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Eagle Eye Betting: Weekly Wagers on Boston College Football

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Week 1 – Northern Illinois Huskies at Boston College

Location: Chestnut Hill, MA – Alumni Stadium

Betting Lines

Spread: Boston College -8.5 (-110) — Over/Under Points: 50.5 — Moneyline: Boston (-340) NIU (+270)

Welcome to the 2023 season. My name is Peter Collins and I will be bringing you my weekly picks against the spread, over/under and moneyline selections for YOUR Boston College Eagles. You can hear my picks as well as Brett Rider’s picks, in advance on our weekly podcast: BC Banter available for streaming on all major platforms. As a note, I will be using DraftKings when I refer to betting odds or lines. Without further ado, let’s get into this week’s matchup.

This Saturday, September 2, the Boston College Eagles square off in the season home opener against the Northern Illinois Huskies (NIU). Boston College started the week as 9.5-point favorites, but as I write this on Tuesday night it’s already slid down to 8.5 points. The over/under was at 52 points and now it’s at 50.5 points. What does Vegas know? Why the shift? I have no answer for that, but I will try to answer some questions here today.

2022 had similar storylines for both week 1 foes as injuries derailed their season hopes resulting in matching 3-9 final win-loss records. Who will come out on top this week? Will BC cover the spread? With the over or under at 50.5 points, is week 1 a shootout or does defense reign supreme? What should we expect on both sides of the ball from each opponent?

If you’re super familiar with BC’s roster and just want to learn up on NIU or even just want my picks, scroll on down to the end, I won’t hold it against you.

Boston College Offense:

Let’s get caught up quickly. Last year Boston College lost their week 1 starting quarterback, Phil Jurkovec, to injury and thrust their freshman Emmett Morehead in action to finish the season. He started the last four games and as a starter he threw for 1,029 passing yards and 9 touchdowns. Credit the team site game notes for this stat: Morehead was one of three freshmen (true or redshirt) QBs in the country with multiple games of 325+ passing yards and 3+ touchdowns. Morehead did all this while “protected” by an offensive line ravaged with injuries. This year’s team is greatly improved up front and ultimately may turn out to be one of their strengths. Head coach Jeff Hafley addressed the need for starting offensive line talent this offseason adding two transfers who will cover the left side of the line in Logan Taylor (LT) and Kyle Hergel (LG). Projected NFL first round pick Christian Mahogany (RG) highlights the list of returning lineman who joins the other two projected starters in Ozzy Trapilo (RT) and Drew Kendall (C). Hafley did his best to replace the loss of NFL first round draft pick wide receiver Zay Flowers with UCF transfer Ryan O’Keefe, who has elite speed and will look to stretch the field. He will line up alongside tight end George Takacs and wideouts Jaden Williams and Joseph Griffin Jr. Look for Pat Garwo III to handle the rock along with Alex Broome. The offense should bounce back this year for Boston College.

This Saturday against NIU, I think Boston College will look to run the ball behind their improved line, absolutely no surprises there. While Boston College should be able to run effectively due to their own talent, NIU has a good defensive line which could make some stops. NIU’s weakness lies in the secondary. NIU allowed 32 touchdowns last year through the air, I’ll be looking for Emmett Morehead to hit paydirt at least twice. Special teams, mainly the kicking game, remain a concern for the Eagles as last year Eagles kicker Connor Lytton struggled going 9 for 17 (52.9%). I project BC to score 28 points. Garwo goes for over 100 total yards, Emmett throws for two touchdowns and over 250 yards.

Boston College Defense:

Donovan Ezeiruaku leads the Boston College defense, who look to improve on their national rank of 100th in terms of points per game at 30.3. Boston College lost a decent amount of talented secondary players to the portal and will look for sixth year cornerback Elijah Jones to step up and lead this new young group. Jalen Cheek, Cole Batson, John Pupel and Amari Jackson should all see plenty of time on defense for the Eagles pass defense. In 2022, Boston College let up 2,000 total yards rushing which equated to 166.7ypg to go with 25 TDs allowed. We all remember last year when Rutgers ran the ball the length of the field to finish off the win in week 1, that cannot happen again here if BC hopes to have a good start to the season. NIU was able to run the ball well in 2022, so look for BC to stack the box and control the line of scrimmage. Shitta Sillah, Cam Horsley, George Rooks and Ezeiruaku look to control the game in the trenches. Vinny DePalma leads the linebacking core of Jaylen Blackwell and Kam Arnold. Classic Boston College football, running, defense, and clock management should lead them to victory.

