Boston College Football Notes
January 10, 2006
As it turned out, it was probably a good thing that BC was relegated to the Meineke Car Care Bowl because their effort against Navy would not have resulted in a victory at the Gator or Peach (Chick-Fil-A) Bowl. Let's be honest, BC did not deserve to beat Navy in Charlotte. The Midshipmen outplayed the Eagles and if not for several poor plays in the final minutes, would have won. Navy should be very proud of their effort. Obviously, BC didn't play well but they deserve credit for an amazing comeback. The 2006 Eagles were a frustrating team to follow at times but they never gave up on a football game. Many times in the past three years, BC has lost games that they deserved to win. It was nice to win a game that they deserved to lose.
The victory gave BC a double-digit win season for the third time in their history and the first time since Doug Flutie's senior season in 1984. BC was 11-0 in 1940. Boston College has now won 60 football games in the last seven years. That puts the Eagles in a tie for 17th place among Division 1-A teams over that time period. It might surprise many that Boise State ranks second. BC is the only team that has won seven bowl games during that time. In fact, no other team has won six bowl games since 2000. Here is the complete list.
Boston College's defensive ranking dropped quite a few slots with the poor defensive effort against Navy, but they still ended up ranked 34th in total defense among 117 D-1A teams. BC gave up fewer than 17 points per game for the third year in a row. The Eagles were second in turnover margin and fifth in kickoff return average (thank you, Jeff Smith). On the down side, the Eagles ranked 92nd in rushing offense. This is quite disappointing for a program that used to produce 1,500 yard rushers on a regular basis. Last season, the Eagles had twenty more sacks (35) than sacks allowed (15). This year, they were only +7 in that category (29/22).
BC is now 19-6 since joining the ACC which is the second best record in 2005 and 2006 after Virginia Tech (21-5). Miami is tied for third. I wonder if the "old ACC" is happy about this or not. The addition of the Big East schools has certainly raised the level of the football conference. Here are the numbers:
Despite returning 18 of 24 starters, including Matt Ryan, the Eagles did not make Mark Schlabach's (espn.com) 2007 Top 25. Schlabach's #1 team is USC with Virginia Tech #7 and Wake Forest #22. It's hard to believe that a BC team that finished ranked 20th, could have easily been undefeated in the regular season and is returning most of their key players is not in Schlabach's (or anyone's) top 25 for next season. I fully expect the Eagles to be ranked in the high teens when the real rankings come out in August. Maybe Schlabach is assuming that the coaching staff shakeup will have a negative impact on the 2007 Eagles. I am among those who thinks the coaching transition will help BC next season and in the future. It appears that Frank Spaziani will be back to lead a defense that returns nine starters. Ryan Glasper will be the only big loss for this defense. Hopefully, defensive end Jim Ramella will return to the lineup after missing all of 2006 with a shoulder injury. If Brian Toal and the rest of the defense is healthy, this could be one of the best defenses in the country. On the other side of the ball, I expect Jeff Jagodzinski and Steve Logan to give the offense a full makeover. Not so much with the personnel, but with the gameplan. The Eagles offense will undoubtedly be far more interesting to watch in 2007. I think we'll see more of a deep passing game, more wrinkles and probably more A.J. Brooks and Jeff Smith. I believe that Jags and Logan will make Matt Ryan a better quarterback. As far as the talent goes, the Eagles will lose fullback Mark Palmer and receiver Tony Gonzalez. The offensive line will need to replace James Marten and second team All-American Josh Beekman. Tight end Jordon McMichael (6'5" 250 pounds), who redshirted this season, could be an impact player for the Eagles in 2007. McMichael was one of two four star recruits signed by BC last season. On special teams, BC returns the steady Johnny Ayers and will welcome the nation's top ranked high school kicker, Billy Bennett of San Diego, to the Heights. On paper, this might be the best BC team since 1984. But as we know all too well, that does not necessarily translate to wins.
I receive a lot of emails asking about the 2007 schedule (the dates of the games, that is). Trust me, I will post the new schedule as soon as it is released so please do not email and ask about it. In addition to the usual slate of ACC Atlantic foes and designated rival Virginia Tech, BC will host Miami and play at Georgia Tech in 2007. The non-conference schedule will include a road game against Brady Quinn-less Notre Dame and home games against Army, UMass and Bowling Green. The bad news is that three-sevenths of your season ticket money is being used for Army, Navy and Bowling Green. The good news is that the home ACC slate is excellent: Miami, Florida State, Wake Forest and Tom O'Brien's NC State Wolfpack. Arguably, the NC State game will be the most anticipated home game of the year.
Speaking of Notre Dame, they are 0-9 in their last nine bowl appearances. In five of their last six bowl appearances, Notre Dame has lost by 14 or more points. The NCAA should be ashamed of itself for allowing Notre Dame to receive bowl upgrades year after year. It it truly sickening.
Speaking of sickening, how about the BCS? We were very close to having an Ohio State vs Michigan BCS Championship Game which would have been tragic given the fact that Florida crushed the Buckeyes and USC beat Michigan convincingly. I must admit that I thought Ohio State would beat Florida. Clearly, the Big Ten was highly overrated. The bowls proved that OSU and Michigan are no better than the third and fourth best teams in college football yet they nearly met in the championship. Sadly, we seem to be drifting farther away from a playoff with each passing year. I still don't buy any of the arguments against an eight team playoff beginning with the four BCS bowls. I really don't think that Boise State could beat Florida but don't they deserve the chance to try? After seeing the end of the Fiesta Bowl, who wouldn't want to watch Boise play again this season? I badmouthed the Fiesta Bowl matchup but that game produced one of the best endings (the final three minutes of regulation plus OT) that I have ever seen. With an eight team playoff, we could have Boise against Florida and LSU against USC on the 20th with the winners facing off the following week.
December 11, 2006
The Tom O'Brien era is now officially over at Boston College. In what many consider a surprise move, O'Brien is headed to North Carolina State to take over for Chuck Amato who was given the boot after a dreadful 3-9 season. Like most BC fans, I have ambivalent feelings about O'Brien's departure. I am not happy that he is leaving but I am not exactly broken up about it either. There is no doubt that the Boston College community owes Tom O'Brien a debt of gratitude. Ten years ago, O'Brien took over a program in shambles following a gambling scandal and two losing seasons and turned it into a program that has won six consecutive bowl games and is graduating close to 100% of its players. Tom O'Brien showed great leadership at a time when the program desperately needed it. I would have been happy to see Tom O'Brien back as head coach next season. On the other hand, I am not sure that Tom O'Brien is the coach who can take BC to the next level. The program seems to have plateaued. Boston College football has been on the brink of a BCS bowl the past three years but they have come up just short because of losses in games they should have won. For example, had BC been able to beat Pittsburgh in 2004, North Carolina in 2005 and Wake Forest in 2006, they might very well be playing in their third consecutive BCS game (the winner of BC's division won the last two ACC title games). Boston College gave those three games away and coaching had a lot to do with it. I didn't even mention the debacle against Syracuse in 2004 or the NC State and Miami games this season. Despite the solid 9-3 record, I would say that this has been the most frustrating BC season in more than ten years. Some new blood may be just what BC needs.
