The Frank Spaziani Era ended in ugly fashion with a 2-10 record for Boston College in 2012, but Steve Addazio appears to have the program back on track with back-to-back 7-6 records and bowl appearances. What can we expect from the Eagles in 2015?
Boston College seemed to play its best football against the best teams a season ago. The Eagles upset No. 8 USC 37-31 on Sept. 13 as quarterback Tyler Murphy rushed for 191 yards, including a 66-yard touchdown with 3:30 to play to help clinch it. Jon Hilliman ran for 89 yards and two touchdowns as the Eagles totaled a whopping 452 yards on the ground. It was BC's first win over a Top-10 team since beating West Virginia in 2004.
No. 24 Clemson visited on Oct. 18 and escaped with a 17-13 win. Late in the game and obviously needing a touchdown to win, thanks to an earlier missed extra point, BC drove to the Clemson 29 and faced a fourth-and-1. Murphy found an open Tyler Rouse streaking for the end zone but Rouse couldn't quite hang on. Clemson took over and ran out the clock. BC was held to just 120 yards rushing after entering the game averaging 315 per game.
And the final ranked team that Boston College played was No. 3 Florida State in Tallahassee on Nov. 22. The Eagles nearly ended FSU's shot at the College Football Playoff but came up short, 20-17, as Roberto Aguayo, the nation's top kicker, hit a 26-yard field goal with three seconds left. BC had missed a 43-yard kick with 4:37 remaining.
Boston College was very one-dimensional last season, ranking 15th in the nation in running yards at 254.0 yards per game but just 124th in passing at 129.3 yards per game. Quarterback Tyler Murphy, a transfer from Florida, broke the ACC single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 1,184; the previous mark was 1,061 by Clemson's Woodrow Dantzler's 1,061 in 2001. Murphy, who added 11 rushing scores, shattered the BC career quarterback career rushing record. Murphy also completed 131 of 230 passes for 1,623 yards with 13 touchdowns. Hilliman had a strong season with 210 carries for 860 yards and 13 scores. Only one Power 5 conference team, Georgia Tech, ran the ball more per game than Boston College (48.8 attempts per game) did. BC's leading receiver was Josh Bordner and he had only 27 catches for 346 yards.
Lot Of Experience To Replace
The Eagles bring back just nine starters, the fewest in the conference. The biggest loss is Murphy, but the entire offensive line must be replaced as well. Addazio says the team will pass more under sophomore quarterback Darius Wade, a strong-armed lefty, but clearly Hilliman will be the centerpiece. Myles Willis (88 carries, 459 yards, two TDs) also will get his touches. In Addazio’s four seasons as a head coach, including two at Temple, his offenses have attempted 2,262 running plays compared to 930 passing plays. Wade got into two games last season -- Maine and Louisville -- and completed 3-for-8 for 23 yards while rushing twice for 12 yards. He's obviously nowhere near the runner Murphy was but a much better passer.
With Bordner also gone, it was expected that receiver-turned-tight end Dan Crimmins was going to be Wade's top target but he's no longer with the team for non-football reasons. Last season, Crimmins was second on the team in receptions (25) and receiving yards (305). Offensive coordinator Ryan Day left for the Philadelphia Eagles and has been replaced by Todd Fitch, who was BC's wide receivers coach.
Five starters are back on a defense that was No. 2 in the nation against the run in 2014, allowing 94.5 yards per game. Nose tackle Connor Wujciak, a fifth-year senior, and linebacker Steven Daniels (72 tackles), a senior, should keep the Eagles strong up the middle. Junior end Kevin Kavalec is back and had 10½ tackles for loss last year. The secondary is a major question mark. BC allowed seven teams to throw for 250-plus yards a season ago. Justin Simmons is the only guy there with significant experience.
As for the schedule, Boston College will be 2-0 when it hosts Florida State on Sept. 18 (Friday night ESPN game) as the Eagles open with Maine and Howard. BC is an opening 28-point favorite against the Black Bears but 14-point underdogs against the Seminoles. Northern Illinois follows FSU in a potential trap game for the Eagles as NIU is the top program in the Mid-American Conference.
ACC play begins Oct. 3 at Duke, which is a 7-point favorite. The schools didn't play last year. Wake Forest visits on Oct. 10, and BC will be favored there. The Eagles beat the Deacons 23-17 in 2014. So other than Florida State, the first half of the schedule is pretty easy. That all changes on Oct. 17 as BC visits Clemson, a team many feel is the best in the ACC. The rest of the schedule: at Louisville, vs. Virginia Tech, vs. NC State, vs. Notre Dame (Shamrock Series at Fenway Park) and at Syracuse. If there is a bright side to that schedule it's that Georgia Tech, the ACC Coastal Division favorite, isn't on it.
NCAAF Free Pick: Boston College is +2700 to win the Atlantic Division, +10000 to win the ACC title game and has a wins total of 6. The 'under' is a -115 favorite. I say BC goes 3-1 out of conference, losing to Notre Dame, and beats Wake Forest and Syracuse in conference. So that's a 5-7 record and no bowl game. Go 'under' the wins total with your college football picks.