Here are five other things to know about Saturday’s matchup:
1. All eyes on Castellanos
The Boston College offense goes as Thomas Castellanos goes.
A 5-foot-10, 196-pound sophomore, Castellanos has become one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the ACC, if not the nation. He’s averaging 83.3 rushing yards per contest and 5.1 rushing yards per carry. Castellanos also has thrown for 1,143 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“That quarterback’s a really good player. Shifty. And he’ll get out on you if you don’t maintain eye discipline,” Tech linebacker Paul Moala said. “So that’s something we’ve been working on throughout the week and something we’re gonna pride ourselves on on Saturday.”
Castellanos was rated a three-star recruit coming out of Ware County High School in 2022. He played quarterback for the Gators for four years and totaled more than 11,000 yards of offense before enrolling at Central Florida for the 2022 season.
At UCF, Castellanos played sparingly and opted to transfer to BC. He became the Eagles’ starting quarterback Sept. 9.
“Man, he’s a problem. He is a good football player,” Key said of Castellanos. “People say, ‘Well, he’s an athlete playing quarterback.’ Well, if you’re touching the ball every play, you’re the quarterback. Over the course of my career, I’ve won a lot of football games with guys like him, guys that can make plays with their feet.
“He’s got a live arm. He really does. They’re doing things in the passing game to allow him to continue to improve each week in the passing game. He’s getting better each week in the characteristics that go along with truly playing the quarterback position as far as reading the field and throwing the ball.”
2. Home sour home
Key knows that winning at Bobby Dodd Stadium has become anything but a given in recent years. The Jackets go into Saturday’s matchup with Boston College 1-1 at home this season, 8-18 at home since the start of the 2019 season and 5-11 in their past 16 ACC home tilts.
Key went into detail this week on how he believes the program’s routine on Fridays before Saturday home games may be a factor in his team’s lackluster performances at home. And while he admitted that tinkering with a program’s routine halfway through a season is not optimal, he also said he knew something needed to be done to reverse the current trends.
Tech hasn’t had a winning home record since 2018.
“I think it has a lot to do with our attitude going into the game. A lot of us are pretty lax when we’re at home and pretty comfortable,” Moala said. “I think that going into a game with the personality that we’re gonna win and going in there with the behavior and the mentality that we’re gonna win is gonna help push us forward throughout that first half. Then keeping that same mindset at halftime to perform just as well in the second half is the key to these next few games at home.”
3. Mmm … turnovers
Rather quietly, Tech’s defense has become one of the better units at forcing turnovers in its past 18 games.
The Jackets are one of 15 teams nationally that has at least 13 takeaways this season. That’s after the ‘22 squad registered 24 (its most since 2018).
There’s a correlation, of course, between those takeaways and results. The Jackets have at least two takeaways in all three wins this season and five each in victories over Wake Forest and Miami (Tech last had a season in which it forced at least five turnovers in two different games in 1996).
Boston College has had solid ball security through six games, giving up possession only seven times. Four of those turnovers came against Virginia in a game the Eagles still won.
4. The offense is still on the field
Punts may be at a premium Saturday, at least from the Eagles’ side of things.
Boston College and coach Jeff Hafley like to go for it on fourth down. Key said BC will keep the offense on the field on virtually any yard line and that the Eagles’ 70% success rate when going for it on fourth down shortens the game and flips field position more often than not.
“And the ability for the quarterback to run allows them to do that within there,” Key said. “Where normally teams throw their shot plays, it throws those things off a little bit in how they do it because of their willingness to go for it on fourth down, whether they’re up or down, that’s just been (Hafley’s) way of running his team, and he feels like it gives them the best chance.”
Boston College has punted only 24 times this year, an average of four times per game. Its 14 successful fourth-down conversions rank second nationally only to South Florida and Texas Tech, who have 15 each. The Eagles’ 20 attempts on fourth downs are tied for eighth in the country.
Hafley’s team has gone for it at least twice in every game this season.
“You know you’re going against a good football coach when they go for it that many times,” Key said. “There’s only so much that an analytics book during a game is gonna tell you. You have to have a gut feel for your team and the opponent they’re going against.”
5, Bowl talk? ACC title talk?!
Tech is halfway through the 2023 regular season, and after Saturday, it will be halfway through the ACC slate as well. Should the Jackets find a way to win against Boston College, playing in a bowl game becomes a very real possibility.
The Jackets need three wins over their final six games to earn a 13th game for the first time since 2018. Reaching that goal is anything but a given with Tech’s six remaining games being against teams that currently are a combined 25-13.
USA Today and The Athletic currently project Tech to make the Pinstripe Bowl, while Yahoo has the Jackets in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. CBS Sports still has Tech on the outside looking in.
Postseason play, however, is not on Key’s radar.
“Are you kidding me? No. Never. Never have. Never have, never will,” he answered when asked if he thinks about coaching in a bowl game during the course of a season. “Hopefully we get that opportunity, and we’ll talk about it then, but that is not something I’ve even remotely thought about.”
As for the ACC title race, Tech is lingering around that discussion as well – although it would need some magic to make the league’s championship game in December. Florida State, North Carolina and Duke all go into the weekend undefeated and the Jackets play only UNC from that trio. Tech is one of three one-loss teams in the standings, along with Louisville, who defeated Tech in the season opener, and Virginia Tech, whom the Jackets do not play.
Key’s team likely would have to win its final five ACC games and then hope the defeats pile up for everyone else along the way.