This is another huge, early season swing game for Mizzou especially after losing to Kentucky. Meanwhile, Boston College looks to go into ACC play with a perfect 4-0 record despite losing their starting quarterback Phil Jurkovec. Kick-off is set for 11:00 a.m. CST on ESPN2.
To get a perspective on Boston College, I talked it over with Niraj Patel over at BC Interruption and he answered some questions about the Eagles.
Here’s the Q and A to get you ready for the match up:
Sammy Stava: This game will be a battle of second year head coaches with a team as Eli Drinkwitz takes on Jeff Hafley. Hafley went 6-5 in his first season last year at Boston College and is off to a 3-0 start this season. What are the main expectations for him at BC and what’s the vibe around the program since he has taken over as the head coach?
Niraj Patel: Hafley has been an absolute god-send for BC. Everything he says and does is just about the opposite of the former guy. He’s modernized the team, and before QB Phil Jurkovec went down, the expectations were through the roof. Despite the dynasty that is Clemson in the ACC Coastal, it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility to unseat them in a given year now, especially given how they’ve looked thus far. The real expectation for him is to consistently be in the upper echelon of the conference. Seven wins has been the Eagles’ ceiling for about a decade, but plenty of other ACC teams have cracked double digit wins at least one time. BC was a popular dark horse pick this year in the ACC. It’s not going to happen this go around, but with Hafley, the team should be aiming to compete right behind Clemson in the Atlantic.
SS: Boston College was picked to finish third in the ACC Atlantic Division from the preseason poll and is receiving votes in this week’s AP Top 25. As mentioned, they’re 3-0 but have played Colgate, UMass, and Temple. How much have we learned from this team so far early in the season?
NP: Putting aside the quarterback part, I don’t think we’ve learned all too much from the first three games. In a way, they were all preseason games, and while Hafley respected each opponent, it’s tough to gauge given the level of competition. What I will say is that the defense has improved much more than many had expected as they showed last week against Temple. They played a lot cleaner and executed really well. It’s coach-speak, but regardless of the opponent that’s impressive. That being said, this is the game I’ve circled as the first real test to see how they really stack up ahead of ACC play, however. Offensively, they have talent all around, but there isn’t too much to glean from the start that we didn’t already know. They figured to be an explosive offense, but we’ll have to wait to learn what they can really do with Dennis Grosel at quarterback.
SS: I was really looking forward to the quarterback match up between Connor Bazelak and Phil Jurkovec, but unfortunately, Jurkovec will be sidelined for quite a while with a right hand injury. How big of a loss is Jurkovec to this team, and how do you think backup quarterback Dennis Grosel has played so far in replacing Jurkovec?
NP: Sad. It was really shaping up to be a special season with Jurkovec. Jurkovec had all the tools to build on last season and to lead legitimately one of the best offenses in the country, not to mention improve his draft stock. Grosel is a dropoff certainly, but he is a seasoned veteran. He’s a super senior that could have transferred and started elsewhere. Incidentally, he’s been called on to start games the previous two seasons, so we’re very aware of his abilities and limitations. Grosel can make more plays with his feet, but doesn’t have nearly the arm strength. Strangely enough, he tied Doug Flutie for the most passing yards in a single game in school history last season. Now, he didn’t have a good game last week in his first start, but we’ll have to see what happens this time around.
SS: This is a really big swing game on Mizzou’s schedule this season if they want to meet or exceed expectations, especially since he Tigers lost to Kentucky Week 2. Obviously, all games are important, but some are bigger than others. Sitting at 3-0 and playing at Clemson next week to start ACC play, how would you characterize the importance of this game for Boston College in terms of expectations for their season?
NP: This game is huge. Without Jurkovec, there is zero chance anyone is looking ahead to Clemson. Mizzou is the barometer for how BC can perform against the rest of the ACC. It doesn’t seem like a particularly strong year for the conference, but this game should be similar to the level of competition they’ll face here on out. Plus, anytime you have a chance to go against an SEC team it helps show how you stack up across the board of college football.
SS: Who are some key players on offense and defense that Mizzou fans will need to keep their eye on?
NP: Zay Flowers on the outside is a top wide receiver prospect. He’s really improved his game each and every season. He can be that deep threat, field-stretcher, and he’s dangerous whenever he has the ball in his hands. He will certainly be open deep at some point, but it’s going to be a matter of whether Grosel can hit him. The offense does a good job of getting him the ball in different ways and let him make plays.Trae Barry is the other name I’m going to call out. The former Jacksonville State tight end is enormous and has done good work as he gets more comfortable in the offense. On the ground, they’ll ride the hot hand, and Pat Garwo has had his number called recently. He’s a big back that can cause a lot of problems behind this offensive line.
Defensively, I’ll call out linebacker Isaiah Graham-Mobley and safety Jaiden Woodbey. Both are new faces to the Eagles defense but can make plays all over the field and have emerged as leaders on the team. Hafley is a defensive backs guru, and the corners, particularly Brandon Sebastian and Josh DeBerry, should be players to watch in coverage.
SS: According to the betting lines, Missouri opened as a two point favorite over Boston College. How do you see this game playing out on Saturday? Have a final score prediction?
NP: I think I was pretty triggered by Eli Drinkwitz’s comments even though I understand what he was trying to say. I swear I don’t always do this — but I’m going to be the homer on this one. BC wins it 34-27. BC has a lot they haven’t needed to show on tape and they can unleash a lot of it this week, as the team knows how important this game is as ACC play gets started.
Thank you to Niraj for the time on this, just all-around good stuff from him. You can follow him and BC Interruption for Boston College coverage this week. All things considered, this is setting up to be a good game on Saturday.