Northern Illinois Offense:

As mentioned prior, the Northern Illinois Huskies (NIU) finished with a record of 3-9 in 2022. Huskies redshirt senior quarterback Rocky Lombardi is back after only playing in four games last season due to injury. The Huskies had 4,477 total yards (373ypg) last year, 18 touchdowns through the air and 19 via the ground. They ran the ball 478 times and threw for 328 pass attempts, a run heavy offense. That may have had something to do with the injury to Lombardi, but also could be because they run it well. Last year they averaged 190.4ypg on the ground which puts them in the top 50 (FBS). In 2021 the Huskies won the Mid-American Conference Championship where they were led by their 4th in the nation rushing attack who averaged 241.4ypg. Look for the Huskies to try to mix in a heavy dosage of rushing attempts on Saturday but won’t be shy to let Lombardi throw the ball in his return. Reports from training camp suggest kicker Jake Seibert made multiple field goal attempts from 40 yards and further. NIU will hope to run the ball but may need to start passing if they find themselves down in the game.

Northern Illinois Defense:

In 2022 Northern Illinois defense let up 32.8 points per game via 32 TDs through the air and 14 on the ground. As I mentioned on this week’s episode of BC Banter, a star player to watch on the Huskies defensive line is Redshirt Sophomore James Ester. Ester, a two year captain, was last year’s team MVP starting all 12 games at Defensive Tackle. He made 28 total tackles, including six tackles for loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles. Raishein Thomas is another player on the defensive line to look out for. He started 11 games in 2022 and has 110 career tackles, 12.5 which were tackles for a loss. NIU is replacing 3 of the top 5 tacklers from a year ago at the linebacker position and is also revamping their secondary after a disappointing 2022 season. Look for the defensive line to anchor the NIU defense as they battle it out in the trenches.

Skip to here if you just want the picks:

The Eagles, in year four under head coach Jeff Hafley, are 2-1 in season openers. I think Boston College will improve that record to 3-1. Boston College is still being weighed down in Vegas due to last year’s debacle at offensive line. After the first offensive series of the game, we will know if the line is worth a wager. Waiting and live betting wouldn’t be the worst move, but I don’t have that luxury, so I am taking BC at -8.5 points.

The over/under is a tricky one for this game will all the unknowns. At 50.5 points total and an 8.5-point line, Vegas is somewhat predicting a 30-21 Boston College win. That would cover the spread by a half point and have the over hit by a half point. I think Boston College will score high 20’s, maybe even 30+, but will NIU do their part and score 21 points? I have NIU scoring one maybe two touchdowns, and a few field goals early in the game. I am taking the under, I just don’t see these teams engaging in a shootout or a high scoring affair although this one will be close. I don’t like taking the under when I am a fan of one of the teams as I never want to root for them not to score. Good luck with your bets, let me know your picks in the comments.

“Scared money don’t make no money” – Young Jeezy. Pete’s Picks

Boston College -8.5

Under 50.5 points

Boston College Moneyline

Brett’s Picks

Boston College -8.5

Under 50.5 points

Boston College Moneyline

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Rider: A breath of fresh air

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Over the last 15 seasons of Boston College football, fans have come into each year with a simple hope. One where the team would finally eclipse the 7-win mark. For a magnitude of different reasons, they have not been able to do so.

Steve Addazio could not shake the number seven during his tenure, gaining the moniker “Seven win Steve” due to his almost perpetual 7-6 record as head coach, something he accomplished in five of his total, you guessed it, seven seasons at the helm.

The 2018 was the peak of Addazio’s success in Chestnut Hill as the team reached 7-2, a place in the AP poll and College Game Day made its way to the Heights. Bottoming out losing their final three games on top of a freak-of-nature bowl cancellation left the seven-win mark intact. The following year, 2019, was the end of the Addazio era. Despite a season-ending win that granted the Eagles bowl-elligibility, the Eagles fied

This is where Jeff Hafley entered the fold. With all the pomp and circumstance, excitement exploded from through the Yawkey Athletic Center ceiling, as Hafley birthed a catchphrase the program would rally behind, “Get In.”

With any coaching change, roster turnover is to be expected. Pair that with the Covid-19 pandemic that shook the world at its core, and face of the program A.J. Dillon departing for the NFL. Despite this, the BC community was sold on the new head coach. After Hafley laid out his vision for the school in his introductory press conference, then proceeded to navigate through adversity of the inaugural 2020 campaign. Hafley’s inaugural season was deemed highly successful with their 6-5 record.

