Boston College travels down to Raleigh this weekend with a chance to knock off an unbeaten NC State team that is ranked, but has yet to face a true challenge yet.
This game could tell us a lot about how far BC (4-1 overall, 1-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) has come since its loss to Purdue, so let's dive into the factors that should come into play when the Eagles face off against the 4-0 Wolfpack.
— AJ Dillon or no AJ Dillon, this will be a major test for the BC running game. NC State enters the contest with the 19th-ranked rushing defense in the country, and has allowed just two touchdowns on the ground so far. It has been deemed a game-time decision on whether Dillon, who is dealing with an apparent ankle injury, will play or not. BC is deep at the running back position, but obviously there is a big drop off after Dillon. The Eagles will probably not reinvent the wheel without him if Dillon cannot play, so expect a lot of responsibility to be put on the offensive line to create holes in the NC State front seven.
— The BC defense needs to show something this week. Against Wake Forest, Purdue, and Temple, the Eagles have allowed 30 or more points each time. Sure, the Eagles are forcing turnovers and getting sacks and tackles for loss, which will come in handy against any opponent, but they are also giving up an uncharacteristic amount of yards on the ground. BC ranks 81st in the nation with 165.6 rushing yards allowed per game. That's not a winning formula at any level, and the ACC is not a forgiving conference for teams deficient in that area.
— Efficiency. That's the word you will hear over and over when it comes to NC State and its passing attack. Quarterback Ryan Finley briefly had some NFL buzz last year because of the same quality. In other words, it is quality over quantity for Finley, who has completed 68.6 percent of his passes for 1,313 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception. For BC, it will simply be all about disrupting Finley's timing, having a consistent pass rush, and mixing up the looks in the secondary.
— It feels like NC State has reached the point where it does not matter who graduates or leaves early to the NFL, there will be studs to replace them along the defensive line. Even though the Wolfpack lost first-round pick Bradley Chubb, they appear to have two very good players up front this season that the BC offensive line will need to game plan for. Defensive tackle Larrell Murchison had three sacks and four tackles for loss in the win over Virginia, while end James Smith-Williams already has two sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss on the year. These two will be worth keeping an eye on every snap.