2023 Preseason Opponent Preview: Boston College

When Boston College hired Jeff Hafley, there was excitement around the promising young coach. Unfortunately for Hafley, he has faced many challenges during his tenure so far. Year one was during the covid season, and in year 3, they had to deal with an absolute nightmare situation on the offensive line that would define much of their season last year.

BC tied its worst finish since 2015, going 3-9 in 2022 with four blowout losses by at least 28 points or more. However, as bad as it was, there’s reason to believe BC can have a turnaround season in what might be a make or break year for Hafley.

For starters, the offensive line situation has been remedied. Coach Hafley told me in an interview at ACC media days that they struggled to even conduct practice last year due to the depth issues on the offensive line. Now, where have we heard that before? Bless you, Alex Atkins!

The problems up front last season led BC to have one of the worst offenses in college football. They finished 126th of 131 teams in sacks allowed (46) and dead last in rushing offense, averaging only 64 YPG. They were 116th in success rate (36.4%) and 122nd in scoring offense at 17.8 PPG, down by 6.9 PPG from 2021. It also didn’t help they faced five top-25 defenses last year.

BC entered last year with only four combined starts up front after losing their lone returning starter to injury. In 2023, BC now returns 137 combined starts up front, which is tied for the 8th most in the country. They got former All-ACC guard Christian Mahogany back from injury. They also added a pair of transfers with 33 combined starts to solidify depth. This should be one of the country’s most improved offensive line units.

While BC loses multi-year starting QB Phil Jurkovec, they return Emmet Morehead (54.4 PFF), who started the last four games in 2022. With Jurkovec battling injury last season, Morehead played almost 43% of the snaps. He led BC to an upset victory over a ranked NC State team and had 250+ passing yards in 3 of his 4 final games. (Morehead went 3/6 for 35 yds and 1 td vs FSU) They also added UCF transfer Thomas Castellanos (80.4 PFF) to provide depth at QB. He is talented but lacks experience with only 61 career snaps.

The bad news for Morehead and the BC offense is they lost 2 of their top 3 receivers from last year, which accounted for 49.6% of their receiving yards. Their top returning pass catcher is TE George Takacs (45.3 PFF). Despite missing three games, he was still the third-leading receiver with only 256 yards. They did add UCF transfer Ryan O’Keefe (69.7 PFF), who has over 2,000 career receiving yards and 15 touchdowns. He should give the passing game a significant boost. Still, he’ll have to replace Zay Flowers, a first-team All-ACC receiver and first-round NFL draft pick.

With an improved OL unit, BC football will likely return to its roots as a run-heavy team, which Hafley emphasized at ACC Media days. They return starting RB Phil Garwo III (66.1 PFF), a 1k-yard rusher in 2021, but only managed 404 yards last season. They also bring back their second-leading rusher, Alex Broome, and add Kye Robichaux from Western Kentucky, who averaged 6.8 YPC in 2022.

If they can stay healthy, the offense should be better in 2023, even if it’s only up from the abysmal 2022 season. FSU only allowed 235 total yards against BC last year and should also be better on defense, so even with the improvement, I still expect the FSU defense to perform well in this game.

2023 Boston College Football Schedule

On defense, BC will be under the direction of a pair of 1st-year co-DCs. The Eagles’s defense was the stronger side of the ball last year, but things weren’t much better despite only facing one top-25 offense (FSU). BC finished 100th in scoring defense (30.3 PPG), 95th in Red Zone D, 101st in interceptions, and 71st in sacks.

The defensive line returns two starters, including 2nd team All-ACC DE Donovan Ezeiruaku. They get a former starter back from injury, Shitta Silllah, and have a few others with experience returning. However, they are losing 24 combined starts up front, including DE Marcus Valdez and DT Chibueze Onwuka, who were 2 of the 3 highest graded defensive players on the team, according to PFF.

Linebacker is an experienced group. Vinny DePalma, Kam Arnold, and Bryce Steele were 3 of the top 5 tacklers for BC last year and all return for 2023.

In the secondary, they lost a combined 33 starts, including both starting safeties who were multi-year starters for BC. CB Elijah Jones was tied for the most PBU’s in the ACC (13) but is the only returning starter in a secondary that lacks depth.

They have some veteran players on the defense, and Ezeirauku is a talented edge rusher, but BC lacks high-end pieces on the defense. Combine that with a rebuilding secondary and that could add up to a big day for the FSU offense, which faces the Eagles early in the season. FSU put up 530 yards and 38 offensive points last season on a defense that might take a step back in 2023.

On special teams, BC must replace their starting KR and PR. Kicker Conner Lytton was only 52.9% on FGs last season after hitting 91.7% the previous year.

BC was -12 in turnovers last season. Historically, teams with an abnormally high or low number of turnovers usually don’t repeat that number the following year. Phil Steele has data proving a team’s record tends to follow the corresponding change so that a lone is reason to believe they will be improved this year.

For 2023, BC needs to clean up the turnovers and missed FGs and find some offensive success behind a rebuilt OL. They will also benefit from a more manageable schedule, going from 26th to 70th in SOS rank.

What I don’t like about this game is it being on the road in BC’s “Red Bandana” game the week before a Blockbuster match-up against Clemson. However, being at noon should hamper the crowd factor, which is rare for BC, but they do show up to the red bandana game. That should also allow for FSU to get on an early flight home with a huge game to prepare for the following week.

The good thing about this game being in September is that cold weather shouldn’t be a factor. BC has only won 1 of the past 12 meetings vs. FSU. While BC could be improved enough to go bowling, FSU should easily make that 1 in 13. Thanks for reading! Go Noles!

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