Boston College Eagles: Gigantic opportunity vs Trevor Lawrence-less Clemson

CHESTNUT HILL, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 24: Players and coaches on the Boston College bench look on during the second half against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Alumni Stadium on October 24, 2020 in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)
CHESTNUT HILL, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 24: Players and coaches on the Boston College bench look on during the second half against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Alumni Stadium on October 24, 2020 in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images) /

The Boston College Eagles are back on the gridiron Saturday, needing a near-perfect game to pull off the upset over the nation’s top team Clemson Tigers.

High hopes are in place as the Boston College Eagles look to make things exciting this Halloween weekend. The top-ranked Clemson Tigers are on the agenda and, at the very least, this game should provide a good measuring stick for the progress made under first-year head coach Jeff Hafley.

And the Eagles (3-2, 4-2) will do so without having to face star Clemson (5-0, 6-0) quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

It was announced on Thursday that Lawrence tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss Saturday’s game. Lawrence has passed for 1,833 yards with 17 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions so far in 2020.

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Boston College — even without Clemson having Lawrence at them helm — faces a tall task as they look to pull off the upset. Clemson’s closest game was an 18-point victory against Virginia and, in averaging 48.2 points per game, has failed to score at least 40 points only once.

The Eagles and the Tigers share only one common opponent so far in 2020, with both teams defeating Georgia Tech.

Sure, Clemson won by a score of 73-7 but Boston College wasn’t too shabby themselves in a 48-27 win over the Yellow Jackets.

To snap a nine-game losing streak against Clemson, a lot is needed to go right for the Eagles, starting with a flawless game from the offense.

Boston College Eagles must establish the ground game

Trouble, with a capital ‘t’, in getting the rushing attack going was the case for Boston College in the season’s first five games.

Then the Georgia Tech game happened.

The Eagles racked up 264 rushing yards after entering that game averaging less than 70. David Bailey scored twice on the ground and Zay Flowers added one as the Eagles had their way with Georgia Tech. Bailey had 85 yards on 13 carries and Flowers had 36 on 3 carries as the Eagles averaged six yards per carry.

However, it was quarterback Phil Jurkovec who led the way with 91 yards. Travis Levy also chipped in 19 carries for 60 yards.

The run game will need a top-end performance, if only to help eat up the clock and keep the ball out of the hands of Clemson’s offense. The Tigers allow just over 105 yards per game on the ground so there should be ample opportunities to make some nice runs.

The Boston College Eagles will be without running back Pat Garwo III, who also sat out last week’s victory.

Continued success in the air

The ground game has had its struggles in 2020, but the passing game is enjoying a renaissance thanks to Phil Jurkovec, Zay Flowers, and Hunter Long.

Jurkovec has thrown for 1,671 yards in 2020, four times throwing for 300 yards or more. He’s completed 62.5 percent of his passes, tossing 12 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.

Zay Flowers, meanwhile, is enjoying a career season. He is second on the team in receptions (29) and first in yards (473) while hauling in four touchdowns . Long, one of the nation’s top tight ends, leads in receptions (38) and is second in yards (455).

Spreading the ball around will again be a focus for the Boston College Eagles. The last two games have seen both CJ Lewis (4 rec, 58 yards, 2 td vs Georgia Tech) and Jaelen Gill (6 rec, 104 yds, 1 td vs Virginia Tech) step up.

There will be opportunities through the air, as Clemson gives up 274.7 passing yards per game. This is partly due to their opposition trying to play catch up but Boston College has the arsenal to put up some points against Clemson (who is only allowing 13.5 points per game).

Bailey and Levy should also factor heavily into the passing game. The two have combined for 26 receptions and this bodes well if the running game again struggles.

More bend, no break on ‘D’

In an ideal world, the Boston College Eagles defense will completely shut down the Clemson Tigers.

Given they way they’ve played in 2020, I’ll settle for keeping the Tigers out of the end zone even if they are gaining chunks of yards.

That’s been how most of the games have played out for Boston College. Even without Lawrence, Clemson still brings a star in running back Travis Etienne.

Etienne, also a first-round NFL talent, has 522 yards and 8 touchdowns, averaging 6.3 yards per carry. He is also a threat in the passing game and is second on the team with 22 receptions.

Backup quarterback DJ Uiagalelei will take over the reins for Clemson. He’s only thrown 17 collegiate passes but has plenty of weapons to go around. Amari Rodgers tops this list and also tops the Tigers with 33 receptions, 520 yards, and 5 touchdowns.

Boston College’s defense has been aggressive in 2020, with the result of 11 turnovers and 16 sacks. Forcing the freshman Uiagalelei into some early miscues could be huge for this team. The trick, of course, is to balance the aggressiveness with smart play.

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To be giant killers on this haunted weekend is not out of the realm of possibility. The Boston College Eagles have the talent and have been looking for the perfect game in all three aspects of the game all season.

This weekend will need exactly that. And perhaps a little Halloween magic to boot.