Boston College Football Notes

January 4, 2008

Boston College extended its bowl winning streak to eight games (in eight years) with a 24-21 win over Michigan State in the Champs Sports Bowl. BC hasn't exactly played the cream of the NCAA crop during the current streak but eight in a row is pretty impressive nonetheless.

The Champs Bowl was a pretty exciting game. Matt Ryan completed less than 50% of his passes but threw three TDs and was intercepted only once. Ryan probably did not help or hurt his chances of being drafted in the top five in the 2008 NFL Draft. I looked at six NFL mock drafts and five have Ryan going to the Atlanta Falcons in the number 3, 4 or 5 spot (a coin flip will determine where Atlanta picks). Baltimore and Chicago are expected to draft quarterbacks with the 8th and 14th picks, respectively. Ryan, Brian Brohm of Louisville and Andre Woodson of Kentucky are expected to be drafted in those spots. Assuming Ryan performs well in the Senior Bowl, shows promise at the NFL combine and doesn't buy any pit bulls, he should get a long look from Atlanta.

Jamie Silva ended a great Boston College career with the Champs Bowl MVP award. Silva had ten tackles and two interceptions against the Spartans. I don't think it is an exaggeration to call Silva one of the great players in Boston College football history. Silva not only put up huge numbers in his BC career (323 tackles, 14 interceptions, 4 fumble recoveries, 3 forced fumbles) but has been an emotional leader both on defense and special teams. I fully expect Silva to be playing on Sunday next fall, if not in the secondary then on special teams.

The other star of the Champs Bowl for the Eagles was Sophomore Rich Gunnell who caught six passes for 138 yards and a pair of TDs. Gunnell really came on at the end of the season (28 catches for 396 yards in his last five games). For the season, Gunnell caught 64 passes for 931 yards and 7 TDs.

From a team perspective, the 11-3 record gave BC their best winning percentage since Doug Flutie's 10-2 team in 1984. BC won 11 games for the first time since 1940 (11-0). The win over Michigan State gave BC a 22-3 record following losses since 2001. The Champs Bowl victory coupled with losses by several teams ranked ahead of BC should put the Eagles in the season-ending top ten for the first time since 1984 when Flutie and Company ended the season ranked 5th in the AP poll.

Next season will certainly be a transition year for BC. Among the key Seniors leaving Chestnut Hill are Matt Ryan, Andre Callender, Gosder Cherilus, Ty Hall, Jolonn Dunbar, Jamie Silva and DeJuan Tribble. That will leave BC with inexperience at quarterback and running back. The Eagles will also be hard pressed to fill the void in the defensive backfield left by Silva and Tribble. On the plus side, three of five starting offensive linemen will be back and the Eagles have some talented young players to fill the void including 6'8", 324 pound Rich Lapham who will be a Sophomore. Most of the receivers will return including Rich Gunnell. BC's excellent defensive front seven will likely be comprised of seven returning starters if you include Brian Toal (back from an injury) and B.J. Raji (back from an academic suspension that was not his fault). If KR/WR Jeff Smith and placekicker Billy Bennett are healthy, BC should be better on special teams in 2008 than it was in 2007. In short, BC has a lot of good players returning and could have another solid season if they can get steady play from the quarterback position. Whether that is Chris Crane, one of the current freshmen or even a new recruit is anyone's guess at this point.

As far as recruiting goes, BC has moved up in the team rankings. According to Rivals.com, BC currently has the 23rd best recruiting class in the country (2008 verbal commitments). Among the 27 recruits are three four-star players. On one hand, this is great news because BC was ranked much lower earlier in the recruiting season. On the other hand, Miami, Florida State, Clemson and Virginia Tech are well ahead of BC. Miami and Florida State each have 13 four and five star recruits (as compared to BC's three). Notre Dame continues to lead the team rankings which shocks me given the kind of season the Irish had. National Letter of Intent Day is still a month away so there is still time to move up (or down) in the rankings. The Eagles and Wake Forest appear to be the leading contenders to land four star Texas running back Terrance Robinson. By the way, Scout.com has BC ranked 16th in the nation, one slot ahead of VA Tech and two slots ahead of Clemson.

Recruiting Links

Thank you to everyone who has emailed me with future schedule information. Please click HERE to see the latest. I expect the full 2008 schedule (including dates) to be released within a month or so. As far as I know, BC is still looking for a fourth non-conference opponent.

After three seasons in Jacksonville, the ACC Championship Game will move to Tampa in 2008 and 2009 then to Charlotte in 2010 and 2011.

