happen. One other aspect to watch is how BC contains the quarterback run. Burmeister can move, and Louisville's Malik Cunningham and Syracuse's Garrett Shrader hurt Boston College with their legs.
When Boston College Has the Ball
In Boston College's four straight losses, Grosel has not been good. On Saturday, head coach Jeff Hafley decided to rotate in freshman Emmett Morehead, and that didn't work out very well, either. Morehead was 6-of-15 for 87 yards and, at times, seemed confused, which is hardly surprising for someone playing his first collegiate game. It didn't help that the heralded offensive line failed to give the quarterbacks adequate time to throw. Left tackle Tyler Vrabel's knee injury certainly isn't helping matters, but the line needs play at a much higher level.
It is too bad that the quarterback and offensive line issues are holding this offense back because the Eagles have two stars on this side of the ball in receiver Zay Flowers and running back Pat Garwo III. Despite the shuffling at QB, Flowers has 35 receptions for 511 yards on the year and had six for 116 last Saturday. Garwo has 689 rushing yards on the year (fourth in the ACC) and has been a consistent presence in this offense.
Garwo should get plenty of carries against a Virginia Tech defense that is 12th in the ACC against the run. With an active defensive line and Jermaine Waller at corner, defending the pass has been a strength, but six consecutive opponents have been successful on the ground versus the Hokies. Last week, Georgia Tech ran for 183 yards with Jahmyr Gibbs totaling 113. This week, Virginia Tech should sell out to stop Garwo considering how uninspiring the BC passing game has been.
When analyzing these two backsliding teams, matchups are critical. Virginia Tech has been running the ball very well the past few weeks, and Boston College allowed big rushing totals in the last two games. The Eagle defense has also been susceptible to the quarterback run, and Burmeister has plenty of speed. On the other side of the ball, Boston College can also churn out yards on the ground, but their passing game has been a mess since Jurkovec went down. Garwo will get some yardage, but Tech will force enough third and longs to make life uncomfortable for the BC offense. The Hokies will go to BC and grab their second straight road victory and move to 5-4 on the season.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 30, Boston College 17
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— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.