The Boston College Eagles kick off their regular season this Saturday, diving headfirst into ACC play in a 4 p.m. matchup against Virginia Tech. With running back AJ Dillon and quarterback Anthony Brown returning, expectations are high for a team that showed plenty of promise early last season before fading down the stretch.
The Eagles have experienced somewhat of a rebirth over the past two seasons. Dillon’s hard-nosed running style, complemented by a tenacious defense, has given the team an old-school, ground-and-pound identity. After years in the ACC cellar, the Eagles started last season 7-2 and vaulted into the AP Top 25, only to fall off down the stretch en route to a 7-5 record.
However, there is reason to believe that this year could be different. Dillon, the heart and soul of the offense, is entering the season in good health after battling ankle injuries all throughout last year, while Brown’s experience should serve the passing game well.
While both offensive line Chris Lindstrom and tight end Tommy Sweeney will be sizeable losses, an offensive line headlined by Alec Lindstrom, Tyler Vrabel, and Ben Petrula should do a fantastic job of protecting Brown and opening up running lanes for Dillon.
Perhaps the biggest strength of the roster, however, is the offensive skill position group. Starting wideouts Ben Glines and Kobay White bring plenty of experience to the table, and a backfield which includes Travis Levy and David Bailey should alleviate Dillon’s burden.
The defense, on the other hand, is riddled with question marks. After losing marquee players like Zach Allen, Lukas Denis, and Will Harris to the NFL, Boston College will have to hope that young players can emerge to anchor both the pass rush and secondary. Meanwhile, defensive tackle Tanner Karafa, recently named the Eagles’ defensive captain, will be tasked with upholding the strong reputation that the front four has maintained over recent years.
Starting cornerbacks Tate Haynes and Brandon Sebastian will see a vastly increased workload, while safeties Medhi El Attrach and Mike Palmer are unknown commodities, having been stuck behind the talented duo of Denis and Harris for years. Their play will likely determine just how serious of a threat the Eagles can be to the ACC’s elite teams.
A fast start will be essential for an Eagles team, whose final five games look to be exceedingly difficult. A win on Saturday against Virginia Tech could set the tone for the early part of the season, as consecutive tilts with Richmond, Kansas, and Rutgers should all see the Eagles favored.
The next three games all look like toss-ups, as ACC play continues against Wake Forest, Louisville, and NC State. With road trips to No. 1 Clemson, No. 22 Syracuse, No. 9 Notre Dame, and Pittsburgh on the horizon shortly thereafter, Boston College will need to capitalize against the conference’s middling teams. Even a home tilt against unranked Florida State, sandwiched between the Syracuse and Notre Dame games, looks difficult.
It is difficult to forecast just how well the Eagles may perform over such a daunting final stretch, with the early contributions of newly-minted starters likely serving as a barometer for the Eagles’ ACC prospects. With a talented back like AJ Dillon leading the charge, this team’s ceiling looks to be higher than ever. However, the loss of key starters looms large, and the roster’s fringe players will likely make all the difference.
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