WHO: Virginia Tech Hokies
WHERE: Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, Mass.
WHEN: 7:15 p.m., EST, ESPN2
LAST TIME THEY PLAYED: The last time Boston College football took on the Hokies was the worst defeat in Steve Addazio's career on the Heights, and the worst loss for BC since 1951. The Eagles were routed by Virginia Tech, 49-0, at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va. At no point in that game were the Eagles competitive with the Hokies. Patrick Towles threw for a pitiful 80 yards on 9 of 28 passing, with one interception. The Eagles only had a total of 44 rushing yards--Jonathan Hilliman had a net two yards on 10 carries. VT quarterback Jerod Evans threw five touchdowns for 253 yards, 16-of-23 passing, as the Hokies took constant advantage of BC's short fields.
THE RUNDOWN ON THE HOKIES: Ranked No. 16 in the nation, the Hokies are searching for their first ACC win behind quarterback Josh Jackson. They're expected to be the runaway winners in the Coastal, and easily swept through their nonconference--three were against pushovers Delaware, East Carolina, and Old Dominion, and one against then-No. 22 West Virginia. But they were not competitive against No. 2 Clemson in last Saturday's primetime game at home, a 31-17 loss. Jackson has worked flawlessly in head coach Justin Fuente's offense, showing off his efficiency--he's completed 65.4 percent of his passes with 12 touchdowns. He also has strong legs, and has already run for over 100 yards this season once. Led by Travon McMillian, the Hokies' junior running back, Virginia Tech rotates four different backs, each of whom have over 133 yards this season. Jackson's primary weapon is Cam Phillips, who enters play third in the nation with 597 receiving yards. Similarly, under defensive coordinator Bud Foster, the Hokies remain stout defensively. They rank 29th in the country allowing only 3.23 yards per carry, with a strong linebacking corps. In the secondary, Virginia Tech has a strong man coverage unit built on aggression. And, on third down, the Hokies only allow the chains to move 26.8 percent of the time, 13th in the country.
THE EAGLES WIN IF... They control VT's aerial game, and break the third down trends. With their strong secondary, the Eagles are 12th in the nation in passing yards per game, allowing just 154 in each contest. But they're an absolutely atrocious 124th in rushing defense, with 259 allowed per game. If BC can shut down Phillips, it'll likely be able to force Jackson to run with the ball, or with one of Virginia Tech's backs. And if the Eagles can get that one dimensional style of offense out of the Hokies, they should be able to take advantage and shut down the run when they know it's coming. And, on third down, the Eagles must be efficient against this great Virginia Tech defense. Thus far this year, BC only converts on 33.7 percent of its third downs, 104th in the nation.
THE EAGLES LOSE IF... Anthony Brown is still hurting and Jackson breaks free. It's been well documented that the Eagles have had trouble with running quarterbacks this season. There's little reason to think Jackson might be an exception to that if BC can't force the Hokies offense to be purely one dimensional. More importantly, however, the Eagles will have to score some points. Last season, Addazio limited Brown because of shoulder problems that prevented him from getting even mid-range passes out. If Brown can't do that today, the Eagles will end up running only, especially on third downs, against a team that's blistering against the run.
Virginia Tech 36, Boston College 14.