Grading Tom O'Brien and His Staff
Discipline Off the Field/Academics: A
I couldn't be happier with the job Tom O'Brien has done in this area. There are far too many programs out there where the players are just as likely to appear in the police blotter as the box score. Off the field incidents by BC football players have been few and far between the past ten years. Tom O'Brien helped develop true student-athletes that we can all be proud of. My respect for Tom O'Brien rose dramatically when he suspended star running back William Green for a huge game against Miami a few years ago. Green was the best player on the team and it was one of the biggest games of the year, but O'Brien did the right thing and suspended him for violating team rules. Green's insubordination would have been ignored at most D-1 programs. BC lost to Miami, but Coach O'Brien sent a strong message the team. I hope that the next coach holds every player, from the best player to the walk-ons, to the same high standards. More importantly, BC has been at or near a 100% graduation rate for the past several years. The entire BC community has played a role in this great success story, but it would not have been possible without the leadership of Coach O'Brien and his staff.
Boston College is not an easy place to recruit the top talent. There are a lot of good football players in New England, but no one would consider the area a hotbed for high school talent. BC does not have the big name that recruits itself (like Notre Dame or Michigan). The BC football atmosphere pales in comparison to most big conference schools. Let's be honest, Alumni Stadium is quite unimpressive when compared to a place like Beaver Stadium or the "Big House" in Michigan. Most importantly, any head coach at Boston College must limit his search to players who can compete at a very high academic level (at may top 25 programs, a player can remain eligible not knowing how to spell the word cat). Given all of these barriers, I think O'Brien and company have done an admirable job. They have not landed many top 100 high school players but they have consistently recruited a solid group of players capable of competing at the highest level of college football.
Player Development: B+
Recruiting is only half the battle. The great coaches maximize the potential of their players. I think Tom O'Brien has done pretty good job in this area. The Eagles are typically ranked higher in the polls than they are in the recruiting rankings. Though neither is an exact science (especially the recruiting), I think this tells us that BC has outperformed their talent level. BC has been beating teams with more overall talent on a consistent basis since Tom O'Brien took over. The BC program has also sent many players to the NFL over the past ten years, which is a testament to player development. By the way, Al Skinner would get an "A" in this area.
Game Preparation: B-
For the most part, Tom O'Brien teams have been well prepared to take the field. In the past three years, the Eagles are 27-9. Five of those losses were by three points or less and another was a seven point loss which ended with an Matt Ryan interception in the endzone. BC's eleven point loss to FSU last season was much closer than the score indicates. Only twice in the last three seasons was BC blown out (Syracuse in 2004 and Virginia Tech in 2005). More impressive is the fact that only once in the last three years has BC lost a game by more than seven points on the road (VA Tech). This tells me that most of the time O'Brien has his players ready to go on Saturday. The team almost always plays hard and they don't give up when they fall behind, even against good teams. The coaching staff has instilled a lot of confidence in these players. There is, however, room for criticism. The debacle at the end of this year's NC State game probably falls more on the coaching staff than the players (a young QB in his first start should NEVER be allowed to drive 70 yards in 30 seconds without a timeout to win a game). The Syracuse game two years ago was an absolute embarrassment. Tom O'Brien's BC teams have also been known to kill themselves with penalties (I laugh whenever I hear announcers talk about how disciplined the Eagles are on the field). To be fair, the Eagles did a much better job this season avoiding costly penalties.
Game Coaching: C-
This is the area where I have the most criticism. All things considered, I think the defensive game plans have been solid. The BC defense has been ranked in the top third in Division 1-A the past three years despite many key injuries. They have slowed down some pretty good offensive teams. I can't say the same about the other side of the ball. BC has the most unimaginative and predictable offense I have ever seen ... and I've watched the Raiders this season! This is the ACC -- Play Calling for Dummies is not adequate. Against a weak defensive team, the standard BC offensive game plan works fine but it falls apart against the better defenses. The Miami game two weeks ago is a perfect example. BC didn't appear to make any adjustments. New formations - no. Personnel changes to account for the skill set of the opposing team - no. Reverses, halfback options, flea flickers - no, no and no. I always wonder if opposing defensive coordinators schedule their vacations the week before the BC game. I am also happy to see the end of Boston College punting from the opponent's 35-yard-line. That was a Tom O'Brien staple in the early years. We've seen less of it of late.
A Few More Notes
What's next ...
The speculation is fast and furious. I've heard no less than 25 names mentioned on message boards, websites and the media as possible replacements for Tom O'Brien including Doug Flutie. I think BC will take their time and might even wait until after the bowl games to hire a new coach. I have no strong opinion at this point but clearly the new coach will need to understand the importance of academics. The new coach should be someone with a great offensive mind. College offenses are much more advanced than they were years ago. The new coach should be someone that might be around for a decade or so as O'Brien was. This will require Boston College to be compensate the new head coach appropriately not only now but down the road if he takes the program to the next level. I think it would be in BC's best interest to look closely at coaches who have roots in the Southeast. A head coach from that area could make a big difference as BC looks to recruit more players from ACC country.
I think the BC job will be very appealing. There are plenty of young coaches in non-BCS conferences who would love the chance to move up to the ACC. This is also a rare opportunity for a coach to take over a program that already has many of the pieces in place. I don't think there is much doubt that BC will be a preseason top 25 team next year. BC will return an experienced team that could win the ACC and play in the BCS. In other words, the new coach could make a big splash immediately. BC might also look to a former NFL coach. The BC job might be appealing to a former NFL guy who wants a less pressurized environment. Atlanta Eagle has put together a nice list of names (link below). It looks like Mark Whipple is one of the front runners. On first look, I think he would be an excellent choice. I am shocked that Bob Davie is being mentioned. I think hiring Davie would be a big mistake. The Flutie talk is interesting but I can't imagine that BC would legitimately consider him for the head coaching job. Hiring Flutie for the head job would be nothing more than a publicity stunt and coming off of eight straight bowl seasons, BC does not need that. I would, however, love to see Flutie on the coaching staff. We'll see what happens. It is going to be an interesting process.
