Previewing 2018 Football: Purdue

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For the first time since 2008, when Boston College football plays on Saturday, there will be a number to the left of its name. That number is 23, and it represents the Eagles’ Week Four AP Poll ranking. While head coach Steve Addazio described the ranking as nothing more than a distraction, it is a wonderful accomplishment for a program that has recruited well and worked hard to return to the national spotlight.

BC looks like an offensive juggernaut, scoring 40-plus points in each of its first three games of the season, marching to its first 3-0 start since 2007. Last week’s victory over Wake Forest marked just the second time in Addazio’s six-year tenure that BC won its conference opener. With national recognition comes heightened expectations, as many experts now see the Eagles as the biggest threat to Clemson in the ACC Atlantic.

The red-hot Eagles (3-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) will travel to West Lafayette, Ind. to face Purdue (0-3, 0-1 Big Ten) on Saturday, a team that has lost its first three contests by a combined eight points. The Boilermakers are looking to thwart BC’s high-powered offense and make this a one-week stay in the Top 25. Coming off its victory last Thursday, BC will hope to use its two additional off days to its advantage and preserve its undefeated record.

Who is BC playing?

Purdue

When is BC playing?

Saturday Sept. 22, 12 p.m.

Where is BC playing?

Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, Ind.

How to Watch:

The game will be nationally broadcasted on ESPN2 and is streamable via WatchESPN.

By the Numbers:

BC:

5: The number of touchdown passes Anthony Brown threw against Wake Forest, a career-high. The redshirt sophomore has thrown nine touchdowns to zero interceptions on the season. A lot of factors play into this stat. The Demon Deacons tried to stack the box against A.J. Dillon, challenging Brown to beat them. Well, he did, scattering his five scores—four of which came on play-action—to four different receivers. Jeff Smith was Brown’s go-to-guy, eclipsing 145 yards with two scores, all while hinting that he has emerged from being just a speedy threat on jet sweeps to a more complete receiver in his senior season.

4: The number of running backs in the country who have rushed for more yards than Dillon this season. The sophomore has combined power and speed to run for 432 yards in his first three games. What makes this even more impressive is that, with BC erupting to big leads in its first two games, Dillon has played less than seven quarters of football, and three of the four rushers ahead of him have at least 13 more carries. Having a playmaker like Dillon has paved the way for this offense’s success, opening up play-action and being a constant matchup nightmare.

53.47: The percent of passes that BC’s defense has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete. The secondary was widely heralded coming into the season, and it has lived up to the hype thus far. The defense—a unit that has picked off six passes this fall—held Sam Hartman, Wake Forest’s freshman quarterback who commentators were comparing to Baker Mayfield, to 214 yards of passing last Thursday. BC’s front seven is coming together as well, with Wyatt Ray notching five sacks over the course of the first three games of play, and Connor Strachan returning as the quarterback of the defense to record 25 tackles during that span.

Purdue:

25: The number of receptions that wide receiver Rondale Moore has in his first three games. While BC’s leading receiver has just eight catches, Moore has been a target machine in the Boilermaker offense. The freshman is just 5-foot-9, but punishes defenses with his speed and ability to get over the top.

24: The number of points allowed by Purdue off turnovers. The Boilermakers have only turned the ball over four times in three games—all from interceptions—but they’ve allowed their opponents to score after each of them. On the other side, Purdue has forced two turnovers and has come away with just a field goal off those takeaways. For a team that has lost by razor-thin margins in its first three games, an improvement in the turnover battle could pave the way for success.

7.5: The number of tackles-for-loss that Cornel Jones has tallied through three contests. The sophomore linebacker has used both quickness and brute force to get into the backfield and take down ball carriers behind the line of scrimmage. Of the 7.5 tackles-for-loss, 2.5 are sacks, showing his aptitude for getting to the quarterback as well.

Last Meeting:

BC and Purdue will be facing off for the first time in history on Saturday. The last time that the Eagles squared off against a team from the Big Ten was the Quick Lane Bowl, back in 2016. BC defeated former ACC foe Maryland, 36-30, at Ford Field in Detroit, Mich. Patrick Towles threw for two touchdowns, and caught another from Jeff Smith, en route to the Eagles first postseason win since 2007.

Outlook:

BC is the better team on paper, but all parts will have to come together to beat a Purdue team that is hungry for its first win. Feeding the ball to Dillon is always a strong offensive game plan, but the Eagles will also need to keep Purdue’s defense off-balance with play-action passes and jet sweeps. Brown should continue playing confident and fearless football, knowing that his stellar offensive line has his back. If receivers are less open in the secondary, the redshirt sophomore quarterback may need to utilize his legs more this week, a tool that has been tested much less following last season’s knee injury.

Wake Forest tired out BC’s defense last week. For a starting unit that had barely played into the second half in the first two games, Dave Clawson’s up-tempo offense gave BC a bit of a rude awakening. Despite the Demon Deacons running over 100 offensive plays, the Eagles held firm when it mattered most, coming up with pivotal third and fourth-down stops. They should look to do much of the same against Purdue, not overpursuing and bending but not breaking to avoid the big play. This defense is good enough where if it makes Purdue grind out long drives, it will have a better chance to cause a turnover or make a crucial stop.

Special teams has been scrutinized for two momentous errors against Wake Forest, but the unit also did a good job limiting the success of electric return man Greg Dortch. Regardless, the Eagles will need to tighten up this unit, as even one mistake could prove to be the difference in this game. The Eagles have proven they deserve to be in the Top 25—now they’ll have to show that they deserve to stay there.

Featured Image by Woody Marshall / AP Photo