Finally, here is an update of the Division-1A college football teams with the most wins since 2000. The Eagles continue to move up.

Rank School Overall W-L Bowl W-L
1 Oklahoma 90-17 5-3
2 Boise State 86-16 4-3
3 Texas 85-17 6-2
4 Ohio State 81-19* 4-3*
5 USC 81-21 5-2
6 LSU 81-22* 5-2*
7 Georgia 80-23 6-2
8 Virginia Tech 79-25 3-5
9 Miami 76-23 5-2
10 Auburn 75-27 5-3
11 Louisville 74-26 3-4
12 Florida 74-28 3-5
14 TCU 72-26 4-3
13 Michigan 73-27 3-5
15 BC 71-30 8-0
16 Tennessee 71-31 3-4

* Pending Monday's Game

December 2, 2007

It came as no surprise that Boston College was once again stabbed in the back by the ACC and the bowl selection people. Despite beating Clemson on their home field and finishing with a better record than Virginia, the Eagles were relegated to the ACC's #4 bowl game, the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, Florida. BC fans will once again be treated to a non-primetime midweek battle against an unranked opponent. As you probably know, BC finished the 2006 regular season with a 9-3 record and was invited to the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Georgia Tech (8-5) went to the Gator Bowl, Maryland (8-4) went to the Champs Bowl and Clemson (8-4) went to the Music City Bowl (BC beat both Clemson and Maryland last season). In 2005, BC was 8-3 and ended up in the MPC Computers Bowl in Boise. Clemson (7-4), Georgia Tech (7-4), Virginia (6-5) and NC State (6-5) all bypassed BC to end up with a better bowl in a better location. To recap: in 2005, BC had the fourth best record and ended up in the eighth best bowl. In 2006, BC had the third best record and ended up in the sixth best bowl. This season, BC was second and wound up in the fourth best bowl. Apparently, all we need to do is multiply BC's rank in the ACC standings by two to determine which bowl slot they will get. I guess the only way for BC to be treated fairly is to: (a) win the conference title or (b) finish eighth and make sure no more than eight teams in the conference are bowl eligible. The only good news is that BC will have a better than average chance to keep their seven-game bowl winning streak intact.

Okay, there is one other silver lining ... we're not Missouri. In less than 24 hours, the Tigers went from being #1 in the country to being out of the BCS entirely. Two teams Missouri beat this season, Kansas and Illinois, are in the BCS. The BCS system somehow manages to become a bigger and bigger farce with each passing year. Two years ago the BCS people were proud of themselves when they gave us a championship game matchup of 12-0 USC against 12-0 Texas (the only undefeated teams) as if we needed the BCS to tell is that USC and Texas should play. I am happy that LSU was able to sneak back into the BCS Championship Game. At the very least, LSU is in the top four. Both of their losses were in OT. Had it been Ohio State against West Virginia, we may have been watching a championship game between two teams not among the ten best teams in the country. Unlike the USC-Texas game of two years ago, the winner of Ohio State-LSU really can't be considered a true champion. The worst part of this year's BCS is the invitation extended to 9-3 Illinois by the Rose Bowl. I've heard commentators say that inviting Big Ten runner-up Illinois "preserves the tradition of the Rose Bowl" by securing a Pac Ten-Big Ten matchup. Actually, it does not preserve anything because the Rose Bowl tradition is the CHAMPION of the Pacific Ten playing the CHAMPION of the Big Ten. The only tradition being preserved is the college football tradition of rewarding teams with bowl games they don't deserve.

As for Saturday's game, what can I say? BC dominated the first half but three special teams miscues (two blocked kicks and a punt that should have been downed inside the two yard line that wasn't) allowed the Hokies to get to the half tied at 16. Overall, BC played pretty well but they didn't execute often enough and couldn't catch any breaks. The Eagles frequently came up a yard short of the first down while and the Hokies always seemed to be landing on the first down line. In the first half, the referees missed a cheap shot on Callender that probably cost BC four points and later called two questionable penalties on BC that helped Virginia Tech score seven. Reverse those calls and the blocked kicks and BC could have been up 24-7 at the half. Even with all that went wrong in the first half, they still had plenty of chances in the second half to win that game. I hate to have to play the "What If" game every year. BC was a play or two away from the BCS in 2004 and 2007 and a play or two away from the ACC Championship Game in 2005 and 2006. It is bitterly disappointing to be that close four consecutive years and not reach the BCS (or even the Gator Bowl), especially when teams like Kansas and Illinois are getting their BCS tickets punched.