November 26, 2006
Boston College fans are still reeling from the Thanksgiving night debacle in Miami. The Eagles squandered a chance to accomplish two things they hadn't done since the 1984 season: win ten games in a season and beat Miami. In fact, with a win over Miami and a win in the bowl game, BC would have won eleven games for the first time since 1940. Obviously, Boston College will be headed to a bowl game but it remains uncertain how far down the ACC pecking order they will fall. A win over Miami would have made BC no worse than the fourth choice from the ACC. Now, they could fall as low as sixth. Thankfully, they will not wind up in Boise. CFN Scout is predicting that BC will play in the Champs Sports Bowl against Purdue while CBS Sportsline has BC in the Music City Bowl against South Carolina. ESPN's latest predictions will probably be available on Monday.
Thursday's game reminded me a lot of the NC State game in September.
I'll start with the bad news since I am in that kind of mood. Let's start with the running game. I know Miami has a great defense, but 20 rushes for 55 yards from the running game is totally unacceptable. If you take away one 15 yard run by Whitworth the numbers are even uglier. This performance reminded me a lot of the Wake Forest game. Matt Ryan has had an excellent season and he deserves a ton of credit for playing with a bad ankle since the first game. BC would have at least one more victory, if not two or three, if he had been healthy all season. Having said that, I am disappointed in his play at the end of the games that BC has lost. In the NC State game, Ryan's fumble made possible NC State's miracle comeback. Against both Wake Forest and Miami, Ryan made big throws to put BC in a position to come from behind in the final minutes, but in both cases he threw interceptions on first down plays. At the end of both of those games, Ryan was playing every down as if it were 4th and 20 with ten seconds left in the game. At the end of Thursday's game, the Eagles had plenty of time to move down the field and score when Ryan threw the interception. Against Wake, Ryan was reckless in the final two drives when he really didn't need to be. The great quarterbacks never panic. Tom Brady looks the same with a minute left and down by seven points as he does in the first quarter. Someone needs to work with Ryan on the mental aspects of the two minute drill. That brings me to my biggest frustration: coaching. On the offensive side of the ball, BC did not make any adjustments against Miami. It was obvious that the Eagles were not going to run up the middle against the Hurricane defense. The standard gameplan, which was fine against Duke and Maryland, was not bearing fruit on Thursday. Unfortunately, BC did not adjust. Against a defense as big and fast as Miami's, you cannot stick with the playbook from Tecmo Bowl. Where was Jeff Smith? Where were the wrinkles? Defensively, the Eagles played well overall. For most of the game, Miami didn't move the ball any better than BC did. Unfortunately, the defense let down at the end of the first half and it cost them the game. As I said above, it was similar to what happened at NC State. I am not sure if this is faulty defensive positioning or just a lack of focus by the players. Either way, it comes back to preparation.
Is there good news? Absolutely. DeJuan Tribble played a phenomenal game. He has developed into an outstanding player and will be one of the leaders of what could be a top ten defense next season. After the Clemson and BYU games, who would have thought that the Eagles would be ranked as high as 33rd in the nation in defense by the end of the season? Other good news ... the Miami loss, by itself, did not cost the Eagles a spot in the ACC Championship game or an at-large BCS spot. Wake Forest's victory over Maryland on Saturday night would have put the Demon Deacons in the Championship Game regardless of the BC-Miami result. Boise State's victory would have put BC out of BCS at-large contention even if the Eagles had finished 10-2. Boise will be an automatic BCS qualifier based on their BCS ranking. Michigan will obviously be headed to the Rose Bowl as an at-large selection and replacement for Big Ten Champion Ohio State who is headed to the BCS Championship. Notre Dame will be headed to the BCS. The fact that ten teams deserve it more than they do will be irrelevant. The other at-large BCS spot will probably go to an SEC team, most likely LSU. Louisville (if they don't win the Big East's automatic slot), Auburn and Virginia Tech could also make a case.
Thank you to everyone who voted in the six question BC poll. It's been up for about a month and about 175 of you voted. Here are the results:
Some other notes:
OFF TOPIC ALERT
I rarely stray from Boston College sports or college football on this website, but I thought the following was important enough to mention. On a recent episode of the cartoon show Family Guy, the son, Chris, is considering a career in the Army. When Chris' mother indicates that she does not want her son to join the Army the father, Peter, responds by saying The Army is great. You get to save money for college, there’s free food and all the brown people you can rape.” That comment is quickly followed the baby (who speaks) saying of our military "Ah yes, the bottom ten percent of our high school class off to fight another battle." The second comment, sadly, is typical of the elitist Hollywood scum who view our heroes in the military as idiots who joined the armed forces only because they were not smart enough to do anything else. To most of the Hollywood crowd, there is no lower calling than the United States military. The second comment is outrageous, but the first comment is way beyond the pale. I have never heard anything on a network television show so hateful. I have been a fan of Family Guy since it first aired, but I will never watch the show again. I own several Family Guy DVDs which I am in the process of selling. I will donate the proceeds to a military charity.
I am not easily offended but if there is one thing I will not tolerate, it is contempt for the military. There is nothing wrong with questioning military strategy or criticizing individuals within the military who deserve it (Lynndie England, for example, deserves every bit of ridicule she gets). There is also nothing wrong with good-natured military humor (Stripes remains one of my favorite movies). What bothers me is the widespread portrayal our of men and women in uniform as dopes, dupes, killers or rapists. I encourage everyone to join me in boycotting Family Guy and any person or group that intentionally disparages the U.S. military. This could be a TV show, a movie, a musician, a book, a business, a college professor or a politician. The people who spew hateful words about our military have the freedom to do so (a freedom protected by those very people they are insulting) but those of us who support our military also have the freedom not to watch their shows or buy their products. Thanks for reading to the end of my off topic rant. I promise it won't become a habit. The off topic part, that is. The ranting about such things as Notre Dame's preferential treatment and the NCAA clock rules will of course continue.
November 21, 2006
Heading into last weekend's games, the Eagles needed two wins and two Wake Forest losses to win the ACC Atlantic Division title. They are now halfway there. If BC can beat Miami for the first time in 22 years on Thursday night and Maryland can beat Wake Forest on Saturday, the Eagles will win the Atlantic Division and face Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game a week from Saturday in Jacksonville. The Eagles are currently a 4 point favorite to beat the Gridiron Gang and Maryland is a 1.5 point favorite at home against Wake Forest. Unfortunately for the Eagles, linebacker Jolonn Dunbar, fresh off his NCAA Defensive Player of the Week performance, may miss Thursday's game with a bad right ankle.
