As Boston College football approaches its season opener against Rutgers on Sept. 3, sports editors Megan Gentile, Graham Dietz, and Jack Bergamini give their predictions for the upcoming season.
Who is BC’s most important player(s)?
Megan Gentile: The Phil Jurkovec-Zay Flowers connection is undoubtedly the most important facet of BC’s offense. While Jurkovec will need to find alternate targets to maintain a sustainable offense, the ball needs to be in Flowers’ hands as much as possible. Flowers has both the resume to be Jurkovec’s No. 1 target. On opening day of BC’s 2022 training camp, Flowers said that much of his decision to return to play his senior season at BC came down to believing he had unfinished business on the Heights—business that he and Jurkovec had to take care of.
Graham Dietz: Flowers has to be considered BC’s most important player and even its top athlete. Flowers amassed 122 receptions, 1,979 receiving yards, and 17 touchdowns over his career span on the Heights, which rank 12th, 10th, and fifth all-time at BC, respectively. The top priority for head coach Jeff Hafley’s offense is to get the ball to Flowers, who’s back for a chance to help the Eagles win the division for the first time since 2008.
Jack Bergamini: It has to be Jurkovec. BC didn’t win a single conference game last season while Jurkovec was out with a wrist injury for six games. Getting the ball in Flowers’ hands is a top priority for the Eagles this season, something BC struggled to do last season while Jurkovec was injured. Jurkovec’s arm not only allows for a consistent deep ball threat but also opens up BC’s two-man run game with Pat Garwo III and Alec Sinkfield. Without Jurkovec, the Eagles could wave goodbye to any chance of cracking the AP Top 25 Poll, along with the possibility of playing a bowl game—for the first time in three years.
What is the biggest challenge BC will need to overcome this year?
MG: After Jurkovec suffered a wrist injury in the second game of the 2021 season, BC played half of last year without its starting quarterback. The key to the Eagles’ success in 2022? Staying healthy. BC’s roster doesn’t have the depth to be challenged by injuries this year. Jurkovec and Flowers need to remain injury-free, and after Christian Mahogany tore his ACL in June, the Eagles’ already-dwindling offensive line can’t afford to lose any players.
GD: BC lost all five of its 2021 starting offensive lineman to the NFL or to injury, which could impede its ability to effectively set up a run game. Garwo, a second-team All-ACC selection, has a tall task ahead of him. He became the 24th 1,000-yard rusher in BC history with 1,045 career yards. He earned the starting job after a breakout performance off the bench at UMass with 164 yards on 15 carries. Mahogany was a revelation on the inside, becoming one of the better guards in the ACC.
JB: The offensive line. BC lost three of its best players last year in Zion Johnson, Alec Lindstrom, and Mahogany. Hafley has been testing out different OL combinations throughout the summer. Jackson Ness, a redshirt junior whose primary position is the defensive line, recently switched to offensive line this summer to join Hafley’s experiments. Hafley hinted during a media session that the starting five is already set for Week One, but who those players will be is unclear.
What’s the best-case scenario for the Eagles?
MG: If the O-line steps up and BC’s roster only suffers few injuries, the Eagles have a shot at getting nine-plus wins and even winning the division. For that to happen, it’ll take several road wins against ACC strongholds such as NC State, Wake Forest, and FSU and a win at home against Clemson. If BC can win those games, it has a chance to break the AP Top 25 for a couple of weeks and end the season in a high-profile bowl game.
GD: A 6–6 finish in Hafley’s second year was an utter disappointment. This year, after returning most of their production, the Eagles’ best case could have them as a Top-25 team by the end of the year with nine or more wins. The Eagles have a near-certain win in Week One, but—enter Sandman—they’ll jump into the thick of it Week Two against Virginia Tech. The only reality where BC accomplishes nine plus wins if the offensive line, BC’s biggest liability, does its job. BC had a top-three passing defense last season and was 28th overall in total defense. If the O-line finds a way to develop, there’s a shot to be one of the best in the ACC.
JB: ACC champions. And, to be frank, anything less will be a disappointment for me. Last year was a missed opportunity. Starting off this year strong will be important if the Eagles want to be in that 9–10 win range that would put them in the title game. Week two versus Virginia Tech will be telling of how the season will unfold, and winning one or two tough games against Clemson, Notre Dame, NC State, or Wake Forest could set the Eagles up for their most wins since 2008.
What’s the worst-case scenario for the Eagles?
MG: Worst case is that BC doesn’t improve on its record from last year. If BC can’t muster seven-plus wins with its starting QB at full strength, Jurkovec will demonstrate that he just can’t live up to the hype, and the Eagles will continue a years-long streak of averageness. Time is ticking for Hafley to prove that he is the catalyst BC needed to bring its program to the next level, and if the Eagles don’t surpass six wins, Hafley will get lumped in with mediocre BC coaches past.
GD: Worst case, the Eagles don’t go bowling. A meager six wins was enough to make a bowl game in 2021, but the 2021 Military Bowl was canceled due to a COVID-19 outbreak within BC’s program. It was a chance for younger players to blossom and see if Jurkovec could do something significant with his injured hand after some much-desired time off. The Eagles have been bowl eligible for the past four seasons and have only competed in one bowl. If BC earns just five wins, Hafley could be on the hot seat.
JB: A 6–6 finish … or anything worse. The Eagles went 6–5 and 6–6 in Hafley’s first two seasons as head coach, a reminder of mediocrity that has plagued the Eagles for the past decade. There has never been more pressure on Hafley to win. Another .500 finish would not only be a blow to BC’s fanbase but would almost certainly put Hafley on the hot seat, and a new coach is the last thing this program needs in the ever-changing conference war right now.
MG: 8–4. I’m optimistic that BC will outperform its results from last year, and with a couple of wins in toss-up games, 8–4 is realistic. The Eagles should easily top Rutgers, Maine, Connecticut, and Duke, plus Louisville at home with a packed stadium on Family Weekend. If there’s going to be an upset, it’s got to be Clemson. BC came within six points of beating Clemson the last two years on the road. Not only will BC face the Tigers in Chestnut Hill this year, but it’ll happen in the Red Bandanna Game.
GD: If the first four games of BC’s 2021 season are any sign of what is to come in 2022, my final prediction is seven or eight wins. That seems likely if BC can win its toss-up games against Virginia Tech, Louisville, Wake Forest, and Syracuse. Of these same conference matchups in 2021, BC lost three of four. Throwing not just to Flowers but also to wide receivers Jaelen Gill and Jaden Williams, plus Notre Dame transfer George Takacs, will be a key factor to Jurkovec’s success.
JB: 7–5. It’s hard imagining the Eagles beating Notre Dame or NC State on the road. Florida State away will be no walk in the park either. Clemson is still Clemson. A big game to watch out for is Oct. 22 against Wake Forest and whether star Demon Deacon quarterback Sam Hartman will be healthy. If he isn’t, my prediction would change to 8-4. But the Eagles haven’t shown that they are capable of winning big games yet, and until they do, I will remain conservative on them.