The #24 SMU Mustangs will look to cap off a fantastic, conference title-winning season with a win against ACC foe Boston College, who will be on their home turf this Thursday (12/28/23) in the second annual Fenway Bowl. Get SMU vs. BC odds, picks and predictions below as our best bet is SMU -10.
SMU vs. Boston College Prediction
The first-ever iteration of the Fenway Bowl last season gave us some phenomenal drama by way of some head coaching carousel shenanigans. This year’s iteration involves a true home team for the first time, and a contest between two teams who took massive positive strides this year.
SMU went just 7-6 last year in the first season after the departure of Sonny Dykes, but have gone 11-2 thus far, including their first-ever American Athletic Conference title. A win in the Fenway Bowl would secure the Mustangs’ first 12-1 season since going 12-1 way back in 1935, and it’s already their first 11-win campaign since 1982 in the now-defunct Southwest Conference
As for BC, they went 3-9 last year; they haven’t had a worse record since 2012. The Eagles weren’t projected to make a bowl of any sort this year, and will be thrilled to play at historic Fenway Park, just a few minutes’ drive away from Campus. A win over SMU would mark their first bowl win since the 2016 Quick Lane Bowl, and just their second over the past 15 years.
These two teams are coming into Fenway in very different recent form. SMU is on fire, having started 2-2 and not lost since. They ran roughshod through the ACC, even beating a highly-touted Tulane team with Michael Pratt active, and ended the regular season eighth in the entire country in EPA per play.
Meanwhile, BC rebounded beautifully from a 1-3 start — which included depressing home losses by a total of five points to Northern Illinois and still-undefeated Florida State. Jeff Hafley’s Eagles squad won their next five games to secure bowl eligibility with three weeks to spare, but absolutely crumbled down the stretch. They lost in uncompetitive fashion to very mediocre Miami and Virginia Tech squads, and were even upset by a terrible Pitt team.
Motivation should be high for both teams as each team stands to gain from a win. From a personnel availability standpoint, though, BC seems to be in more trouble. Between the transfer portal and player injuries, the Eagles are pretty shorthanded, while the Mustangs are more or less intact other than the absence of star quarterback Preston Stone. Kevin Jennings was up-and-down in Stone’s place against Tulane, but ultimately did enough to help his team pick up the tremendous win.
Boston College has struggled all year defending in just about all facets, but their pass prevention unit was particularly terrible, ranking 125th in the country by EPA per play. The Eagles just might be bad enough that Jennings could make SMU look like the group that Stone ushered to rank 13th in the same category, and coast to a win. Even if that’s not really how things go down, the Mustangs’ o-line, ranked fourth in PFF’s run blocking grade, should be enough to let the run game thrive once more, just as it did against Tulane.
SMU vs. Boston College Prediction: SMU -10
SMU vs. Boston College Best Odds
SMU is a big 10-point favorite against a Power Five opponent, or -400 on the moneyline. BC is +305 to pull off the upset in their own backyard, while both sides of the total of 49.5 are set at -110.
SMU vs. Boston College Key Matchups
With Preston Stone out, BC’s primary task on defense will be slowing down an SMU ground attack that dominated against Tulane, while the Mustangs’ own defense will also be dealing with a very potent rushing offense.
Boston College Rushing Offense vs. SMU Ground Defense
BC’s rushing offense was by far the biggest driving force behind the team’s success. The o-line ranked 25th in PFF’s run blocking grades, while the rushing unit overall earned the seventh-best EPA per play in the country. The team’s leading rusher was actually dynamic quarterback Thomas Castellanos, who ran for 11 touchdowns and nearly 1,000 yards despite not fully owning the starting job out of the gate this year. Running back Kyle Robichaux was pretty productive despite missing some time with injuries, as he averaged almost 70 yards per appearance, but star guard Christian Mahogany is the highest talent on the offense.
SMU’s rushing defense, however, was also fantastic this year, ranking 23rd in the country in EPA per play. That’s not as high as their phenomenal pass defense, so this will still be the Eagles’ preferred method of attack, but it’s going to be a challenge. This unit is pretty much intact, anchored by star linebacker Ahmad Walker, who earned a PFF run defense grade of 89.3. Interior d-lineman Elijah Chatman and safety Isaiah Nwokobia also scored right around 80 by the same system, giving the Mustangs some great contributors at all three levels.
SMU Rushing Offense vs. Boston College Ground Defense
SMU’s ground attack wasn’t quite as efficient as BC’s, grading 59th overall by EPA per play, but that could have been in part due to lack of necessity as Stone piloted one of the best passing offenses in the country. With their star quarterback injured, the remaining Mustangs took a huge step up in their biggest game in decades. They ran for 193 yards against a fantastic Tulane defense, which ranks 18th in EPA against the run even after the shellacking. It was a balanced attack, as lead back Jaylan Knighton ran for 75 yards and a score, while Jennings chipped in with 63 on the ground.
BC’s run-stopping is better than their abysmal air defense, but it still only ranks 88th in EPA per play. Interior lineman Cam Horsley has been a serious anchor in the middle, with a PFF rushing defense grade of 84.6 and just one missed tackle in run defense all year. Beyond him, linebacker Vinny DePalma has been the most key run defender for the Eagles in the second level, providing support in the not-so-rare event that a runner makes it past BC’s d-line.