The Virginia Tech Hokies open up the ACC portion of the schedule this Saturday when they host the Boston College Eagles. Tech won last year’s meeting, 26-10, however, the Eagles won the previous two meetings.
Both teams are 1-1 on the season, with BC losing in Week 1 to Georgia Tech, but rebounding last week with a 26-7 victory over UMass.
Much like in past years, the Eagles win with defense. Boston College enters Week 3 ranked No. 3 in total defense, allowing just 180 yards per game. BC is especially tough on opponent’s running games, giving up only 48 yards per game. Opponents are averaging 1.25 yards per attempt.
Those are terrific numbers, especially considering Georgia Tech runs the triple option and Boston College held the Yellow Jackets to 119 rushing yards on 44 attempts.
Last week against UMass, the Eagles were down 7-0 after the first quarter and it looked like another disappointing offensive output. Fortunately for Boston College, things changed for the better in the second quarter. Quarterback Patrick Towles found wide receiver Jeff Smith—a former quarterback—for two long touchdown strikes and suddenly the Eagles were an offensive juggernaut.
Well, not really.
BC did go on to finish with 344 total yards, an impressive number for a team that’s struggled to put together a competent offense in recent years. Towles led the Eagles with 66 rushing yards, while also completing 12 of 22 passes for 191 yards and the two scores. He turned the ball over once.
A big key for Boston College on offense is running back Jon Hilliman. The 6’0, 229-pound sophomore is a tough inside runner than can wear down opposing defenses. Hilliman breaks tackles with ease and gets better as the game wears on. His overall numbers weren’t impressive last week, but he finished with 102 yards in the season opener against GT.
There will be some familiarity on Boston College’s sideline this week when it makes the trip to Blacksburg. Scot Loeffler is in his first year as the Eagles’ offensive coordinator. If that name rings a bell—or you’ve tried to forget—it’s because Loeffler was Virginia Tech’s offensive coordinator from 2013-15.
Those were some dark years for the Hokies on offense. Despite having some talent on offense, Tech struggled with mediocre to below-average quarterback play while Loeffler was OC and QB coach. One of the biggest complaints Virginia Tech faithful had about Loeffler was his unimaginative and predictable offensive schemes.
Defensive coordinator Bud Foster has to be licking his chops at the potential of this matchup. Foster’s units are always among the best in the country and Loeffler is no match for him. Not to mention, Foster will be a bit ticked over last week’s loss to Tennessee.
One player to watch for Boston College is junior linebacker Connor Strachan. So far this season, Strachan has 14 tackles, including 6 1⁄2 for loss and 2 1⁄2 sacks. He looks like the next great BC inside linebacker. Strachan understands the defense, makes all the calls and possesses incredible instincts. He is always around the football and VT’s offensive line will need to get a hat on him on every snap.
Oh, BC linebacker Connor Strachan leads the nation in tackles for loss. That's nice.— Pete B. (@PsychoPeteB) September 13, 2016
This should be a fascinating matchup and present quite the challenge for new Hokie head coach Justin Fuente. The Hokies like to play fast, while the Eagles will want to slow things down and make Virginia Tech impatient on offense.
One thing is for sure, Boston College will come out and hit the Hokies in the mouth. If Tech can withstand BC’s initial flurry, the Hokies should be just fine.