“And we’ll be sitting up here we’ll be talking about a lot of great things because in all honesty, I want to compete and I want to win, I want to get better and I want this to be a top 25 program. That’s real, that’s the truth, and it can be.” Hafley continued with his vision,. “I want there to be magical moments and magical seasons, like you guys have seen with Doug and Matt. We need to bring back those magical moments to the heights. That’s why I’m here.”

Similarly to his predecessor, Hafley was unable to bring BC to the next level. Although he had the Eagles at Bowl eligibility in three of his four seasons, he subsequently won six games in each of those seasons. It seems that not only was he not fulfilling the expectations to raise the program, they seemed to have taken a small step back. Hafley’s tenure was mired with frustration, inadequacy, and disappointment in living up to the lofty expectations set by the fanbase. It ultimately was the inability to see the vision materialize, or even give a sense of a palpable path leading towards it in four seasons.

This brings us to the present day of Boston College football and the state of the team, and expectations are once again high and hopeful.

With newly minted head coach Bill O’Brien set to roam the Alumni Stadium sidelines there is a lot to like with this marriage. At the time of this writing, there have been no reports of a mass exodus for the current roster. It seems as though O’Brien will have a majority of the team intact for his initial season. That includes stand-out quarterback Thomas Castellanos, who announced via his Instagram “We staying” allowing BC fans and alumni worldwide to breathe a side of relief.

It cannot be understated just how important it is to get the majority of the team to buy back in, and accept new leadership — especially in this day and age in college football where the transfer portal is prevalent. Boston College administration knew what they had to do to keep the fallout form Hafley’s departure to a minimum, and the quality hire of O’Brien does just that. It instantly allows BC to keep their momentum off their bowl win in December and look to elevate, not rebuild.

Simply put, Hafley was coaching for his job this upcoming season. With the likes of a much more difficult schedule in ’24, the doubt was valid. BC has the likes of a trip to Florida State to open the year, Mizzou, and a Fenway Bowl rematch down in Dallas with SMU. Michigan State is also set to come to Chestnut Hill. This is a stark contrast to the 2023 schedule, which most pundits agreed was one of if not the easiest in FBS. Going from a guy who was coaching for his preverbal life, and in a corner alone, to a guy whose track record speaks for itself and has the backing of an entire community.

O’Brien has already instilled more juice and buzz into the program than any player, coach, or moment has since Lane Stadium went quiet in 2007.

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BC football notebook: Bill O’Brien with a great start to his Eagles career — ‘You can win at a place like this’

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On Thursday afternoon, Boston College introduced Bill O’Brien as their new head coach of the football team. Athletic Director Blake James opened with remarks detailing the search, and what the team was looking for in a new coach.

“We talked to our players, and the players gave us the input they wanted and they wanted a winner,” James said. “They wanted someone who’s passionate. They wanted a motivator.”

With previous head coach Jeff Hafley up and leaving BC so late into the offseason, it was a concern that the candidate pool would not be as robust as one would prefer. As it turned out, not only was there a high level of candidates available, but options the likes BC has not seen before in previous searches.

“I talked with Father Jack as we interview candidates in person,” James explained. “And he grabbed me and said Blake, this is the strongest pool of candidates we’ve ever had for the football head coaching positions here at Boston College. But one candidate stood out from the rest. Who’s the best fit for Boston College.”

Boston College is a unique place. The challenge that is ever present for BC is the academic standards that the university upholds. O’Brien quickly made note of the rigorous schedule his players have with early morning workouts before attending class for the day.

“I don’t know if everybody knows this about the Boston College program right now, is that this is a morning program. So these are young men who get up at 5:30 every morning, and they work out with us. They meet on football. That’s how they practice in the spring. That’s how they practice in the in the fall, and then they go to class. And as the leader of the Boston College football program, that’s something that’s one of the main reasons why I want the job, you can win at a place like this.”

The education portion of BC has always been part of the package. O’Brien embraces that.

“This is a place where young men can come and play good football, get a great education, and give back to the community. And I think that’s what Boston College is all about,” he said. “And so I just want you to know that this is an outstanding group of young men who will proudly represent Boston College both on and off the field.”

As someone who had close ties to the university, it was the values in the university mission that aligned with the new head coach, who plans to continue instilling them in the team.

“We had great discussions about the values of Boston College, faith, education, and service to others. Commitment, integrity, respect, and loyalty. Those are the things that make Boston College such an incredible place and really why I wanted the job. I will do my best every single day to instill these values in our players, our student-athletes, every day that I’m here as that football coach.

