Boston College football will play No. 17 Southern Methodist in the 2023 Wasabi Fenway Bowl on Dec. 28 at 11 a.m., Brett McMurphy reported Sunday.
“We’re excited to be staying close to home for our students and fans to get one more chance to see us play,” BC head coach Jeff Hafley said in a statement from BC Athletics. “Boston is a great sports town, one that we’re proud to be a part of every day and now we get to be a part of the growing tradition of postseason football in New England.”
The six-win Eagles face a tall task ahead of them, going against a Mustangs squad that registered at least 10 regular-season wins for the first time since 2019, and a 26–14 victory over No. 23 Tulane in the 2023 American Football Championship. While the win marked SMU’s 12th conference title all time, it marked the program’s first AAC championship ever.
The Eagles, meanwhile, struggled tremendously down the final stretch, finishing the season with three straight losses after maintaining a five-game win streak until Nov. 11. Injuries rattled BC in the latter half of the season, too—starting running backs Pat Garwo III and Kye Robichaux suffered a season-ending injury and missed time, respectively. Star cornerback Elijah Jones also missed the remainder of the season after a blowout loss to Virginia Tech for an undisclosed reason.
The last time the Eagles were selected for a bowl game was on Dec. 5, 2021 when they earned a Military Bowl appearance against East Carolina. BC never played the game, though, due to COVID-19 issues, which forced the game’s cancellation.
During the Eagles’ three-game losing streak from Nov. 11 to Nov. 24, against the Hokies, Pittsburgh, and Miami, starting quarterback Thomas Castellanos threw six interceptions total, consisting of two in each game. His six picks in the final three games of 2023 were just one less than he had in the first nine games of the season.
Despite his shortcomings late in the season, Castellanos notched 3,103 scrimmage yards and 26 total touchdowns. His 957 total rushing yards accounted for the most rushing yards ever by a BC quarterback in a single season.
But the Eagles defense ranked third-to-last in the ACC in points per game surrendered at 29.5, second-to-last in total sacks with 12, and third-to-last in total interceptions with eight.
Hafley accumulated a six-win season for the third time out of his four-year tenure, but his record has flopped to a mere 9–15 in the last two seasons combined. Hafley has never coached a bowl game at BC so far.
The Mustangs are led by head coach Rhett Lashlee, who holds an 18–8 overall record at the helm of the program. Lashlee was named SMU’s head coach on Nov. 30, 2021, replacing Sonny Dykes who became the head coach at Texas Christian.
Preston Stone plays under center for SMU and has totaled 3,197 passing yards, 28 passing touchdowns, and just six interceptions this season. His total quarterback rating of 71.2 ranks No. 31 in the nation.
Three different running backs for the Mustangs have recorded 400 rushing yards or more, and Jaylan Knighton leads the backfield with 720 yards on the ground on 128 carries. Knighton averages 5.6 yards per carry.
SMU’s defense ranks 18th in rushing yards allowed at 111.2, which could impede the Eagles’ run-heavy style. BC ranks 18th in rushing yards per game at 193.5.
A bowl win has not come for BC since 2016, when the Eagles defeated Maryland in the 2016 Quick Lane Bowl at Ford Field in Detroit, Mich. The only way to step in the right direction for Hafley and co., after dropping three straight games by a margin of 117–58 to end the 2023 campaign, is a victory against a quality opponent.
“And for our team, we get a chance to play on a field in our own backyard that few get the opportunity to and will do so competing against one of the top teams in the country and a future conference rival,” Hafley said.