The latest bowl predictions are available. Ivan Maisel of ESPN.com is now predicting a BC-Purdue Champs Bowl (Dec 29th in Orlando). The Champs Bowl selects fourth among ACC teams. Mark Schlabach, also of ESPN, has BC playing in the Gator Bowl (Jan 1st in Jacksonville) against West Virginia. CBS Sportsline also predicts a BC-Purdue Champs Bowl. CFN Scout is still predicting a BC-Georgia Chick-fil-A Bowl (Dec 30th in Atlanta). Georgia Tech, Boston College, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest are all 9-2 and Maryland and Clemson are just a game back at 8-3 so bowl positioning will depend a lot on this week's games. BC could still end up in any of six different bowls -- the three bowls mentioned above, the Orange Bowl (Jan 2nd in Miami), the Music City Bowl (Dec 29th in Nashville) or the Meineke Car Care Bowl (Dec 30th in Charlotte). Here are the latest bowl predictions:
The BCS is starting to take shape. Ohio State will play in the BCS Championship and will more than likely take on USC. Michigan is currently #2 in the BCS rankings but USC is likely to move to the #2 spot if they can close out the season with victories over Notre Dame and UCLA. If that happens, Michigan will be invited to the Rose Bowl. In the SEC, Arkansas and Florida will play for the automatic spot in the Sugar Bowl. Georgia Tech will play either BC, Maryland or Wake Forest in the ACC Championship. The winner heads to the Orange Bowl. In the Big 12, Nebraska will play either Texas or Oklahoma for the conference championship and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl. West Virginia, Louisville and Rutgers all have a chance to win the Big East title and grab the automatic BCS spot. The Big East champion could wind up in any of the four BCS bowl games played prior to the championship. Notre Dame will certainly be invited to a BCS bowl game, likely the Sugar Bowl. Boise State will lock up a BCS spot with a victory over Nevada on Saturday. If Boise wins, that would leave one remaining at-large BCS spot up for grabs. The smart money is on an SEC team (Auburn, LSU, Arkansas, Florida), Oklahoma, West Virginia or Louisville. Arkansas, Florida, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Louisville can still reach the BCS via the conference championship route.
There is a small chance that BC will be eligible for an at-large BCS invitation. Presently, the Eagles are 18th in the BCS Standings. If they beat Miami and Wake Forest beats Maryland, the Eagles regular season would come to an end at 10-2. This plus losses by Boise State, Oklahoma or Texas, Rutgers and Virginia Tech and BC would likely move up to the #14 spot in the BCS. The top 14 are eligible at-large BCS consideration. In this scenario, Michigan and Notre Dame will grab two of the four at-large BCS spots. The third choice would probably go to an SEC team. The fourth choice would then come down to BC and probably the non-champion from the Big East (either West Virginia or Louisville). Keep in mind that a conference cannot be awarded two at-large spots so Wisconsin and a third SEC team would not be eligible. If the choice comes down to BC and either West Virginia or Louisville, I wouldn't have much confidence that BC would be chosen. Now, if Louisville is upset by either Pittsburgh or UConn and they drop out of the top 14, Tennessee could jump into the top 14. Tennessee, another SEC team, would not be eligible and BC would have to be chosen. Obviously, this scenario is extremely remote but nonetheless possible. If you would like to read about the BCS selection process, here is the link:
The 2006 Boston College MVP voting has begun. Please check the right side of the front page of this site to place your vote. Most years, there is a pretty obvious group of five or six players who stand out as MVP candidates. This season, however, it was difficult to narrow my list to nine! I asked four Boston College football season ticket holders (and fellow Class of '92 grads) to send me their seven nominees. I added seven of my own. We came up with unique 15 names among the five lists. Ironically, neither of the running backs were nominated. The top nine made the ballot. You also have the option of choosing Other. I think it speaks volumes about the depth of this team that five knowledgable BC fans came up with 15 different names and a running back with an outside shot at 1,000 yards is not among them. I feel even better knowing that most of those 15 guys will be wearing a Boston College uniform next season.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving and GO EAGLES!
November 13, 2006
The scenario is pretty simple for Boston College. To win the ACC Atlantic Division and play Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship, the Eagles must defeat Maryland and Miami in the next eleven days and hope that Wake Forest loses to both Virginia Tech (at home) and Maryland (away). This is certainly a realistic scenario. BC should be favored to win both of those games and Wake Forest will probably be an underdog in each of their final two games. BC could have made things easier on themselves had they beaten Wake two weeks ago. If they had, they would be in a position to wrap up the division title this week.
This has easily been the craziest football season I have ever witnessed. Arkansas, Rutgers, Boise State and Wake Forest are all ranked in the top 14 in the country. Notre Dame is ranked fifth despite requiring miracle wins to beat Big Ten and Pac Ten bottom feeders Michigan State and UCLA. Probably most amazing is the fact that Miami and Florida State are both 5-5. To put this in perspective, Miami lost four games in four years (46-4) between 2000 and 2003. Florida State lost a total of eleven games in nine years between 1992 and 2000 (99-11). FSU is 6-9 in its last 15 games.
The craziness could lead us to an absolutely abominable BCS slate. We could end up with an excellent BCS Championship Game (OSU or Michigan vs Florida or USC). Then again, we could also end up with an Ohio State-Michigan rematch. Other possible though less likely scenarios might cause a championship game that includes Rutgers or Notre Dame. The Rutgers scenario is extremely unlikely, but I wouldn't put it past the shameless Notre Dame suck-ups in the Associated Press to gerrymander the Irish into the title game. We could end up with a great championship (let's say OSU-Florida) and a great Rose Bowl (Michigan-USC) but that might leave three unwatchable games that include Boise State (likely headed to the Fiesta), Rutgers, Wake Forest and a Notre Dame team that no sane person would argue is among the twenty best teams in the country, much less the ten best. The way Texas has been playing, it's very possible that a mediocre Nebraska team could make its way into the BCS. If this season doesn't force the NCAA's hand on a playoff system, nothing will.
The latest bowl predictions are out. ESPN's Ivan Maisel and Mark Schlabach have the Eagles headed to the Champs Sports Bowl (vs Iowa) and the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl (vs Kentucky), respectively. The ESPN guys have Maryland and Georgia Tech in the BCS. CBS Sportsline is predicting a Wake Forest BCS with the Eagles playing Navy in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. CFN Scout has BC and Georgia in the Chick-fil-A Bowl with Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl. That's four predictions and four different bowls for BC. I'm not particularly excited about any of them.
October 31, 2006
The Eagles are a four point favorite to win Saturday's ACC Atlantic showdown with Wake Forest. To see a mini-preview of the game, please click HERE. To see the vital statistics, please check out the matchup details at StatFox.com.
The bowl predictions changed a little bit this week with Virginia Tech's victory over Clemson. Both Maisel and Schlabach at ESPN.com now have Georgia Tech winning the ACC title and heading to the Orange Bowl. Both have BC and Georgia matched up in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. By the way, BC is 2-0 in bowl games against Georgia (1986 and 2001). CBSSportsline has upgraded the Eagles to the Orange Bowl. They expect Auburn to be BC's opponent. CFN Scout has BC and Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl. The Orange Bowl will be played on January 2nd.
