Boston College Eagles vs Cincinnati Bearcats
When: 3:00 PM ET, Thursday, January 2, 2020
Where: Legion Field, Birmingham, Alabama
Preview for Digital Sports Desk by Gracenote
TICKETSMARTER BIRMINGHAM BOWL STORYLINES
- No. 22 Cincinnati seeks its second straight 11-win season when it battles Boston College on Jan. 2 at the Birmingham Bowl in Alabama. The Bearcats suffered only a road loss to No. 2 Ohio State early in the season and back-to-back narrow defeats to No. 15 Memphis late, but have established themselves as a power in the American Athletic Conference under third-year coach Luke Fickell, who guided them to a 35-31 win over Virginia Tech in the Military Bowl last year. Cincinnati fell 29-24 in the AAC title game to the Tigers on a late touchdown.
- Boston College has a chance to finish with seven wins for the sixth time in seven years, but several of the people involved in that consistent, if not spectacular, run are no longer around. Steve Addazio was fired as head coach at the end of the regular season while star junior running back AJ Dillon declared for the NFL draft and will sit out the bowl game. Offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian also left the program to serve in the same role for Northwestern.
- Jeff Hafley, the co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State who remains involved with that team’s preparation for the FBS semifinals against Clemson on Dec. 28, will take over for Addazio in Chestnut Hill. “I never thought that I would leave (Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day) after one season,” Hafley said at his introductory press conference. “Quite honestly, that’s not what I planned on doing. But when this one opened, it felt special, it felt right.” Rich Gunnell is serving as the interim head coach and will guide the Eagles in the bowl game.
TV: 3 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Cincinnati -7
ABOUT BOSTON COLLEGE (6-6): Dillon exits with a school-record 4,382 yards on the ground – an ACC-leading 1,685 this year – and leaves a massive void in an offense that lost starting quarterback Anthony Brown earlier in the year to a knee injury. Sophomore David Bailey amassed 816 yards as Dillon’s backup, including 172 with two touchdowns on just 16 carries in a win at Syracuse, and he’s prepared to be the centerpiece for the nation’s sixth-ranked rushing offense (267.8 yards per game).
“I am always ready for anything and it’s always been the next man up mentality,” Bailey told reporters. “Throughout the season I was prepared for anything that could happen and I’m always ready, I was born to be ready. This is going to be a great experience for me and the team going down there without AJ and seeing what we can do as a team.”
ABOUT CINCINNATI (10-3): The Bearcats also rely on a strong ground game behind junior Michael Warren II, who has back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons with 33 touchdowns on the ground in that span. Junior Gerrid Oaks has also compiled 499 rushing yards to help support sophomore quarterback Desmond Ridder (545 rushing yards of his own), who returned from a shoulder injury for the AAC title contest but completed just 16-of-36 passes. Over his last three games, Ridder – who threw for an early touchdown before suffering an ankle injury in last year’s Military Bowl – is 34-for-79 with no TDs and two interceptions, but he ran for 113 yards and a TD in the AAC championship game loss.
PREDICTION: Cincinnati 28, Boston College 21