This Saturday, the UConn football team (3-5) is back in East Hartford for the first time in four weeks, facing former Big East rival Boston College (2-5) in a game that is critical for the direction of their season.
UConn started off the season 1-1 in a pair of winnable games, but ran into a trio of teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25. They lost the three games by over 100 points total, but immediately rebounded, beating a battered up Fresno State and a lowly FIU. Things were looking up with considerable hope for a bowl game, but a lot of it rode on their game against Ball State that they led 21-10 at the half. The wheels fell off in the second half as the defense allowed 15 points and the offense managed just 23 yards. Now, UConn will need to win three of their last four games if they want to play in December. The first step is beating the Eagles, so let’s take a look at how this game might go.
At the moment, Boston College has just a single FBS win in a home game where they squeaked by a decent Louisville team, 34-33. The Athletic’s 131 rankings place the Louisville Cardinals at No. 79, which is solid. Their other win was against UMaine, a team in the bottom of the FCS, whom the Eagles beat by just three scores. With this in mind, they’re not a team whose resume looks so different from UConn’s. They’ve played one less currently ranked team than the Huskies and didn’t have any more success. The point is, resume alone, the two teams don’t look super different.
Offensively, the Eagles are much more dangerous through the air than on the ground. Their rushing game ranks dead last in the FBS, averaging just 66 yards per game. The Eagles have had much more success through the air, ranking right around the middle of the country in passing offense. This effort is led by senior QB Phil Jurkovec, who is having a decent campaign so far. He’s thrown for over 1500 yards and has notched 11 touchdowns. Jurkovec’s favorite target thus far has been Zay Flowers, who has accounted for over a third of his yardage and scoring production. The UConn defense definitely struggled more against the run when they played Ball State, so it’ll be interesting to see how they respond to a passing-oriented squad like the Eagles.
On the other side of the ball, Boston College has been in the middle of the pack. They rank No. 70 in the country in yards allowed per game, but do tend to keep things lower scoring, giving up fewer than 20 points on average. Nothing incredible, but at the same time it should be enough to challenge a still young Husky offense.
For UConn, the biggest storyline is the potential of getting Keelan Marion back this week. The second year wide receiver scored a touchdown against Utah State in the Huskies’ first game, then broke his collarbone. Having the best pass-catcher on the roster back is going to be a massive lift for a depleted receiving corps that has grown throughout the year. Aaron Turner, Kevens Clercius and Justin Joly have stepped up nicely in the absence of Marion and Cam Ross, so having all four in the mix will be a welcome sign for everyone around the program.
Ultimately, the biggest key for the game will be avoiding the snowball effect that turns into a stretch of bad games, so ensuring that the team stays on track will be mission-critical. The offense needs to pave the way by playing like they did during the 2.5 halves prior to the most recent one, which is why Marion’s spark comes at a perfect time. UConn’s defense was strong, and a weak BC offensive line could be just what they need to get their confidence back. A win here will take a strong effort, but it’s not impossible by any means.
The Huskies are finally back on live cable television, returning to CBS Sports network for a noon kickoff.