If you haven't done so, please feel free to vote in the Boston College poll by clicking on the icon below. So far 33 people have voted on six questions ranging from Tom O'Brien's approval rating to whether or not Doug Flutie should be the Governor of Massachusetts.
October 25, 2006
It might be too early to think about the bowl season, but the predictions are out. The guys at ESPN.com are predicting a BC-Georgia matchup in the Chick-fil-A Bowl (Ivan Maisel) and a BC-Louisville matchup in the Gator Bowl (Mark Schlabach). Both Maisel and Schlabach are predicting that Clemson will win the ACC title and play in the Orange Bowl. CBSSportsline also thinks Clemson will grab the ACC title with BC playing Iowa in the Champs Bowl. The folks at CollegeFootballNews, however, are predicting a Boston College-Notre Dame showdown in the Orange Bowl. Wouldn't that be something? Here are the links:
There was an interesting note about the the ACC and Boston College on ESPN.com. Stewart Mandel talks about the "changing of the guard" in the ACC. He writes "the ACC -- long the sole domain of the Seminoles -- will likely be up for grabs for the foreseeable future, with Clemson and B.C. (along with Virginia Tech, assuming this year is an aberration for the Hokies) leading the charge." I couldn't agree more.
The following is a link the latest BCS Standings. BC is currently ranked 17th. The BCS has little relevance to BC. If BC were to finish 10-2 or 11-2 and not win the ACC Championship, they would be eligible for a BCS at-large bid but we all know they would not be chosen. The Eagles of course can grab that BCS spot by winning the ACC title.
October 22, 2006
For the fifth time this season, a Boston College game was decided in the final minute of the fourth quarter or in overtime. In fact, BC nearly lost on a Hail Mary pass in the final ten seconds of a game for the second time this season. Thanks to Larry Anam (those words sound funny together), Florida State's Hail Mary attempt was unsuccessful. Had Florida State hauled in that final pass, I may have been too depressed to run this website for the rest of the year. As it stands, BC is 6-1 overall and they now control their own destiny in the ACC Atlantic. If BC beats Duke and Maryland at home and Wake Forest and Miami (aka, The Gridiron Gang) on the road, they will win the ACC Atlantic regardless of what else happens. If they lose one of those four games, they will still have a decent chance to win the division. This Thursday's Clemson-Virginia Tech battle could eventually decide whether or not BC wins the ACC Atlantic. A Hokie victory would mean a second loss for Clemson. This would increase the likelihood that BC could win the ACC Atlantic with two losses.
There were several key plays in yesterday's game but the biggest one may have been the roughing the punter call against Florida State with about 2:30 left in the first half. FSU was leading 10-7 at the time. BC took advantage of the penalty and marched down the field for a touchdown. Three plays later, DeJuan Tribble intercepted a Drew Weatherford pass and returned it for a touchdown, giving BC at 21-10 halftime lead. BC continued its momentum into the third quarter. They added a field goal to make it 24-10 and were driving in the final two minutes of the third quarter for what could have been a knockout punch when a Ryan Purvis fumble handed the momentum back to Florida State. Between the Purvis fumble and the end of the game, Florida State outgained Boston College 147 yards to 11 and ran 28 plays to BC's 10. Momentum in college football means everything.
I was shocked that Tom O'Brien opted for the intentional safety with 0:35 left in the fourth quarter. Had BC been ahead at the time by 6 points, it would have been a brilliant move because there is no difference between being ahead by 4 or 6 points at that point in the game. By taking the safety, O'Brien put Florida State in a position to win the game at the end. Without the safety, the best the Noles could hope for was overtime. By taking the safety, BC was able to take an extra seven seconds off of the clock (about one play) and push FSU back another 5-10 yards. In my opinion, those two pluses are not worth the risk of losing in regulation. Had Weatherford's Hail Mary pass been completed, I don't think BC fans would have ever forgiven Coach O'Brien.
Saturday's game was a bit of an ugly victory, not unlike Clemson and BYU. The Eagles turned the ball over twice, committed six penalties and missed a lot of tackles (mostly in the first and fourth quarters). But, they also made several big defensive plays. I was pleasantly surprised that a fatigued BC defense was able to keep the Seminoles out of the endzone at the end of a 17 play drive late in the fourth quarter. Offensively, Matt Ryan again showed Brady-like poise. Ryan was able to move around in the pocket despite the bad foot/ankle. He made several big throws, including a 48 yard completion to Tony Gonzalez from the BC endzone. Ryan took a huge hit on that play (one that he knew was coming) but delivered the ball right on the money. The rushing stats don't look great on paper (a combined 29 carries for 83 yards for the combination of Whitworth, Callender and Toal) but those numbers included two touchdown runs and several key first downs. That is not too bad against a defense as stingy against the run as Florida State's. Add to that the fact that Florida State backs rushed for just 16 yards on 8 carries. If you subtract the sacks (it drives me nuts that college football includes sacks in the rushing yardage totals), BC rushed for 83 yards (2.9 per carry) and FSU rushed for 37 yards (2.0 per carry). Those small differences can mean a lot in a tight game.
The Boston College defense has really improved over the past three or four games. Here are the opponent rushing yardage totals in the first four games: 123, 136, 111, 141. Now compare that to the last three games: 66, 33, 28. That's 4.2 yards per carry in the first four games and only 1.5 yards per carry in the last three games. The pass defense has also improved. In the first three games, BC gave up an average of 341 yards per game (7.2 yards per pass). Since then, the defense has surrendered just 184 yards per game (5.4 yards per pass). If the Eagles can cut down on the missed tackles and get Brian Toal healthy, they could have an excellent defense by the end of the season.
I wish every BC opponent would wear their alternate jerseys at home. Florida State's black jerseys appear to have worked about as well as Notre Dame's green jerseys. Maybe Miami will wear their alternate jerseys in the season finale. You know, the orange jumpsuits.
The victory enabled BC to move up to #17 in the latest USA Today poll and #18 in the latest AP Poll. Clemson (7-1) is #11 in USA Today and #10 in the AP despite losing to BC in the head to head matchup. If you thought that BC would gain some respect by beating Virginia Tech and Florida State in back to back games, you were dead wrong. When BC beats Virginia Tech and Florida State, the voters immediately assume that Virginia Tech and Florida State must not be as good as they thought. When Notre Dame squeaks by UCLA in the final minute, the voters assume that UCLA is much better than they thought. Unfortunately for BC fans, that's the way the system works. The Eagles are not alone. Arkansas (6-1) defeated Auburn (7-1) 27-14 on the road, yet the Razorbacks are ranked #13/#14 this week and Auburn is #7. As for Notre Dame, do these voters really believe that the Irish are a top ten team? Notre Dame would be 4-3 if not for monumental fourth quarter self-destruction by Michigan State and UCLA, two very mediocre teams. Notre Dame is currently #10 in the USA Today poll and #11 in the AP. I am not surprised by the AP ranking. After all, half the sportswriters in the country are Notre Dame lapdogs. I am very surprised that the coaches are throwing top ten votes Notre Dame's way. It really makes me wonder if some of the coaches who vote in this poll are letting their nine-year-old kids fill out the ballot. Needless to say, the Irish are well-positioned to finish 10-2 and steal a BCS bid from a more deserving team.
