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Football Opponent Preview: Boston College

Cincinnati takes on Boston College on January 2 in the Birmingham Bowl

NCAA Football: Boston College at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Boston College is an intriguing bowl opponent for the Bearcats. Many in Bearcat Nation were disappointed not only with the bowl to which we were selected but also the opponent: a 6-6 team from the broad middle class of the ACC that just fired its coach.

This is a very understandable reaction but it is not a reason to take this opponent lightly.

Expect BC to come out firing on all cylinders for interim coach Rich Gunnell, a 32-year-old assistant who himself is just ten years removed from playing on Chestnut Hill.

BC is a physical team, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. This is a team that loves to run the football down your throat. In promotion materials, Boston College often refers to itself as “Offensive Line U.” and that’s no joke.

The Eagles boast one of the best offensive lines in the country. All five of its starting lineman earned post-season ACC honors. Notable among this group of road graders are grad student John Phillips, who earned first-team honors, and freshman left tackle Tyler Vrabel, the son of Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel.

This vicious offensive line opened holes for a pair of battering ram running backs in 2019. First-team all ACC running back A.J. Dillon, who is the leading rusher in school history and was a three-time 1,000 yard back, is sitting out the bowl game. That leaves the Eagles with just one dominant running back for the game, David Bailey, a 240-pound sophomore who gained over 800 yards this year. Expect BC to bash Bailey between the tackles all afternoon.

BC dealt with some instability at quarterback in 2019. When longtime starter Anthony Brown went down midseason, the Eagles turned to sophomore Dennis Grosel, who has played admirably in relief. Grosel is not the most accurate passer, completing fewer than 50 percent of his passes. But he rarely throws interceptions and is a genuine threat in the running game.

The Eagles are not laden with talent or speed in the receiving corps. Sophomore tight end Hunter Long was a reliable target for both Brown and Grosel, leading the team in yards receiving with just 464. Junior Kobay White is hardly a go-to guy but proved to be a steady receiver for BC this season, snagging 27 catches for 424 yards.

BC’s defense proved porous throughout 2019, surrending nearly 32 points per game while surrendering almost 500 yards per game in total offense. Cincinnati certainly has the speed in its receiving corps to beat BC deep on a number of occasions in the Birmingham Bowl.

BC’s best defender is Max Richardson, a junior linebacker who will remind you of another Eagle alum, Luke Kuechly. Richardson is a sideline to sideline presence. He led the ACC in tackles this year and earned first-team All-ACC honors.

Expect this to be a physical and a competitive game. When Cincinnati gets opportunities with the ball, they must make use of them.