San Francisco Bowl Preview
The Boston College Eagles and Colorado State Rams will meet in the Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl on New Year's Eve. Both the Eagles and Rams finished the season with records of 7-5, both teams won their final two games to capture bowl bids and both teams are participating in postseason play for the fifth consecutive year. Here is a look at the matchup:
When BC passes
Whoever is playing Quarterback for Boston College in the San Francisco Bowl - Quinton Porter, Paul Peterson or both - will be going up against a Colorado State pass defense that has improved somewhat during the season. In their first four games, the Rams gave up an average of 278 passing yards per game. Since then, that number has dropped to only 183 yards per game. However, much of this decline can be attributed to the fact that CSU opponents have run the ball so well that they haven't felt the need to throw. Colorado State's top pass defender is cornerback Dexter Wynn, a versatile Senior who earned a spot of the All Mountain West first team. Joining Wynn in the secondary are Sophomore corner Ben Stratton who led the team with four interceptions, Senior strong safety Benny Mastropaolo who had 84 tackles, 2 INTs and 12 passes broken up, and Freshman free safety Lukas Davis. Colorado State is capable of putting pressure on the quarterback as evidenced by their 26 sacks this season. Senior nose tackle Brian Save, another first team All Mountain West performer, led the Rams with 7 quarterback sacks. Another Senior, middle linebacker Drew Wood added four sacks. Analysis: There is no reason why BC should not have success throwing the ball against Colorado State, especially if Derrick Knight runs the ball as well as I expect he will. In last year's bowl game, the Eagles went to air early and often and I think they might use the same philosophy in this year's bowl game.
Advantage: Boston College
When BC runs
Derrick Knight should be as excited as a five-year-old on Christmas Eve thinking about facing the Colorado State run defense. The Mountain West has run over, around and through the Ram defense for an average of 182 yards per game over the last nine. That's an average of 4.7 yards per carry if you are scoring at home. Twice in the last five games, CSU opponents have rushed for more than 275 yards on the ground. The Rams have also given up rushes of 30 yards or more in seven of the last nine games. The aforementioned Benny Mastropaolo (84 tackles), Ben Stratton (78) and Drew Wood (76) are the team's leading tacklers. Senior linebacker Jeff Flora added 66 stops. BC's offensive line, which averages 6'5" and 313 pounds, should have little trouble pushing around Colorado State's defensive front four which averages 6'2" and 268 pounds per man. Analysis: Derrick Knight has been banged up this season and that has adversely impacted his performance at times. The fact that Knight will have had nearly six weeks to get healthy for the San Francisco Bowl cannot be a comforting thought for Colorado State, a team that has given up rushing yards at an alarming rate. BC's size advantage at the line of scrimmage will also be crucial late in the game if the score is close. The Eagles should be able to wear down the Rams, especially if they can control the time of possession early in the game.
Advantage: Boston College
When Colorado St Passes
Colorado State possesses one of the top multi-threat passers in the game in Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year Bradlee Van Pelt. The Senior quarterback gained a total of 3,526 total yards (844 on the ground) and a combined 27 touchdowns (18 passing, 9 rushing) this season. Van Pelt threw just 10 interceptions, only two of those were in the last six games. Van Pelt broke a small bone in his right hand (throwing hand) in the final game of the season. The injury required surgery, but he is expected to play in the bowl game. Van Pelt's backup, Justin Holland, completed 29 or 43 passes for 302 yards, 3 TD and 0 INT this season. Van Pelt's top weapon is Sophomore split end David Anderson. Anderson earned All Mountain West First Team honors with 62 catches, 1,159 yards and 8 touchdowns. Senior flanker Chris Pittman added 56 catches for 739 yards and 4 TDs. Leading the CSU offensive line are 6'8" 307 pound Junior right tackle Erik Pears (All Conference First Team) and 6'4" 275 pound Senior center Mark Dreyer (All Conference Second Team). The Rams offensive line, which averages 290 pounds, gave up only 18 sacks in 12 games this season. Analysis: No one really knows, of course, how much Van Pelt's hand injury will impact his play in the San Francisco Bowl. A broken bone in a quarterback's throwing hand seems like a devastating situation, but like Derrick Knight, Van Pelt will have had six weeks to recuperate. If he's playing up to his potential, Van Pelt could be devastaing. BC has been very weak against the pass this season and Van Pelt's mobility will make matters worse for the Eagle secondary.
Advantage: Colorado State
When Colorado St Runs
The Colorado State rushing attack revolves around Van Pelt, but Ram Senior Rashaan Sanders and Junior Marcus Houston combined for 1,034 yards rushing in 2003 (4.2 yards per carry). Houston was the key back near the endzone as he scored 9 touchdowns. Overall, the Rams rushed for an impressive 195 yards per game and 4.6 yards per carry. Van Pelt accounted for more than a third of those rushing yards. BC's defensive front four matches up fairly well in terms of size with the CSU offensive line. The Rams offensive line outweighs the BC defensive line by 18 pounds per man as opposed to the 45 pound advantage for BC's offensive line. Analysis: The Eagles have been very solid against the run for most of the season. BC opponents have averaged just 3.3 yards per carry this season. In the season finale, Virginia Tech rushed for 203 total yards but 62 of those yards came on one play early in the game. On the other hand, the BC defense has not seen a quarterback with the kind of running ability that Van Pelt possesses so this will be a major test.
Advantage: Boston College
Colorado State has one of the best kick returners in the nation in Dexter Wynn, who averaged 13 yards per punt return and 28.9 yards per kickoff return (11th best in the nation). Junior Jeff Babcock handles both the placekicking and punting duties for the Rams. He has been a better punter (42.3 average per kick) than kicker (8/14 between 30 and 49 yards). Analysis: The Eagle punt team did a very good job against Virginia Tech so hopefully the mistakes that occurred prior to that game will not rear their ugly heads again. Will Blackmon and Dexter Wynn are both likely to make some big plays.
Advantage: Colorado State
Colorado State has a lot of weaknesses, starting with their defense. They really don't defend the pass or the run very well and the Eagle offense should be able to move the ball at will as they did last year against Toledo in the Motor City Bowl. I would be very surprised if the Eagles do not gain 200 yards on the ground. Colorado State has also had problems with turnovers. They have fumbled 29 times and lost 19. In all, the Rams were -11 in turnovers this season. They cannot afford to cough it up against BC. On the other side of the ball, Colorado State can hurt you. They averaged 30 points per game and did not score less than 21 in any of their 12 games. The Rams are also an excellent team on third down, converting 43% of their chances. It goes without saying that Bradlee Van Pelt is the key for Colorado State. If he's healthy, the BC defense will have their hands full trying to stop both the run and pass. If Van Pelt's broken hand has an adverse impact on his throwing, he will rely more on the run which will play to the strength of the Boston College defense. BC's special teams have been an adventure all season but they played well against the kings of special teams, Virginia Tech, in the season finale. Containing Dexter Wynn on kick returns will be a top priority. If the Eagles can avoid special teams blunders and penalties, I think they will cruise to their fourth straight bowl victory.
Final Score: Boston College 41 Colorado St 27