Boston College - Florida State Preview
The Boston College Eagles play their first ACC conference game on Saturday when they take on Atlantic Division rival Florida State at Alumni Stadium. Both #8 Florida State (2-0) and #16 BC (2-0) are coming off blowout wins. FSU scored the final 59 consecutive points in a 62-10 win over The Citadel while BC scored the final 44 points in a 44-7 win over Army. The game will televised on ESPN beginning at 7:45 pm. ESPN's College Gameday will be doing their show from the Boston College campus on Saturday. The game is expected to be close. Caesar's Palace has established BC as a one point favorite. Here is a preview:
Quinton Porter performed well in the first two games of the season (42 for 55 for 438 yards, 4 TD, 0 INT) but this week's battle will be the real test for the senior quarterback. Against BYU and Army, Porter faced little pass rush. That is likely to change against Florida State. The Noles collected nine sacks against Miami in the season opener. The Seminoles have a solid defensive backfield led by senior free safety Pat Watkins, a preseason All-ACC selection. Florida State ranked 14th in the nation in pass efficiency defense a year ago. Twelve different receivers have caught passes for BC this season. Seven have four catches or more. Jason Lilly has been a nice surprise thus far (8 catches, 129 yards). Will Blackmon, BC’s leading receiver, is nursing a shoulder injury but is expected to play. Tight end Chris Miller could also play a big role in Saturday's game, especially in the red zone.
There is no reason to believe that FSU will be able to break through the BC offensive line play after play as they did against Miami but Quinton Porter will face a legitimate pass rush for this first time this season. How he responds to the pressure will say a lot about who wins this game. Will Blackmon's health is even more important to the outcome. Blackmon is the one offensive player that can offset Florida State's speed advantage. This is probably the most important matchup of the game for BC. I do not anticipate the Eagles dominating with the run so the passing game will be the key to moving the ball. Porter must complete some passes downfield and prevent the FSU defense from overloading against the run. I think the Eagles will be successful but the edge goes to FSU.
Advantage: Florida State
I am very concerned with the BC running game. The BC offensive line has lived up to its billing in the first two games, but Florida State is not BYU or Army. The Seminoles ranked third in the nation a year ago in run defense and they show no signs of weakness this season. The defensive line is led by senior nose guard Brodrick Bunkley (10 tackles, 5 for lost yardage in the first two games) and defensive end Kamerion Wimbley (2 sacks and 6 quarterback hurries). Linebacker Ernie Sims was a preseason All-ACC selection (86 tackles, 4.5 sacks in 2004). If the Eagles are able to run the ball early and often, they could wear down the Noles by the end of the game. BC’s offensive line outweighs the Florida State defensive front four by nearly 50 pounds per man (316 vs 268).
As usual, BC’s ability to run will depend a lot on their ability to pass. The BC running backs are going to have to break some tackles and dig for some extra yards in the trenches. Every yard will be important in this game. In third down and short situations (I'm thinking two yards or less), the Eagles can use Brian Toal to grind out first downs. On third down and three or longer, the Eagles will need to pass and the Seminoles know it.
Advantage: Florida State
Florida State’s obvious weakness lies at the quarterback position. Freshman Drew Weatherford put up big numbers against The Citadel (26 for 37 for 342 yards, 2 TD and an INT) but looked overwhelmed against Miami (7 for 24 for 67 yards and an interception). Another freshman, Xavier Lee, may also see some snaps at quarterback. Lee threw for 143 yards, completing 5 for 8 vs The Citadel. FSU lost their top three receivers last season and projected starter Willie Reid is out. The starters at wide receiver on Saturday will likely be 6’3” sophomore De’Cody Fagg (9 catches for 133 yards this season) and 6’0” junior Chris Davis (9 catches for 125 yards). Two true freshman, Fred Rouse and Greg Carr, could also play a big role. This group is immensely talented but not very experienced.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that Mathias Kiwanuka is the key to this game on defense. If BC can put a big pass rush on the freshman Weatherford, he is likely to make mistakes. Turnovers are magnified in low scoring games. If BC can force a couple of interceptions, their odds of winning will increase dramatically. BC desperately needs the Continental Tire Bowl Kiwi to show up on Saturday. I think he will.
Advantage: Boston College
Florida State’s excellent duo of running backs, Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker, combined for 1,838 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns last season (plus 22 catches and 250 yards receiving). Against Miami, it was more of the same as Booker and Washington rushed for 120 yards on 25 carries (4.8 per rush). Florida State’s offensive line, which averages 6’4” and 302 pounds, returns two starters from a year ago. BC linebacker Ray Henderson leads the team with 14 tackles. Tyronne Pruitt has 12 tackles and has done a very nice job subbing for the injured Ricky Brown.
The BC front seven has effectively stuffed the run this season. BYU and Army combined for only 104 yards on 51 carries (2.0 yards per rush). I don’t think FSU will be held to two yards per carry but I don’t think they will average five or six yards per rush either. BC does not need to shut down the Florida State running game completely, but they do need to contain it enough to force Weatherford into third and long passing situations. This matchup could go either way.
Miami appears to have a pretty effective kicking duo of kicker Gary Cismesia (10 for 13 in career field goal attempts) and punter Chris Hall (42.1 punting average last season). Leon Washington put up mediocre kick return numbers last season (20.2 yards per return). He and freshman Fred Rouse will return punts. Rouse averaged 16.5 per punt return against The Citadel.
Florida State appears to have a slightly more reliable kicker than BC, but Will Blackmon is the most dangerous kick return man playing in Saturday's game. That is why I give the slight edge to BC.
Advantage: Boston College
I am quite sure that BC will pass to set up the run on Saturday. I expect them to be aggressive early in the game in an attempt to stretch the defense. If FSU is allowed to crowd the line of scrimmage, it will be a very long day for the BC offense. Porter needs to play error-free football (a sack is better than an interception) and Will Blackmon needs to get the ball eight to ten times. Blackmon’s health is the single most important question heading into Saturday’s game. Florida State will gain yards with Booker and Washington. The key is limiting their effectiveness inside the red zone and creating some third and long passing situations for Drew Weatherford. As always, BC must avoid silly penalties.
Everyone expects this game to be a major defensive battle. Points will hard to come by which means that turnovers will be magnified. BC had problems on the first drive against Army last week while Florida State slept through the first 25 minutes against The Citadel. If anyone snoozes through the first drive or two in this game, they may not be able to recover. The home crowd needs to loud from kickoff to the final play (that DOES NOT include storming the field if BC wins). This is a bigger game for BC than it is for Florida State. The Eagles cannot let that fact overwhelm them or create a situation where they are too fired up to play smart football.
This is a game that could go either way (as evidenced by the one point spread in Vegas). BC has more experience, but Florida State has more talent. The importance of the game could be either beneficial or detrimental to the Eagles. BC has the better quarterback, the best defensive player, the best offensive lineman and the top playmaker, but Florida State has more depth. Florida State has the speed, BC has the power. BC's best unit (offensive line) will battle Florida State’s best units (defensive line and linebackers). Both teams are battling injuries. Both teams are coming off easy wins over inferior competition. In the end, someone will likely be able to point to a single play that made the difference. I am predicting that BC will win the game (on the assumption that Blackmon plays). I am banking on a big turnover by one of the Florida State quarterbacks and a touchdown by Will Blackmon. I think Florida State will gain more yards but BC will play “bend but don’t break” defense and force field goals when Florida State reaches the red zone.
Prediction: Boston College 17 Florida State 16
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