Click HERE to see my 2007 NCAA Football playoff proposal.

November 27, 2007

ESPN.com released its bowl projections today. Ivan Maisel agrees with CFN and CBS Sportsline that it will be BC and Penn State in the Champs Sports Bowl. Mark Schlabach is picking a BC-Tennessee Chick-Fil-A Bowl. Interestingly, neither believes that Missouri will even make the BCS. They are picking Oklahoma to beat Mizzou and win the Big XII title on Saturday to grab the automatic BCS bid. Both Maisel and Schlabach believe that Hawaii, Georgia and Arizona State will grab at large BCS bids. Maisel likes Kansas while Schlabach likes Illinois for the other bid. If the ESPN guys are right, that means that Missouri would go from being the #1 team in the nation to being bypassed by a team that they have beaten (Missouri beat Kansas last weekend and won at Illinois in the season opener). It appears that Illinois is a contender for a BCS spot only if Missouri loses because that would bump Ohio State out of the Rose Bowl (and into the championship game) allowing the Rose Bowl to pick first among at large BCS qualifiers. They might take the Illini to preserve a traditional Big Ten-Pac Ten Rose Bowl matchup. The bowl that loses its host team (the Big XII is tied to the Fiesta and the Big Ten is tied to the Rose) gets the first at large choice. After that pick is made, the selection order is Orange, Fiesta, Sugar. Here is the interesting part: if Missouri loses and West Virginia wins setting up the West Virginia-Ohio State BCS Championship Game, does the Rose go for the best remaining available team (Georgia) or do they take Illinois for the reason stated above? This impacts the Orange Bowl which will surely grab Georgia if they are available. If Missouri and West Virginia both win and face each other for the mythical national title, the Fiesta ends up with the first pick. That could be the hometown team (Arizona State), the Big XII replacement (Kansas) or the traditional power (Georgia).

Two of the projections mentioned above have Georgia in the Orange Bowl. The other two experts are picking Kansas and Missouri. Assuming BC wins, I would rather play one of the Big XII teams than face Georgia in a bowl game for the third time in 22 years. Been there, done that. I also think that either Kansas or Missouri would be a little easier to handle and I love the idea of a Matt Ryan-Chase Daniel or Matt Ryan-Todd Reesing matchup. That's a game that could be 49-49 heading into overtime.

The Hokies are currently a 5 point favorite to beat the Eagles on Saturday. Given BC's health concerns and the way each team has played since mid-October, that is probably a fair number. If BC can bring their Georgia Tech or Clemson game to Jacksonville, they have a great chance to win. If the Eagles bring their FSU or Maryland game, then there will be lots of celebrating in Blacksburg on Saturday night. The key for BC: contain the pass rush. I think BC can once again keep the Hokies from scoring a lot of points. The bigger question is: can they move the ball? BC is not likely to gain much with the ground game so they are going to have to rely on protecting Ryan better than they have in the past five games. We'll find out a lot about the new coaching staff on Saturday. In football, coaching is always critical but in a rematch game (which is rare in college football) the coaching staff has an even greater impact on the outcome of the game. Whichever staff learned more about the opposing team on October 25th will probably win this game.

Lastly, the All-ACC football teams have been announced. Congratulations to Matt Ryan, Ryan Purvis and Jamie Silva for making the first team and to Andre Callender, Gosder Cherilus, DeJuan Tribble and Jo-Lonn Dunbar for making the second team. BC and Virginia Tech led the conference with seven players on either the first or second team.


November 25, 2007

Boston College defeated Miami on Saturday to improve to 10-2 for the first time since 1984. This season marks BC's fourth ten win season (they were 11-0 in 1940 and 10-3 last year). Hopefully, the win over Miami will at least keep the Eagles from dropping to the Champs Sports Bowl. No offense to the people at Champs Sports but the Eagles deserve a spot in the Chick-fil-A Bowl (aka Peach) or Gator Bowl should they lose to Virginia Tech next Saturday. Of course, it's hard to believe that playing in a game called the "Chick-fil-A Bowl" is something to aspire to. I love how the bowl folks tell us that we can't have a college football playoff because of tradition then they give all of the great bowl games ridiculous corporate names. If these guys cared about tradition, it would still be called the Peach Bowl.

CBSSportsline.com is sticking by their prediction that Virginia Tech will win the ACC Championship with BC dropping to the Champs Sports Bowl to take on Penn State. CollegeFootballNews.com has the same prediction. I don't know whether these websites are basing their predictions on real information or are just guessing. What I do know is that BC has been bypassed in the bowl selection process by less deserving teams the past two seasons and I wouldn't put it past the conference and the bowl people to stick it to us again. I am still hopeful that BC will beat VA Tech and render the point moot.

