2016 Quick Lane Bowl Preview: Former ACC Foes Collide in Detroit

Quick Lane Bowl Preview

Ford Field in Detroit, MI is site to one of four bowl games involving the Big Ten and ACC as Maryland and Boston College prepare to clash in the 2016 Quick Lane Bowl. Both teams come into this contest at 6-6, looking to get a win and finish the season above .500. There’s an added sense of intrigue here considering these two programs were once conference rivals.

Maryland was a founding member of the ACC (along with six other schools) when the conference was founded in 1953. The program won the first two league titles and have nine overall which is third best behind Clemson and Florida State. But the Terps became a target of the Big Ten with that conference looking to expand their media footprint to the Eastern Seaboard. After 62 seasons in the ACC, Maryland bolted for the Big Ten in 2014.

Speaking of conference realignment, it was Boston College who found themselves absorbed into that whirlwind in the mid-2000s. The program had been part of the Big East since 1991 but were one of three schools (Miami and Virginia Tech being the others) who left for the ACC starting in 2004 (BC officially joined a year later).

The Terps and Eagles crossed paths nine times while both were ACC members. Needless to say, it was advantage BC for the most part with Maryland going 2-7 in those games. They’ve also lost the last three meetings and as slight favorites for Monday’s game, the motivation level to upend their former conference rival should be high.

2016 Quick Lane Bowl Preview: Former ACC Foes Collide in Detroit

Where: Ford Field; Detroit, MI
When: Monday, December 26th; 2:30 PM ET
TV: ESPN
Line: Maryland by 1

Maryland Terrapins

On Offense

Senior quarterback Perry Hills battled injuries throughout the season, a contributing factor to Maryland’s 2-4 finish to 2016. But when healthy, he’s a highly efficient passer who doesn’t beat himself very often. Hills has just three interceptions on the year and his 146.75 quarterback rating is second in the Big Ten behind only Penn State signal caller Trace McSorley.

The ground game is what sets this Maryland offense apart. The Terps average 205.5 rushing yards per game, the third best mark in the Big Ten. It’s a primarily double-pronged attack with Ty Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison getting a fairly balanced amount of reps in the backfield. Johnson has 95 carries for 845 yards on the season, while Harrison isn’t far behind, toting the rock 88 times and gaining 633 yards. The two have combined for nine touchdowns.

Hills’ favorite target in the passing game is sophomore wideout D.J. Moore. The Philadelphia native led the team with 597 receiving yards and his six touchdown grabs was tied for seventh-best in the Big Ten. Only six receivers in the league had a higher yards per catch average than Moore’s 15.71.

On Defense

BC will have to contend with an underrated Maryland pass rush that gets to the quarterback with regularity. The Terps have 33.0 sacks on the year which is 27th nationally and fourth in the Big Ten. Anchoring the unit up front is defensive lineman Jesse Aniebonam. The 6’3″, 260 pound junior finished the regular season with 9.0 sacks and 13.0 tackles for loss. The 88 yards teams lost on account of his TFLs was top 20 in FBS.

As prolific as they are at getting to the quarterback, the Terp defense does not force a lot of turnovers. Their ten takeaways on the season is tied for fourth-worst in the nation and only two other schools (Texas State and North Carolina) have fewer than their four interceptions.

Summary

D.J. Durkin‘s first year as Maryland head coach saw the team realize a three-win improvement from last season. But after starting 4-0, the Terps dropped six of their next seven and needed a win over hapless Rutgers in the season finale to get bowl eligible. The former Michigan and Florida defensive coordinator will need a stout effort on that side of the ball against an offensively challenged BC team.

Boston College Eagles

On Offense

It’s not a stretch to describe the Boston College offense as one of the least productive in all of FBS. The Eagles are currently ranked no better than 100th in all four major statistical categories on that side of the football. Only Rutgers finished the regular season with fewer than BC’s 288.3 yards per game.

Behind center is quarterback Patrick Towles, who transferred from Kentucky in the off-season and was immediately eligible as a grad transfer. His overall pass numbers aren’t spectacular by any means. He averaged just 131.6 yards per game, completed 51 percent of his passes and threw ten touchdowns to six interceptions.

The Eagles run game may be ranked 12th out of 14 ACC teams in rushing offense (146.75 yards per game). But it’s had its fair share of explosive moments. Sophomore running back Jon Hillman broke off a 73-yard touchdown run in the season opener against Georgia Tech. Even Towles got in on the action. His 75-yard scamper into the end zone against Syracuse on October 22nd was the longest play from scrimmage for BC all year.

This is an offense that managed a mere 26 total touchdowns all year. To put that in perspective, Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Lamar Jackson had 51 all by himself. It’s highly likely BC is not bowl eligible if not for contributions on the other side of the ball.

On Defense

Fourth-year head coach Steve Addazio had to replace his defensive coordinator in the off-season when Don Brown took the same position under Jim Harbaugh at Michigan. It’s no wonder Brown attracted the attention of the Wolverines as BC led the nation in yards allowed last season. Addazio tabbed Jim Reid, who coached linebackers at Iowa from 2013-15, to take over the defense.

Suffice it to say the unit didn’t miss a beat in 2016. BC’s total defense remained in the top ten nationally this year. In fact, only Alabama, Michigan, Temple, Ohio State, Army, Florida and Wisconsin gave up fewer yards per game. It’s certainly nice to be mentioned in the same breath as many of those programs.

Defensive end Harold Landry stood out on the front four for the Eagles. He finished the regular season with 15 sacks which was tied with Florida State defensive lineman DeMarcus Walker for best in the nation. He also added 20.5 tackles for loss, a total bested in the ACC by one player, Pittsburgh’s Ejuan Price. Landry made All-ACC second team for his efforts.

The 6’3″ junior out of Spring Lake, NC was also a constant nuisance when it came to separating opposing runners from the football. He led the nation with seven forced fumbles and helped BC finish with 12 fumble recoveries on the year. That total was tied for 11th best in the nation.

Summary

After two straight 7-6 seasons, BC took a huge step back last year. The Eagles went 3-9 overall and were winless in ACC play. Offensive ineptitude was the primary culprit with the team only able to muster 206 total points which ranked 122nd in FBS.

Things improved marginally this year but BC was still one of 11 schools to average under 20 points per game. They started out 3-2 but then dropped four of their next five games, needing a two-game end of season winning streak to achieve bowl eligibility. In Detroit, the Eagles will look to continue their dominance over Maryland in the all-time series. They also have a chance at eclipsing the .500 threshold for the third time in Addazio’s four seasons in Chestnut Hill.

Both coaches are quite familiar with one another, having been on Urban Meyer’s staff at Florida in 2010. Addazio was offensive coordinator at the time while Durkin coached linebackers and special teams. A year later, Addazio left to begin his head coaching career at Temple. Durkin’s only prior experience as a head coach before 2016 came on an interim basis with the Gators in the 2015 Birmingham Bowl after Will Muschamp stepped down following the regular season.

Monday’s game will mark the 20th edition of this bowl, and the 13th of which to be played the day after Christmas. Expect a fairly defensive battle with both teams’ run games figuring prominently. Boston College has the edge on defense, but ultimately their struggles on the other side of the football costs them in the Motor City.

Prediction: Maryland 24, Boston College 20

Photo credit: Quick Lane Bowl