Here are the news stories from Sunday:
October 12, 2006
After losing to NC State in horrific fashion three weeks ago, Boston College desperately needed not only a victory but a confidence-builder. Thursday's win over Virginia Tech puts the Eagles back in the thick of the race for the Atlantic Division title and a spot in the ACC Championship Game. The decisive 22-3 score should help build confidence on both sides of the ball, particularly the defensive side. BC also received a shot in the proverbial arm from walk-on kicker Steve Aponavicius who nailed all four of his kicks (two FGs, two PATs). On the down side, his doesn't appear to have the big leg that will allow for deep kickoffs and field goals of more than 40 yards. This could really hurt the Eagles down the road. The good news is that the top high school kicker in the nation according to Rivals.com, Billy Bennett of San Diego, has committed to Boston College and could be kicking for the Eagles next year.
The defense gave up some yards in the first half of Thursday's game but made some big plays and kept the Hokies out of the endzone. In the second half, the Eagle defense was absolutely dominant. In the second half, Virginia Tech ran 27 offensive plays and gained a grand total of 14 yards. The Eagle pass rush was the key. Virginia Tech quarterback Sean Glennon was pressured on nearly every drop back pass. He was sacked five times, fumbled once (nearly twice) and threw two interceptions. Tech running back Branden Ore gained 71 yards but really wasn't much of a factor. Boston College has now gone eight quarters without allowing a touchdown.
The BC offense did not put up big numbers but they were pretty efficient over the final three quarters. Matt Ryan looked a bit shaky on the second and third drives but really settled in after that and played a solid game. An 83-yard, six and a half minute drive for a TD early in the fourth quarter might have been the best BC drive of the season. BC converted on 7 of 16 third down opportunities. That is outstanding against a team like Virginia Tech. Another highlight was Brian Toal ramming through the center of the Tech defense for a first down on a third and one situation. Toal was hit behind the line of scrimmage but bulled his way past the first down marker. Having Toal available in those situations is a HUGE bonus for the Eagles.
It wasn't all good news for Eagles. BC receivers dropped two passes. One drop cost them a first down and the other cost them a touchdown. Boston College had five penalties for 40 yards in the first quarter and a half and ended up with nine infractions for 60 yards. BC fumbled for the 13th time this season on their first drive. Luckily an Eagle fell on the ball and avoided what could have been a disastrous start to the game. Matt Ryan's ankle is a concern once again. Ryan looked pretty healthy against NC State and Maine but was limping again again tonight.
As we all expected, the Florida State game will be huge for Boston College. A BC victory would put the Eagles two games ahead of the Seminoles in the ACC Atlantic standings. BC would have then beaten both Florida State and Clemson, presumably the top two teams in the ACC Atlantic. The wild card in the deck is NC State. NC State has beaten both BC and Florida State and is the only team in the division that has not lost a conference game. So, Eagles fans, you will definitely want to root for Wake Forest when they visit NC State this weekend.
Oh those Temple Owls. For the third time this season, the Owls gave up 40 points in the first half and 60 points in a game. On Thursday, it was Clemson who led at the half 49-3 and ended up with a 63-9 win.
September 26, 2006
Boston College snatched a defeat from the jaws of victory on Saturday night in Raleigh. The Eagles were 33 seconds from a win that would give them a 4-0 start to the season and a 2-0 start in ACC play. Somehow the Eagle defense allowed a quarterback making his first start at the college level to march his team 72 yards in about 30 seconds for the winning touchdown. All this without the aid of a timeout. Even by BC standards, this meltdown was hard to believe. Prior to those final four plays, NC State quarterback Daniel Evans had done next to nothing against the BC defense. For 59 1/2 minutes, he looked like a typical college sophomore making his first career start. In the final 30 seconds, he became Joe Montana thanks in large part to an abysmal BC defensive effort on the final drive. The BC offense clearly deserves much of blame for scoring only 15 points and for not being able to gain what would have been a game-ending first down when they took over with about three minutes left in the game. A third down fumble on the center-quarterback exchange was the key play. Then there's the kicking game. Ryan Ohliger missed an extra point on BC's first touchdown drive and the Eagles failed to offset that miss when they failed on a two-point conversion following their second touchdown. Had Ohliger made that kick, BC would have been taken an opponent to overtime for the third week in a row. BC's three biggest problems this season -- placekicking, pass defense and fumbles -- each played a huge role in this loss.
The coaches should accept much of the blame as well. The defense was in poor position on the final drive of the game. In that situation, there is no excuse for (a) NC State completing a 17 yard pass and getting out of bounds and (b) allowing an NC State receiver to get behind the defense. I was also angry when Johnny Ayers punted the ball with about 15 seconds remaining on the play clock late in the game. As the announcers correctly indicated, Because BC was near midfield, they would have lost nothing by letting the play clock run down to zero and taking the five yard penalty. Without those extra seconds, NC State probably doesn't complete the comeback.
Unlike Notre Dame, BC's run of good luck was not limitless. As I said last week, the Eagles took advantage of some breaks in the first three games of the season. Just about every bounce went NC State's way on Saturday. The referees missed an obvious cheap shot by an NC State defender on Brandon Robinson that would have extended a key drive in the final minutes of the first half. Matt Ryan was called for intentional grounding yet the referees picked up a flag on a similar play where Daniel Evans grounded the ball. The refs also missed a fairly obvious intentional grounding on Evans on the play prior to NC State's first TD. The officials also allowed the NC State defense to hold BC defenders on a few occasions. NC State even benefited from one of their own mistakes. Donald Bowens dropped a pass on the first play of NC State's final drive. Had he made the catch, Bowens would have been tackled in bounds and short of a first down which would have enabled the clock to run for another 12 to 15 seconds. Having said all of this, I must congratulate NC State on a gutsy win. Much like BC in the previous two weeks, NC State made some big plays in the clutch. All things considered, BC is fortunate to be 3-1.
Only time will tell how destructive this loss was for the Eagles. Last season, BC gave away games against Florida State and North Carolina. Had they won either of the two, they would have been in the ACC Championship game and probably would not have played a bowl game in Boise. The year before, BC lost a gut-wrenching game at Pittsburgh that they should have won. The Pitt loss ultimately cost BC a spot in a BCS bowl game. It is likely the NC State loss will cost BC something down the road. At worst, this game will separate BC from the ACC Championship game. This loss could impact BC's bowl positioning and might even keep the Eagles out of a bowl game entirely. The latter is very unlikely given the weakness of the ACC and the fact that BC still has Maine, Buffalo and Duke on the schedule.