Once again, the BCS system is being exposed. If Missouri beats Oklahoma on Saturday in the Big XII Championship Game, it will likely be Mizzou and West Virginia (who plays Pitt next week) in the BCS Championship. If Missouri loses, it will be West Virginia and Ohio State, assuming that Pitt cannot pull off the huge upset. That would mean that the two weakest BCS conferences would be represented in the BCS Championship. West Virginia is 1-1 against the current BCS Top 25 (that win was mighty Cincinnati). Ohio State is also 1-1 against the BCS Top 25 having beaten Wisconsin. LSU has played seven teams who were in the Top 25 when they played them and are 3-0 against the BCS Top 25. No sane person could argue that the SEC is not the best conference in college football yet they will not be represented when the "Championship" is decided in New Orleans in January. Meanwhile, Hawaii is on the verge of being undefeated yet they will not be able to compete for a championship. I honestly think Hawaii could beat West Virginia or Ohio State. Then there is Kansas. They finished 11-1 but won't be considered for the BCS Championship Game because their loss occurred late in the season and because the voters do not want a Kansas-Missouri rematch. Kansas played a very weak schedule but so did West Virginia. If they beat Oklahoma, I think Missouri is a clear-cut choice for one of the two spots in the BCS Championship. For the other spot, you could make a strong case for West Virginia, Ohio State, Kansas, LSU or Hawaii. You could also make a case for Georgia if LSU loses to Tennessee.

As for Saturday's game, it wasn't pretty but the Eagles got the job done. Matt Ryan was solid for most of the game though he continues to throw dangerous passes into heavy coverage. Anyone who has watched BC closely this year knows that his INT total could be much higher than it is. Ryan was great on the final two touchdown drives (4-for-4 for 99 yards and a TD in the final quarter). Rich Gunnell had another big game (9 catches for 135 yards). Gunnell has 18 receptions for 314 yards in the last three games. He could be doing big things for the Eagles the next two seasons. Andre Callender had another great game with 147 total yards. The run defense was solid again (Miami averaged 2.1 yards per carry).

The two big negatives on Saturday were certainly the turnovers (four) and the inability to contain Miami's pass rush. As we know, the Eagles will have their hands full with the Virginia Tech pass rush next week. They will defintely need to improve in that area if they are going to beat the Hokies in Jacksonville. Since BC joined the ACC in 2005, the Hokies (31-7) and Eagles (29-8) have the best overall records in the conference. Clemson is a distant third (25-12). Virginia Tech (20-5) and BC (16-8) also have the best records in conference play during that time.

November 21, 2007

ESPN has updated their bowl projections. Ivan Maisel is predicting a BC-Texas Tech Gator Bowl while Mark Schlabach thinks it will be BC and Kentucky in the Chick-Fil-A. Both Maisel and Schlabach believe that Virginia Tech will win the ACC title. Here's the LINK.

ESPN's Heisman Watch has also been updated. The ESPN experts have moved Matt Ryan up to sixth (a distant sixth). They have Sophomore Tim Tebow as the clear-cut winner at this point. There is no question that Tebow has had the best season (2,870 yards, 26 passing TDs, 20 rushing TDs, 6 INTs). A freshman/sophomore has never won the Heisman but it looks like Tebow will break that barrier in 2007.

November 19, 2007

The enigmatic BC Eagles defeated red hot Clemson on Saturday to clinch a spot in the ACC Championship Game for the first time. In the past month, the Eagles have defeated #8 Virginia Tech and #15 Clemson on the road and have lost to unranked Florida State and Maryland. On one hand, the Eagles accomplished preseason goal #1 by winning the ACC Atlantic (goal #2 is an ACC title and goal #3 is a BCS bowl victory). On the other hand, had they beaten FSU and Maryland, they would be #1 in the country and two wins away from playing in the BCS Championship. Even a split with FSU and Maryland would have given the Eagles an outside chance at reaching the title game. I can't help but be elated and disappointed at the same time.

At any rate, BC fans should be proud of the effort on Saturday. The Eagle offense put up 17 points in the fourth quarter. The offense sputtered for most of the game, but as usual they did not quit. The Eagle defense, decimated by injuries, was able to survive. By my count, five preseason defensive starters (including Toal and Raji) were either out of the game or limited to partial duty on Saturday, but they managed to hold Clemson to a desperation field goal on the final drive. It was a gutsy effort.