“As I already mentioned, my responsibility to this program is to instill in our student-athletes the values of Boston College, character, hard work, respect, and integrity, in everything that we do. We will strive for success on the field and in the classroom will cultivate our minds and our talents and use those in service to others.”

Along with the values of BC, O’Brien outlined what the DNA of his team will be.

“We can win with guys who want to get a great education and play good football in the ACC. In keeping with the great tradition of Boston College, we’re going to be a smart, tough physical football team. We’ve already talked about that for five days. We might not win every game, but we will not be out tough. We will not be out competed, we will be a tough, smart physical football team.” O’Brien continued, “We’ll be a good situational team. And we’ll be a team that plays complementary football in all three phases.”

O’Brien’s next remarks were directed at the school’s former players and alum, and of great value. Last spring, The Heights released a piece highlighting the disconnect between the current program and their alumnus. O’Brien made a vow, and a plan, to earn their trust and support. It’s evident that he hopes they can be actively involved with the current team.

“I want to extend a message to the BC football family for coaches, but especially with players, I have tremendous respect for the history of this program. The great admiration for your loyalty. We respectfully request the chance to earn your trust and support through communication and a tremendous work ethic. You will always be welcome in this program. And we hope you will be a big part of our program.”

The speech concluded with a nice anecdote that had a ‘homecoming’ feel to it. As a local guy who grew up in the Boston area, O’Brien touched on the fulfillment that becoming the BC head coach meant to him.

“As a lifelong BC fan, a lot of us went to Brown, but we were secret Boston College fans, I promise you. I went into coaching. In 1993, I went into coaching at Brown. I always dreamed about being the head coach at Boston College. My career has taken some twists and turns taking me down roads, I never could have imagined that as I stand here today, I couldn’t be more grateful that the road has finally taken me back home to Boston College.”

Boston College has the reputation of being a ‘stepping stone’ school. In short, being a ‘Power 5’ school in FBS makes it an attractive position alone, but the issue BC has had in the past is candidates use their success here to move onto more attractive blue blood schools. O’Brien has the resume and pedigree to follow suit.

With his extensive experience, he views this as a final destination, something Eagles fans should rejoice at the notion.

“When I had the honor of meeting Father Leahy, about being committed to this program, you know, this is a program that does that will do things the right way,” Obrien continued, “Jeff Hafley did a really good job. You know, he did he did a good job here. We need to build on that. And we also need to build on what’s been done in the past year, you know, over time, obviously, you know, having connections to coach Bucknell and Coach Coughlin and Coach O’Brien, you know, no one the success that they have here in the formula that they did, but that’s something that I really believe in. And I can’t wait to get that goal.”

Previous successful Boston College football programs all had similar characteristics. Tough, hard-nosed teams. O’Brien is not looking to change the blueprint, his vision is seemingly to get back to those roots.

“This will be a team that will that on the football field will play smart, will be tough,” he said. “We will be a physical team will be a team that does the simple things. Well, we have to we have to be the team that wins the penalty battles and wins the turnover battle that plays the best on third down and plays the best in the right area. We have to play this situational football off the field. You know, this is a place where I believe that we all in the football program have to embrace what Boston College is and you can do both.

“Boston College is a place where you can do a lot of great things. I am not into the prediction thing. What I will promise you is that we will field a very, very competitive football team with a bunch of guys that will play hard and that will be tough,” O’Brien added. “Will we win the national championship every year? Who knows? I don’t know. I’m not a predictor. I’m not a genie. I’m just telling you that we will show up every Saturday and we will play to the best of our ability.”

He then touched on NIL, and how they’ll embrace it.

“We need to work. It’s called work, you have to organize your time, you have to budget your time properly. And you got to work. And so we’re gonna put the work in. You know, some things won’t happen overnight. Some things will take time, some things will happen quicker, but it’s all about work. I think you can balance it, when you organize it. You have great people around you with great people here.”

Coaching staff

BC made a Valentine’s Day splash on Wednesday, hiring two more defensive staff members. They reportedly picked up Washington State’s DBs coach Ray Brown for the same position and Maine defensive coordinator Jeff Commissiong as the defensive line coach.

Brown spent two years with the Cougars, though before that was with Abilene Christian, Utah State, and Troy.

For Commissiong, it’s a bit different. He was with BC from 2007-2013 in the defensive line role before spending a number of years with Old Dominion and a brief stint with Cornell, which led to his coordinator role at Maine.

