Previewing 2020 Football: At Virginia
Sports, Football

Previewing 2020 Football: At Virginia

Who is BC playing?

Virginia

When is BC playing?

Saturday, Dec. 5, 3:30 p.m.

Where is BC playing?

Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, Virginia

How to Watch:

The game will be broadcast on ACC regional sports networks across the country, including NESN in Boston.

How to Listen:

The audio broadcast of the game will be available on BC Learfield IMG Sports Network (WEEI 93.7 FM).

Series History:

The last time Boston College faced Virginia, former BC running back AJ Dillon made his debut. This year, the Eagles (6-4, 5-4 Atlantic Coast) will face the Cavaliers (4-4, 3-4) in BC’s final game of the season. BC has faced Virginia six times, four of which were after the Eagles joined the ACC in 2005. In all six matchups, BC came away with a win for a perfect 6-0 all-time record. 

The two teams first met in 1930, when the Eagles beat the Cavaliers 30-21. Their last meeting was in 2017, when BC beat Virginia 41-10 in a game it was projected to lose. This year, the Cavaliers are four-point favorites due to their home-field advantage and Phil Jurkovec’s leg injury on Saturday, though the BC quarterback’s x-ray came back negative.

Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall has faced the Eagles three times in his career. BC beat BYU in 2005 and 2006 during Mendenhall’s first two years as the Cougars’ head coach. Mendenhall’s only game against the Eagles with Virginia came in the 2017 loss. This will be BC head coach Jeff Hafley’s first time facing Virginia.

What to Expect from Virginia:

Offense

If there was a word to describe Virginia’s offense, it would be average. It ranks eighth in the ACC in points per game, ninth in rushing yards per game, and eighth in passing yards per game. For Virginia, average does not mean bad. The Cavaliers are 4-1 at home this season, averaging 37.8 points per game in Charlottesville. One of those games was a 44-41 victory over then-No.15 North Carolina. Virginia’s offense might not put up absurd stat lines every week, but it features a dynamic attack capable of scoring points when it matters. 

BC has struggled this season against mobile quarterbacks. Virginia Tech quarterback Hendon Hooker ran for 161 yards in BC’s first loss of the season, and quarterback Ian Book led the Notre Dame rushing attack with 85 yards in its victory over BC. Last Saturday, Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham ran for 133 yards against the BC defense, although the Eagles came away with a win. Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong sits at No. 4 in the ACC for average rushing yards per game among quarterbacks with 57. 

Virginia’s offense has depth at nearly every position. Running back Billy Kemp IV leads ACC running backs in receiving yards per game, though Armstrong heads the Virginia rushing attack. Wide receiver Terrell Jana and tight end Tony Poljan have put together respectable seasons, as has running back Wayne Taulapapa.

Defense

Like its offense, Virginia’s defense has been average. It is ranked seventh in the ACC in points allowed per game with 28.9, and it comes in 10th in total yards allowed per game with 431.5. The Cavaliers have a strong run defense and are ranked fourth in the ACC in rushing yards allowed, and—discounting the North Carolina game—allow just 22.5 total points per game at home. 

Virginia’s most obvious vulnerability is its passing defense. It is ranked dead last in the ACC in passing yards allowed per game with 289. That number is 13.6 yards more than second-to-last place Wake Forest’s average. This is significant for BC, as Jurkovec currently has the second-most passing yards in the ACC. If Jurkovec returns from his injury—which Hafley is optimistic will happen—BC should be able to capitalize on Virginia’s weak passing defense.  

Outlook:

Virginia is one of BC’s most even matchups of the year. Luckily, BC has won most of its even matchups this season. The Eagles will face the Cavaliers in Virginia, which is notable, as Virginia has played significantly better at home this season than on the road. The Cavaliers are capable of competing with—and beating—good teams, as they showed in their win over UNC and a five-point loss to Miami. The Eagles, however, have beat every unranked team they have faced this season and look to continue that trend against Virginia.

The real storyline of Saturday’s game, however, is not the even matchup, not Jurkovec’s possible return, and not even BC kicker Aaron Boumerhi’s chance at finishing the season without missing an extra point.

If the Eagles win, Jeff Hafley will have done what no BC coach has accomplished since 2009: finish the season with a winning record in the ACC. Hafley already has the win record for first-year BC head coaches and has a chance to set another benchmark Saturday. Expect a well fought game from both sides and for Jurkovec—if he’s back—to end his first season in maroon and gold with an explosive game against a poor passing defense.

Featured Image by John Quackenbos via ACC Media

December 3, 2020
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