It's difficult to find the good news, but I'll try. If you take away the final four plays of the game and an early 49 yard run by Andre Brown, the Eagles played much better defensively on Saturday. NC State gained only 248 yards of total offense prior to the miraculous final drive. This was still not a great defensive effort but it was a step in the right direction. Johnny Ayers had a nice game (48.4 average on seven punts). Whitworth and Callender rushed for a combined 163 yards on 32 carries (5.1 yards per rush). Matt Ryan was not sharp on Saturday but he appears to have lost his limp for the first time since injuring his ankle early in the Central Michigan game. The BC offense will be much more dangerous once Ryan is 100% healthy.
September 17, 2006
Four fumbles, two interceptions, a dropped would-be touchdown pass, three penalties, two missed extra points and a missed field goal. These were the mistakes that BC made on Saturday against BYU. The Eagle defense also managed to give up 30 first downs and 554 yards of total offense, yet somehow BC managed to make enough key plays on both sides of the ball to win the game. After being shredded for most of the game, the BC defense held BYU scoreless in two overtime periods (a rarity in college football). Matt Ryan was not at his best on Saturday, but once again found a way to lead the Eagles to victory.
The good news:
The bad news:
Speaking of Coach O'Brien, I could not understand his decision to punt the ball on a 4th down and 4 situation from the BYU 37-yard-line. This happened late in the third quarter with BC ahead 20-13. The Eagles had all of the momentum at that time and may have put the game away with a touchdown on that drive. Instead BC punted and BYU marched down the field to tie the game. I am always shocked when a head coach decides to punt on 4th and short from inside the opponent's 40-yard-line but it is even more shocking when that coach's defense is ranked 113th in the country. Tom O'Brien is one of the few coaches that does this. I'll never understand why.
As poorly as the defense played overall, there were several excellent individual efforts. Kevin Akins pressured BYU quarterback John Beck on several occasions, DeJuan Tribble made several outstanding plays to break up passes, Jaime Silva, as usual, delivered several big hits and Robert Francois had 11 1/2 tackles and deflected the ball that Silva intercepted to end the game. On the other side of the ball, it was great to see Brandon Robinson have such a big impact. Prior to last week's game, Robinson had 10 catches for 123 yards in his entire BC career. He caught seven balls for 139 yards on Saturday. Tony Gonzalez caught two touchdown passes including the game-winner.
One of the biggest "little" plays of the game was Kevin Challenger knocking a would-be interception away from a BYU defender in the endzone during the second quarter. Ryan connected with Tony Gonzalez for a TD on the next play to cut the BYU lead to 13-12. There is a good chance that BC loses the game if not for Challenger's hustle on that play.
The ACC had another rough week. Miami was blasted by Louisville, 34-7. This was enough to knock the Canes out of the Top 25 for the first time since the late 1990s. Virginia lost to Western Michigan to fall to 1-2. North Carolina squeezed past Furman, 45-42. Maryland trailed West Virginia 28-0 at the end of the first quarter on Thursday and ended up losing 45-21. The only team in the ACC that looks good right now is Virginia Tech and they have not yet been tested (their victims: Northeastern, North Carolina and Duke).
Thank you to the Michigan Wolverines for putting an end to - at least temporarily - the Notre Dame National Championship talk. Michigan battered the Irish 47-21 and those who watched the game know that it really wasn't even that close. Notre Dame fell to #12 in the AP poll and #13 in the USA Today poll. The Irish are actually ranked ahead of both Oregon (3-0) and Iowa (3-0) in the AP poll. Unbelievable. The AP morons didn't stop there. In the latest poll, Florida State is ranked ahead of Clemson (Clemson just beat FSU) and Clemson is ranked ahead of BC (BC beat Clemson last week). Here is my stab at AP Pollster math: if A > B and B > C then C > A. I am actually most offended by the fact that FSU is ahead of Clemson. Clemson dominated the Seminoles in Tallahassee on Saturday. The only reason the game was close was because of Clemson's faulty kicking game which cost the Tigers four points and led directly to nine FSU points. As far as these voters are concerned, replica jersey sales and the notoriety of the head coach is as important as wins and losses. As Napoleon Dynamite would say .. IDIOTS!
Is there any fan in America that actually likes the new clock rules in college football? I can live with the clock starting when ball meets foot on the kickoff. This makes little difference. I think what upsets most people is the new rule which forces the game clock to run after a change of possession unless a timeout is called. Although I hate this rule in general, I am really angry about its impact at the end of close games. Already this season, I have seen games where teams trailing late in the fourth quarter had no chance to rally because they were forced to call timeout after the change of possession. The new rule will reduce the number of games decided in the final two minutes. What really shocks me is that the knuckleheads who came up with this rule did not add an exception for the last five minutes of the game. This shows how totally out of touch the NCAA football decision-makers are with the fans, coaches and players.
September 10, 2006
One way or another, BC's victory over Clemson on Saturday will have a huge impact on the 2006 season. At the very least, the win should improve BC's bowl positioning. If BC has a great season, this victory could be the one that puts BC in the ACC Championship game. Boston College, Clemson and Florida State are predicted by most experts to be the top contenders for the ACC Atlantic title so yesterday's game, next week's Clemson-Florida State game in Tallahasee and the October 21st BC-FSU matchup in Tallahasee will most likely determine who wins the division. The Clemson and Florida State matchups are particularly critical for BC because the Eagles play both Miami and Virginia Tech this season. Clemson and Florida State each play only one of the two Coastal Division heavyweights.
The ACC is off to a bit of a shaky start this season. Five ACC teams have already lost non-conference games (NC State to Akron, Georgia Tech to Notre Dame, Virginia to Pitt, North Carolina to Rutgers and Duke to Richmond). Florida State was nearly added to that list this weekend but escaped with a 24-17 win over Troy. Virginia needed overtime to beat Wyoming 13-12 and avoid an 0-2 start. Both Maryland (at West Virginia) and Miami (at Louisville) will face very tough non-conference tests next weekend.
