The only ACC game of college football’s opening weekend pits Boston College and Georgia Tech against each other. But the setting is more intriguing than the conference clash, given that the Eagles and Yellow Jackets are squaring off in Ireland. It’s being called the Aer Lingus College Football Classic, and it's the third game on the Emerald Isle in the last five years.
Both teams will be looking to get their 2016 seasons off to positive starts in Dublin, and both teams could really use them after disappointing 2015 campaigns.
Georgia Tech’s 3-9 run in 2015 was the far more disappointing season of the two, despite a memorable upset of Florida State on a walk-off blocked field goal touchdown return. The Yellow Jackets’ other two wins were over Alcorn State and Tulane, and they lost six games by eight points or fewer just one season after an ACC Championship Game appearance.
Boston College simply short-circuited on offense in 2015, as has become a bit of a tradition under coach Steve Addazio. The Eagles scored more than 24 points just once, in a 76-0 blistering of lowly Howard, and failed to score more than 17 points against an FBS foe. A defense that held all but three foes under 20 points was wasted on that offense, and the Eagles limped to their own 3-9 mark.
How to watch, stream and listen
TV: 7:30 a.m. ET, ESPN2 (Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland)
Online streaming: WatchESPN
Spread: Georgia Tech started the week as a 3.5-point favorite.
Three big things to know
1. Boston College’s defense is absurd. Fourth in scoring defense. First in total defense. Third in S&P+. By any metric, the Eagles had a truly elite defense in 2015, up there with the Alabamas, Clemsons and Michigans of the world.
2. Boston College’s offense is abysmal. And the defense did that with criminally little help from its offense! Boston College topped 5 yards per play just twice — in that rout of Howard and, strangely, against Notre Dame — in 2015, and threw for more than 155 yards just once all season. There’s reason beyond his Harambe love to believe Kentucky transfer Patrick Towles might be able to help the Eagles’ passing game — but, then, Towles having a live arm and a pulse might make him an upgrade on the four underclassmen who threw passes for BC in 2015, none of whom totaled more than 500 yards through the air on the year.
3. Georgia Tech needs to right the ship. The Yellow Jackets have been known for a nearly unstoppable option run game under Paul Johnson, but that’s about all they had in 2015, when they plummeted from their 2014 heights. An older, healthier outfit should be able to improve on the worst completion percentage by an FBS team from last season and a defense that conceded 30 or more points five times. Johnson probably needs it, with the ACC improving around him and Kirby Smart breathing new life into Georgia.