Team: Boston College Eagles
2014 Record: 7-6 (4-4 ACC)
Recap: It didn’t take very long for former Temple head coach Steve Addazio to remove Boston College from the abyss of the ACC, winning 14 games in his first two seasons after the Eagles went 6-18 from 2011-12 prior to his arrival. And if they didn’t already, opponents now know what they’re getting into when they suit up against this deceptively sound football team.
In 2014, Boston College secured a major upset against then-No. 9 USC, not to mention big-time road wins against N.C. State and Virginia Tech. What’s arguably even more impressive, though, is the fact that it lost to Florida State, Clemson, and Colorado State—all of which combined for a 33-7 record—by a total of 10 points.
In fact, all six of the Eagles’ losses came against opponents that played in a bowl game, and all ended by an average of 6.7 points—or in other words, they were about a handful of plays away from being a 11-2 team, if not better.
But now Addazio faces the challenge of replacing 13 starters—including his quarterback, all five offensive linemen and offensive coordinator, all while trying to keep sustain the momentum and keep an identity in an unforgiving ACC Atlantic Division.
Key player: Steven Daniels, Sr., MLB
In just eight starts, Daniels found himself as the second-leading tackler (72) last season, with seven of them coming for a loss. He’ll be taking on the leadership role as the anchor of the linebacker corps, and we can expect his numbers—especially those of the TFL category—to increase, thanks to defensive coordinator Don Brown’s intense blitz packages.
Biggest strength: An aggressive front seven
Five starters return to a front seven that dominated at the line of scrimmage in 2014, finishing second in the country in rushing yards allowed (94.5), sixth in yards per carry (3.08), and 25th in tackles for loss (89.0). With a defensive line that made its living in the backfield mostly intact, this will undoubtedly be the team’s strength once again.
Biggest weakness: Inexperience on offense
Thanks to a heavy dose of quarterback Tyler Murphy and a by-committee running back unit, Boston College’s volatile rushing attack finished second in the ACC (behind Georgia Tech, of course) with nearly 255 yards per game (5.2 ypc). However, regression is imminent; sophomore Darius Wade is the likely replacement under center, who has eight career pass attempts. The offensive line brings a total of 15 career starts, which ranks 125th in the nation, according to Phil Steele. Wade’s top returning receiver was supposed to be tight end/receiver Dan Crimmins (25 catches for 305 yards and no TDs in 2014), but he left the team in May. There’s plenty of depth in the backfield, but that might not have much importance if the other units have a difficult time early on.
Most important game: vs. Northern Illinois (Sept. 26)
Assuming Boston College takes care of FCS opponents Maine and Howard in Weeks 1 and 2—really though?—it will have an opportunity to start the season 3-1 (no, I’m not calling for an FSU upset) while gathering some valuable experience for the new starters on offense. From here, it will be about survival.
Best-case scenario: 6-6 (3-6)
This would be a pretty impressive accomplishment by Addazio and the coaching staff. With so much turnover on offense, winning three games in what looks to be an incredibly difficult Atlantic division should be more than welcomed by fans and ACC pundits alike.
Worst-case scenario: 3-9 (1-7)
Inexperience on offense could lead to a lack of chemistry and inefficiency, and with so many high-powered scorers in the ACC, this might spell doom for the Eagles. Still, they won’t be as bad as Wake Forest.
Early prediction: 4-8 (1-7)
Here comes the broken record: the offense will hold the team back from taking a step forward in Year 3 under Addazio. If the secondary can continue to hold its own, a dynamic front seven will keep Boston College in games—but will there be enough firepower on offense to produce timely scoring drives? BC is in good hands with Addazio, but it will probably be another year before it’s ready to compete for eight or nine wins.