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First Responder Bowl: BC vs Boise State Preview and Pick

Boise State Broncos(10-3) @ Boston College Eagles(7-5)

  • Where: Cotton Bowl. Dallas, TX
  • When: December 26, 2018 1:30 pm EST
  • Spread: Boise State (-3)
  • Moneyline: BC (+125) vs BSU (-135)
  • Over / Under: 55.5 total points

There hasn’t been much line movement on the Boston College vs Boise State scrum at Cotton Bowl Stadium on 12/26. In fact, the betting odds have been remarkably stable for more than a week. The Boise Blue are a (-3) favorite on the point spread at Bovada.

Despite BSU’s low-scoring loss to Fresno State in the MWC title game, a middle-of-the-road O/U total (55) may reflect the Eagles’ failure to take over games on offense against quality foes late in the season.

BC quarterback Anthony Brown overcame great obstacles to get himself healthy for the 2018 season. But the sophomore was injured again against the Clemson Tigers in the 10th game, and hasn’t been setting the world on fire since then. Brown’s status as a dual-threat is in question after a negative rushing total against Syracuse. And the defense and special teams haven’t played well enough to overcome the lack of scoring punch.

Not Presto, but Addazio at Least

You can say this about the 2018 Boston College Eagles: When they’ve played vulnerable teams, they’ve almost always won by a commanding margin.

Despite Brown not being close to 100% in early September, Boston College opened the year by thrashing UMass and Holy Cross.

The QB then appeared to come solidly into his own against a quality opponent as the Eagles whipped Wake Forest 41-34 on the road. The young signal-caller finished the game with 304 yards and 5 touchdown passes.

In mid-season BC went on an impressive 3-game ACC winning streak, beating Miami and Virginia Tech by a combined 23 points.

But the receiving corps wasn’t flourishing. Sophomore Travis Levy, a running back, led the Eagles with 31 catching yards in the 27-14 win over the Hurricanes. Speedy senior Michael Walker, who leads the nation in combined kick-return yards, disappeared from the passing game altogether after snagging 5 catches for 100+ yards against Miami and VT. Fellow upperclassman Jeff Smith leads BC with 6 TD catches.

Then the defense began to show cracks. Good defense is the cornerstone of Steve Addazio’s program, and the unit played bravely in the 27-7 defeat to Clemson. But the following week, the Eagles allowed a struggling FSU team close to 500 yards of total offense, and Syracuse passer Eric Dungey had a huge day in the Orangemen’s 42-21 clobbering of Boston College that ended the November slate.

With the offense averaging a fair-to-middling 4.1 yards per carry, the team is getting out-rushed and out-protected too often. Opposing edge-rushers are starting to tee off. Star tailback A.J. Dillon was badly hurt against Florida State, and wound up having a mediocre day against Syracuse.

If Dillon and Brown aren’t at 100% in bowl season, even for pre-Cotton Bowl practices, that’s a virtual nightmare for Boston College. Dillon can be essentially labeled “BC’s running game” – there’s no question that the underdogs would have a hard row to hoe against Boise State unless the offensive backfield can get well in a hurry.

Whether it’s injuries, discouragement, or just fatigue after a tough slog through the ACC schedule, Addazio’s squad is lacking its mid-season form in several categories…kick-returns notwithstanding. The head coach just signed a contract extension that will give the roster a sense of security headed into the postseason, but their fortunes against BSU are looking anything but secure.

Blue Christmas

BC’s saving grace could be the injury report of Boise State. Addazio is the Bill Belichick of the FBS, hiding injury news from the media whenever possible. But HC Bryan Harsin at Boise State is no such secretive skipper. Looking at the bumps and bruises on the Broncos, maybe some fans and boosters are starting to wish he was.

4 receivers, including TE Matt Pistone and exciting freshman Khalil Shakir, are hurting, and (mostly) likely to sit out practices and maybe even the scrum at the Cotton Bowl. Senior defensive tackle David Moa is out for the year, along with numerous safeties and defensive backs.

But with a couple of exceptions, the key names will still line up for Boise on 12/26. Alex Mattison is one of the brightest stars of the Pacific Time Zone at tailback, rushing for 1415 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2018. Brett Rypien will target receivers Sean Modster and A.J. Richardson, each a more-developed talent than anyone Boston College can throw out wide.

Finally, what about the pass rush? If the Boise Blue allow Brown time to sit comfortably in the pocket and throw, covering even a minus-FG spread becomes a dodgy proposition. If the Broncos get to the QB consistently on defense while Rypien, Modster and Mattison put on a show, then a TD-or-more victory margin for the favorites is all but assured.

While there are many reasons why Boise lost to MWC champion Fresno State on December 1st, a lack of backfield penetration from the front-7 wasn’t one of them. Junior LB Tyson Maeva finished the scrum with 11 total tackles and a sack of Marcus McMaryion. Burly freshman Ezekiel Noa was around the football for 4 quarters. With versatile DBs like Jordan Happle wreaking all kinds of havoc on blitzes, the Broncos recorded 8 tackles-for-loss and knocked down 4 pass attempts.

That’s the kind of Group of 5 defense that can help conquer a Power-5 contender that isn’t clicking on all cylinders.

First Responder Bowl: My Prediction

Click to wager on the Boise State Broncos at the First Responder Bowl and receive a sign-up bonus from Bovada.

I’m liking Boise State to cover, because the Broncos have more players in key roles who are 100% healthy and feeling good about their continued production. If BC was a conference-winner with waves of big and fast upperclassmen taking the field, Boise’s deep injury report (and subsequent lack of depth in the reserve ranks) could hurt the Blue by the 4th frame. But that’s not the case this time.

The “under” (55) could be an even better recommendation here, however. I can imagine a sloppy, defensive-oriented game taking place while Boston College struggles to get its mojo back and Boise State adjusts to the speed and size of an ACC opponent. I also like the disciplined and enthusiastic Broncos’ special teams unit’s chances to slow down Walker…even when he’s running.

A few touchdowns will likely be scored in the 2nd half, but that won’t blow away the O/U if the halftime score is 10 to 6 in favor of the Mountain West.

Take the under and/or Boise State ATS.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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