This season has gotten off to a nice start for both the Boston College Eagles and Wake Forest Demon Deacons, and each will look to continue to keep the good times going when they meet Saturday afternoon.
Boston College defeated Northern Illinois, 23-20, on the road last Friday night, for its fifth straight win going back to last year, while Wake Forest rolled past FCS foe Presbyterian, 51-7, at home last Saturday.
But in the first Atlantic Coast Conference game of the year for each team, these two are about to find out a lot more about what each can accomplish in 2017.
Both are in the same rung in the ACC's Atlantic Division below Florida State, Clemson and Louisville. Neither is expected to break through and beat one of those three programs, so a win this week is critical when it comes to hopes for bowl eligibility and beyond.
Wake Forest at Boston College
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 9 at 1 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ACC Network
Spread: Boston College -1.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Tempo time
Although Boston College first broke it out a little against the Maryland Terrapins in last year's Quick Lane Bowl, the Eagles really let the fast-pace look on offense flourish against Northern Illinois. They ran 92 plays, the most by a BC team since joining the ACC in 2005. It worked with varying degrees of success, as starting running back Jon Hilliman only rushed for 58 yards on 25 carries. But the passing game showed promise (more on that later), and the Eagles were 4-for-4 on red zone trips. Wake Forest does not pick the pace up to that degree, but its defense can play a role in controlling the game if the Demon Deacons force three-and-outs. One player who could be a key disruptor in BC's offensive plans is Wake Forest defensive tackle Duke Ejiofor. Against Presbyterian, he lived in the backfield with three tackles for a loss and a sack.
2. Fabulous freshmen
Both teams saw breakout performances from redshirt freshmen wide receivers. For Boston College, Kobay White caught six passes for 76 yards in his first action with the team, while the Demon Deacons received a standout performance from redshirt freshman Greg Dortch, who had four receptions for 55 yards and two touchdowns. Each player brings a bit of big-play potential to the offense. White led the Eagles with four plays of at least 15 yards and totaled 104 all-purpose yards, while Dortch's 42-yard touchdown catch was the team's longest reception of the game and second-longest play from scrimmage on the afternoon. For two offenses that don't have the same quick-strike ability as the rest of the teams in the conference, it will be interesting to see if either White or Dortch can develop those qualities for their respective offenses.
3. The veteran and the kid
The Demon Deacons know what they have in quarterback John Wolford. A senior, he has started 34 games in his time at Wake and has a firm grasp of head coach Dave Clawson's offense. He completed 11-of-15 passes for 107 yards and three touchdowns in less than a half of work last Saturday, but only hit 16-of-33 passes for 137 yards along with a pair of touchdowns and interceptions in a loss to the Eagles a year ago. The Eagles should again be a stern test for Wolford. On the other side, Boston College will trot out redshirt freshman Anthony Brown, who won the job in camp over Darius Wade. Brown had his ups and downs against Northern Illinois, completing 26-of-42 passes for 191 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, but played with enough poise to contribute to the victory and become the first starting freshman quarterback to win a road opener in program history. Wake will offer a bigger challenge, but Brown should take another step forward with a game under his belt.
It's hard to know exactly how good Wake Forest is after a win over an FCS school like Presbyterian. Although Northern Illinois isn't exactly Clemson, either, the Huskies were at home and are a perennial contender in the MAC, so Boston College had the tougher hurdle. The difference may come down to how each offensive line can establish itself throughout the course of the game. Although BC's experienced front five did not hold up that well against Northern Illinois, it will be tough for Wake's line to do much better against Eagles defensive end Harold Landry and Co. Look for a tight, low-scoring game, but head coach Steve Addazio should lead his team to a sixth straight victory overall and its first of the year in ACC play.
Prediction: Boston College 20, Wake Forest 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.