HC: Bill O’Brien
OC: Will Lawing
DC: Tim Lewis

QB: Jonathan DiBiaso
RB: Savon Huggins
WR: Darrell Wyatt
OL: Matt Applebaum

DL: Jeff Comissiong
ILB: Paul Rhoads**
OLB: Sean Duggan**
CB: Ray Brown

ST: Matt Thurin**

* * = not clear if O’Brien is bringing back or not

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DiMauro: O’Brien delivers instant cachet for BC football

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There are few other endeavors that cause the malarkey-o-meter to tilt with greater intensity than your basic introductory press conference.

Often, the participants employ those plastic smiles people wear when they’d rather be elsewhere. They offer more opinions than facts. Meanwhile, gullible members of the gallery, eager for change, will let their agenda overshadow their critical eye.

And then there’s what happened Thursday at Boston College. Not saying bits of the aforementioned paragraph didn’t apply. But there was Bill O’Brien at the podium, wearing his BC tie, talking about his new BC football program and it hit you: This is what instant cachet looks, sounds and acts like.

Instant cachet: A man with the extensive background, but with local ties. A man who alluded to Ryan Day, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft in his opening remarks. A man who won at Penn State. Coached under Nick Saban. The man who coached Tom Brady for heaven’s sake. And yet the St. John’s Prep man with Colleen, his wife, the magna cum laude BC grad of 1992.

Seriously. You couldn’t have locked Fr. Monan, Bill Flynn, Jack Bicknell, Doug Flutie and Tom Coughlin in a room with the metaphorical genie and his three wishes and engineered a better fit for BC football.

And now he’s here.

“I grew up outside of Boston (Andover) with my family, as a lifelong BC fan,” O’Brien said. “A lot of us went to Brown, but we were secret Boston College fans. I promise you when I went into coaching in 1993, I always dreamed about being the head coach at Boston College. My career has taken some twists and turns and has taken me down roads I never could have imagined. But as I stand here today, I couldn’t be more grateful that the road has finally taken me back home to Boston College.”

Now for some full disclosure: Cachet notwithstanding, I was most interested in O’Brien’s responses to transfer portal and Name-Image-Likeness questions. Like it or not, the marriage of those entities has created new rules regarding player procurement and retention – rules with which many coaches have grown uncomfortable. Translation: You better embrace the portal and your NIL collective, because their influence on your talent base will be significant.

Among Jeff Hafley’s best parting gifts to BC was developing a solid relationship with Tom Devitt, the director of “Friends of the Heights,” BC’s growing NIL collective. Hafley did well in the transfer portal before leaving for the NFL. “Friends of the Heights” contributed mightily to that.

“I’m excited to work with the Friends of the Heights group to keep building on what they have already started,” O’Brien said. “Tom Levitt and I had a good meeting yesterday.”

You’ll note O’Brien got the name wrong, calling him “Levitt” and not “Devitt.” He gets a mulligan. O’Brien rallied later when asked directly about NIL and the portal.

“You need to embrace it. And we need to work. It’s called work,” O’Brien said. “You’d have to organize your time, budget your time properly. Some things won’t happen overnight. Some things will take time. Some things will happen quicker. But it’s all about work. I think you can balance it when you organize it and you have great people around you. We have great people here.”

Otherwise, I believed O’Brien more when he said BC will be a good situational team (a Belichick staple) more than I did when he said this was his “destination” job. He incurred a wry grin when he was asked if you can win a national championship at BC, delivering a diplomatic answer:

“Boston College is a place where you can do a lot of great things. I am not into the prediction thing. What I will promise you is that we will field a very, very competitive football team with a bunch of guys that will play hard and that will be tough,” O’Brien said. “Will we win the national championship every year? Who knows? I don’t know. I’m not a predictor. I’m not a genie. I’m just telling you that we will show up every Saturday and we will play to the best of our ability.”

And then his last words may have resounded the loudest. Bill O’Brien talked about closing the borders. Many coaches say that. But O’Brien can. Know why? He coached Tom Brady. He knows the NFL. Kids who are offered a competitive NIL deal will be drawn to BC more than ever. Instant cachet.

“I can honestly tell you that high school coaches, especially when I talked to some of the guys that had coached here in the past,” O’Brien said, “one thing that’s very, very important is that we do as good a job as we can of putting a wall up around New England and keeping these best players in New England, coming to Boston College. 

“Players that embrace what Boston College is all about. Good football players who care about academics and care about getting a great education. Not letting them go to Clemson or Miami. Let’s keep them at home where their parents can drive 20 minutes 30 minutes to come watch and play right here in this beautiful stadium.”

Mike DiMauro, a columnist in Connecticut, is a contributor to Eagles Daily and a member of BC’s class of 1990. He may be reached at m.dimauro@theday.com or @BCgenius

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