Boston College scouting report and matchup preview
The UConn Huskies are heavy underdogs as they make the short trip up to Chestnut Hill to meet their regional rivals.
Since Husky fans care a little bit more about this week’s opponent than basically anyone else on the schedule, let’s take an early look at how the two teams match up. UConn kicks off at Boston College in a game that will be televised on the ACC Network starting at noon.
The early Vegas lines favor BC by 12 or so, depending on your source. The Eagles enter the contest having won three in a row, over UVA, Army, and Georgia Tech, to reach a 4-3 overall record.
2023 in Review
It was a shaky start for Boston College, which opened the season with a loss to NIU and then got all it could handle in a three-point win over FCS Holy Cross. They showed signs of life in losses to Florida State and Louisville and then rattled off three consecutive wins.
BC’s three victories before Georgia Tech each came by a three-point margin; the Florida State and NIU losses were also each by three. To whatever extent the Eagles have a tendency to play up or down to their competition, that could bode well for a mistake-prone, 1-6 Husky team.
However, UConn is coming off the program’s first-ever win over BC last year, and this is the Eagles’ homecoming game. They’'ll be motivated.
Photo by Ian Bethune
BC sits at a respectable 78th in FEI overall efficiency — 51st on offense and 99th defensively.
While head coach Jeff Hafley has a defensive background, this year’s Eagles are much stronger on the other side of the ball. Their offensive line is playing well and at quarterback, Thomas Castellanos has emerged as the answer. He’s the team’s leading rusher and actually leads all quarterbacks nationally in rushing yards with 628. He also has 1,398 passing yards on the season with 19 total touchdowns.
The dual-threat sophomore who transferred from UCF threw for over 250 passing yards in three out of seven games and had at least 67 rushing yards in all but one game, including rushing performances of 142 yards against Army, with four touchdowns, and 128 yards and two touchdowns at Georgia Tech.
He’s not the most accurate passer, with six interceptions and a 57.5 percent completion percentage, but Castellanos can absolutely make plays with his arm. His 7.7 yards per attempt is tied for 45th in the nation with Maryland’s Taulia Tagovailoa.
BC is 64th in the country in scoring offense, 50th in first downs, 34th in plays run, and tied for 55th in yards per play. Its numbers are on par with, or even slightly better than, previous high-powered offenses that UConn has faced such as USF, Rice, Utah State, and Georgia State.
Stylistically it’s most like Georgia State or USF among those. They’ll be running a lot of pistol, shotgun and spread looks, with a heavy emphasis on option and pass-option plays.
Defensively, BC has struggled, tied with the Huskies at 105th in scoring defense, with 30.4 points per game, and tied for 121st in FBS with 6.3 yards per play allowed, which is actually worse than UConn (5.85).
In the front seven, BC has two guys with 2.0 sacks each, Neto Okpala, Donovan Ezeiruaku, and Shitta Silla, but the Eagles are tied for 118th in the country in sacks on the season.
With only one interception on the season, BC hasn’t forced many turnovers, and penalties have also been an issue. Hafley’s squad is currently the 6th-most penalized team in the country.
The Huskies are 117th in overall efficiency — 117th offensively, 111th defensively.
BC has a pretty big advantage in this matchup when it has the ball, but its defense is vulnerable. Featuring two weak defenses, one solid offense, and one offense that’s figuring it out, this has the makings of a higher-scoring game.
When BC has the ball
Boston College is one of the stronger rushing teams in the nation, ranking 43rd in the country in success rate on rushing plays, according to Game on Paper.
UConn allegedly has a decent rush defense, but its 122nd-ranked success rate allowed on passing plays means that teams are getting what they need through the air.
We’ll see how successful Castellanos is at getting the ball to his favorite receiver, Lewis Bond, a junior with 29 receptions for 428 yards and five touchdowns. Bond has had at least 40 receiving yards in every game besides Army, when BC only attempted nine passes.
It’s clear from the last three games that if teams want yards on the ground against UConn, they can get ‘em. Georgia State ran for 250 yards on a 5.6 yard-per-carry clip and USF managed 260 with 5.3 ypc. Rice wasn’t as run-dominant but still averaged 5.1 ypc as it scored 31 points despite an 0-4 turnover margin.
This plays to BC’s strength. The home team should be able to stay ahead of the sticks and take advantage of opportunities in the passing game.
Boston College RB Kye Robichaux, a transfer from Western Kentucky, just had his best game of the season against Georgia Tech, finishing with 165 yards on 21 carries with two touchdowns and 54 yards receiving. He and Castellanos present a formidable 1-2 punch in the Eagles’ spread option game.
To its credit, UConn found a way to beat Rice and did keep the USF offense in check for three quarters — allowing 24 on the day isn’t a bad outing. Mora’s defense will have to find the consistency its been missing all year, even though it does have its moments.
The Huskies’ tackling woes are likely to show up again as they try to keep Castellanos in check, as they’ve had trouble with dual-threat QBs. It’s going to be tough sledding on that side of the ball if they can’t force a few turnovers.
When UConn has the ball
For all its flaws, UConn’s offense has improved, even if the improvement has been modest. Roberson has appeared more comfortable and he’s been competing admirably out there trying to make plays, even if a few mistakes happen. He still has upside as he continues to mature from his game experience and the next defense he’s facing is not anything special.
The bigger issue for UConn is the health of running back Victor Rosa. Cam Edwards performed well after he left the USF game, but the Huskies need all playmakers available and Rosa is not just a big-play threat he’s also a dependable piece of the offense.
This matchup and the lack of dudes at RB means UConn may be more reliant on its emerging aerial attack on Saturday.
Boston College’s defensive passing success rate is ranked 109th nationally. This will be an opportunity for Roberson along with emerging pass-catchers Justin Joly and Cam Ross, who are showing that they can be playmaking threats along with Delaware transfer Brett Buckman.
UConn is actually slightly better than the Eagles at preventing plays from scrimmage greater than 20 yards, allowing 29 versus 33 on the year. South Florida is the worst in the country with 59.
Ultimately, the team that keeps turnovers, big plays, and penalties under control the best will most likely win. Beyond that, it’s gonna take some “this is your biggest game of the season” magic for UConn to make enough stops and big plays to win this one. The Huskies would probably lose a relatively “clean” game.
Last week, Minnesota beat No. 24 Iowa. Virginia got its first FBS win by beating No. 10 UNC in Chapel Hill. Nevada snapped a 16-game losing streak with a 6-0 win over San Diego State. Crazy things happen in college football. It won’t be easy, but UConn beating Boston College (again) wouldn’t even be the craziest thing to happen on a football field that Saturday.