Boston College vs. No. 21 Cincinnati: Birmingham Bowl preview and picks against the spread

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Boston College (6-6) vs. No. 21 Cincinnati (10-3)

Location: Birmingham, Ala. | When: Jan. 2 (3 p.m.) | TV: ESPN | Line: Cincinnati -7.5

HOW THESE TEAMS GOT HERE

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Boston College: It was an up-and-down year in Chestnut Hill. Boston College started the year by beating Virginia Tech, but lost to Kansas two weeks later. The Eagles lost quarterback Anthony Brown to a season-ending injury in an Oct. 5 loss to Louisville, putting backup Dennis Grosel in the starting lineup. That prompted a shift to a run-heavy attack. BC was 4-4 entering the month of November and needed a road upset over Pitt in the season finale to get six wins. Even after that win, the school fired head coach Steve Addazio. 

Cincinnati: Cincinnati was the highest-ranked Group of Five team for much of the season. The Bearcats were blown out by Ohio State in Week 2, but then reeled off nine consecutive victories to get to 10-1 despite inconsistent play on offense. Cincinnati clinched the AAC East title with a 15-13 win over Temple on Nov. 23, but then lost back-to-back games to Memphis. The first loss gave Memphis the AAC West and home field in the AAC title game. The second loss gave Memphis the conference crown and clinched a spot in the Cotton Bowl, while Cincy dropped to a lower level bowl. 

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH

There are only two games on Jan. 2 this year and this is the first of the two, so if you’re still home from work for a few more days there may not be much else on TV at 3 p.m. ET on a Thursday. From a football perspective, this game could be fairly high-scoring. Boston College has one of the worst defenses in the country while its offense should still be able to run the ball pretty well with David Bailey, who will replace star running back AJ Dillon. Dillon is skipping the game to prepare for the NFL draft. 

Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell, center, speaks to a referee during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Tulsa, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell, center, speaks to a referee during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Tulsa, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Boston College LB Max Richardson: Richardson, a redshirt junior, is third in the ACC with 108 tackles on the season. He also has 14 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. A second-team All-ACC selection, Richardson is in his third season as a starter for the Eagles. He received a medical redshirt for the 2017 season after suffering a season-ending knee injury after four games. Overall, he has 216 tackles and 24 tackles for loss during his BC career. 

Cincinnati DB Darrick Forrest: The Cincinnati defense has five first-team All-AAC selections, but junior safety Darrick Forrest is especially worth highlighting. Forrest ranks third in the AAC with a team-leading 104 tackles. He also registered 3.5 tackles for loss and three interceptions on the season. He had three games with at least 10 tackles, including 16 in the win over UCF and 12 in the AAC title game. 

NFL DRAFT PROSPECT

Cincinnati TE Josiah Deguara: We don’t know if RB Michael Warren will declare for the draft, and the Boston College’s back (A.J. Dillion) is skipping this game. So let’s shine a light on Deguara, who first caught our attention in the opener against UCLA when he chased down a Bruins defender off a turnover and made a TD-saving tackle 60 yards downfield. Since then, the hybrid fullback-tight end (he’ll play both positions at the Senior Bowl) led the Bearcats in receptions and caught seven of the team’s 18 TD passes this season. He’s not massive at 6-foot-3 and 242 pounds, but Deguara looks like the kind of high-effort player no coach wants to get rid of on cutdown day. Put him in the slot, inline, offset, in motion — whatever — and use him on special teams. Useful player and a late-round sleeper.

- Eric Edholm

WHAT’S ON THE LINE

Boston College: Boston College finished with exactly seven wins in six of Steve Addazio’s seven seasons at the school. Even though Addazio has been fired and is now the coach at Colorado State, it’s hard to imagine a more fitting tribute than to get to seven wins one final time before Jeff Hafley takes over the program. 

Cincinnati: When Cincinnati reached the 11-win mark in 2018, Luke Fickell’s second season at the school, it was the first time that had happened since 2009, which was Brian Kelly’s last season before departing for Notre Dame. With a win over BC, Cincinnati can make it back-to-back 11-win campaigns with a win over an ACC team in a bowl game for the second straight year. UC beat Virginia Tech in the Military Bowl last year. 

Boston College running back David Bailey (26) scores a touchdown against NC State. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Boston College running back David Bailey (26) scores a touchdown against NC State. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

PICKS

Nick Bromberg: Cincinnati -7

Sam Cooper: Cincinnati -7

Picks from the Yahoo Sports College Podcast

Pat Forde: Cincinnati -7

Pete Thamel: Cincinnati -7

Dan Wetzel: Cincinnati -7

Sean Sullivan: Cincinnati -7

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