As for BC, they were far from spectacular on Saturday but you have to admire their determination and resilience. BC had their backs to the wall down 10-0 early, down 17-7 after a devastating turnover, down 24-17 late in the fourth quarter and down 33-27 in overtime, but each time they responded with big defensive stands, clutch offensive drives or both. Obviously, BC would not have won without the incredible effort of freshman Jeff Smith who returned five kicks for 213 yards including a TD. Smith fell just one yard shy of the Boston College record for kickoff return yardage. Who knew that BC had such a weapon in their special teams arsenal? Matt Ryan was not nearly as sharp against Clemson as he was against Central Michigan but taking into account the ankle injury, I'd say that he played a pretty solid game. Ryan appears to possess a Tom Brady-like ability to make the key plays when they need to be made. In short, he's a winner. Another impressive Eagle on Saturday was Austin Giles, who spent a great deal of time in the Clemson backfield. The running back tandem of Whitworth and Callender also played pretty well as they combined for 130 yards on 32 carries (4.0 ypc). The only big blemish was Callender's fumble on the Clemson one-yard line. Several BC players have a nasty habit of reaching with the football while defenders are in position to knock the ball away. This is exactly what happened on Callender's fumble. I hope the coaching staff addresses this problem before it costs BC a game. Obviously, Jolonn Dunbar's block of Jad Dean's extra point in overtime will go down as one the most important (and clutch) plays of the Tom O'Brien era.
Now for the bad news. Overall, BC played very poorly on the defensive side of the ball. Clemson has a lot of offensive weapons and Brian Toal missed most of the game but 490 total yards is unacceptable. Clemson receivers were getting wide open way too often and the Clemson running back trio of Davis, Merriweather and Spiller averaged 4.1 yards per carry. Last season, BC ranked fifth in the nation in run defense, giving up only 90 yards per game. Central Michigan and Clemson have averaged 135. Boston College fumbled three more times this week (I am counting the bad snap that Matt Ryan recovered at the one yard line as a fumble). The Eagles recovered two of those fumbles, but both times the loss of field position set up short Clemson scoring drives. The kicking game concerns me of course. BC was also penalized seven times for 54 yards in the game, though two personal fouls that were called near the sideline were highly questionable.
I think the BC coaching staff did a pretty decent job on Saturday, especially on the offensive side of the ball. There were two decisions that bothered me, however. First, with B.J. Raji suspended for the first half, why kickoff to start the game (BC won the coin toss)? Wouldn't it have made sense to minimize the number of Clemson drives where Raji was unavailable? Secondly, BC called timeout at the end of the first half to force Clemson to punt. If I'm not mistaken, there were 17 seconds left in the half. DeJuan Tribble called for a fair catch on the punt then BC let the clock run out. The question is .. why risk that fair catch? Tribble isn't going to return that kick for a touchdown and BC certainly isn't going to have time to mount a scoring drive. I can understand BC forcing Clemson to punt in case there is a bad snap, but I cannot understand why Tom O'Brien would allow Tribble to field the ball. In that situation, BC had nothing to gain and everything to lose. There was no harm done, but at some point those kind of decisions are going to cost you points.
The win over Clemson pushed BC into the Top 25. They are currently #25 in the USA Today poll and #23 in the AP poll. The Eagles are very well-positioned to be 5-0 heading into a Thursday night game with Virginia Tech on October 12th. Believe me, the way BC's defense is playing I am not chalking up any wins but I like BC's chances of beating BYU and Maine at home and NC State on the road between now and then. NC State lost to Akron on Saturday so I'm feeling pretty good about that matchup in two weeks. BC will have 11 days to prepare for the Hokies and then an extra two days to prepare for Florida State the following Saturday. Virginia Tech will have the same 11 days to prepare for BC. By the time, Virginia Tech arrives they should be facing a healthy Matt Ryan and Brian Toal.
September 6, 2006
Boston College opened the season with a disappointing victory over the Central Michigan Chippewas on Thursday night. "Disappointing victory" may sound like an oxymoron but I think most BC fans would agree with those words. Yes, Boston College won the game but the Chippewas were about 30 yards from tying the score in the final minute. A borderline Top 25 team like BC should not have to rely on an interception in the last minute to beat a middle of the pack MAC team.
First the good news. Matt Ryan looked great. Despite a bad ankle, the Junior quarterback completed 67% of his passes for 323 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. He made great decisions. The starting receivers both played well. Tony Gonzalez scored a TD and made a spectacular grab inside the red zone. Gonzalez could have a huge year for the Eagles.
Now for the bad news. The BC defense looked mediocre for most of the game and horrible in the final ten minutes. The CMU running game gained 123 yards on 27 carries (a 4.6 yard average). CMU quarterbacks passed for 243 yards and several Chippewa receivers were able to get behind the BC secondary. Offensively, Matt Ryan's protection was terrible early in the game (it did improve in the second half). Whitworth and Callendar rushed for a combined 87 yards on 25 carries (a 3.5 yard average). BC also fumbled three times. Luckily, one fumble bounced into the hands of Ryan Purvis for a BC touchdown. The fumbles and the chaos in the BC secondary could be chalked up to first game rust. What really bothered me was the fact that CMU won the battle for the line of scrimmage. MAC teams have excellent athletes and it is not surprising when they are able to move the ball effectively against big conference schools. However, a MAC team should not be able to win a battle in the trenches against an ACC foe. That is exactly what happened last Thursday. BC should have been able to wear down CMU but it was the Eagles who could not get a first down or stop the opponent in the final ten minutes of the game.
BC may have lost if not for the absolute foolishness of Central Michigan head coach Brian Kelly. Kelly coached as if he was leading his team in a backyard touch football game. Kelly gave BC a gift touchdown late in the first half after he chose not to punt on 4th and 8 from deep in his own territory. He then went to a silly offensive formation at the end of the game which led directly to Brian Toal's game-sealing interception. Everything was going right for CMU at that point. There was absolutely no need for trickery. I think I speak for all BC fans when I say .. thank you, Coach Kelly.
The way BC played in last week's game concerns me greatly, but there is no need for panic. The first game of the college season is not always a good predictor of things to come. In 2003, BC played a terrible opener and lost to Wake Forest at home. The next week, they whipped Penn State on the road. In 2004, BC escaped with an ugly 19-11 win at Ball State. They again beat Penn State the next week and won seven of their next nine games (losing two heartbreakers). College football teams do not play preseason games so a team's performance in the season opener can be deceptive. I hope that is true in BC's case.
Not unlike the Florida State game last September, this week's Clemson game is likely the pivotal game of the year for BC. With Miami, Florida State and Virginia Tech all on this year's schedule, a loss at home to Clemson will severely damage BC's chances of winning the ACC Atlantic Division. Florida State's victory over Miami on Monday makes this week's game even more critical. If not for Florida State's 10-7 victory over Miami in the ACC opener last season, BC would have been in the ACC Championship Game. If BC can beat Clemson this Saturday and figure out a way to beat Florida State on October 21st, they stand a very good chance of winning the ACC Atlantic regardless of what happens against Virginia Tech and Miami. A loss to Clemson and BC will be fighting an uphill battle for the rest of the season.
BC chances against Clemson hinge largely on the health of quarterback Matt Ryan. Ryan sprained his left ankle against Central Michigan and is listed as questionable for this week's game. Please click on the links below for more information.