The Good News

  • Matt Ryan -- Other than the interception and a couple of overthrows, Ryan was excellent on Saturday. Ryan once again came up big in the fourth quarter. If Ryan played in the first quarter the same way he plays in the fourth, he'd have the Heisman locked up with room to spare. Despite the good effort, I do not think Ryan can get himself back in Heisman contention.

  • Andre Callender -- Callender now has 1,371 total yards (rushing and receiving) this season. The senior has had an outstanding year.

  • The Defense -- Despite one injury after another, the defense held Clemson to just 271 yards of total offense and 17 points. BC is back in the #1 spot in the country in run defense. Let's just hope they have enough healthy bodies for Miami next week.

The Not-So-Good News

  • Slow Starts -- In ACC games, the Eagles have been outscored 45-28 in the first quarter. They have outscored their opponents in the final three quarters 157-106. BC has just two first half touchdowns in the past four games.

  • Kickoffs -- What a painful display on the kickoffs against Clemson. Thankfully, the last kickoff landed at the ten yard line and Clemson failed to get back to the 30. Most of the night, Clemson was starting from their own 40 or better. The BC kicking game should improve next year when Billy Bennett (the #1 ranked high school placekicking recruit last year) takes over.

  • AP and USA Today Voters -- BC remains seven and eight slots behind Virginia Tech in the latest polls despite the win over Clemson. If BC beats the Hokies AGAIN in two weeks, there will probably still be a few voters who rank VT ahead of BC.

Speaking of recruiting, despite being 2-9 Notre Dame is ranked #1 in latest Rivals.com team recruiting rankings. The Irish have verbal commitments from 17 four and five star players. BC ranks 28th with zero five star and two four star commitments. I guess we now know the value of having your own television network contract and an adoring media. Honestly, I think it is more interesting when Notre Dame is NOT the second worst team in the country (sorry, Duke). With 17 blue chip prospects arriving in South Bend next year, Notre Dame may actually have a chance to beat BC before the series ends in 2010.

If the Eagles beat either Virginia Tech or Virginia on December 1st, they will be Orange Bowl bound. If they lose, they will most likely be headed to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta or the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville. But, as we know all too well, fairness does not play a role in the bowl selection process so it is possible that BC could drop to the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando (or worse) should they lose the ACC title game. Next Saturday's game against Miami could very well be the difference between BC playing in the Gator/Chick Fil-A and the Champs Bowl. BC just beat Clemson on the road but that does not mean that Clemson won't get the better bowl invitation. Bowl slot or not, the Eagles should be fired up for Miami. BC has not defeated the Hurricanes since Flutie to Phelan in 1984. The Eagles would also like to avoid ending the season with two consecutive losses at home.

In their latest bowl predictions, CBS Sportsline has the Eagles and Penn State in the Champs Sports Bowl (Dec 28 in Orlando) with Virginia Tech in the Orange, Clemson in the Chick-Fil-A and Virginia in the Gator. College Football News thinks BC and Kentucky will face off in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. ESPN's new predictions will be released Tuesday.

The Oklahoma loss muddies the BCS Championship waters even more. If LSU and Kansas continue to win, they will certainly battle for the title in New Orleans. If either team loses, West Virginia, Missouri, Ohio State and Arizona State all have a shot.


November 11, 2007

The National Championship and Heisman hopes have been obliterated, but the Eagles are still in position to accomplish this season's primary goal. A win next week at Clemson followed by a victory in the ACC Championship Game on December 1st (against either Virginia or Virginia Tech) would put Boston College in the Orange Bowl. If BC loses to Clemson, they will likely be headed to the Gator Bowl or the Champs Sports Bowl. If they beat Clemson then lose the ACC Championship Game then the Chick-Fil-A Bowl is their most likely destination. Of course, the only spot that is guaranteed is the Orange Bowl for the ACC Champion.

The impact of Jolonn Dunbar's absence from the lineup has been staggering. With Dunbar, the Eagles had one of the top defenses in the country. Since he left the lineup, the Eagles have not been able to stop anyone. This doesn't excuse the poor play, but it certainly explains much of it. I was worried that the loss of Toal and Raji prior to the start of the season would have a huge negative impact on the BC defense. There is no doubt that the Eagles would have been better with those two players in the lineup but those losses were not catastrophic. Clearly, the loss of Dunbar (and Pruitt) was catastrophic for this defense. Sadly, this reminds me of promising seasons that were ruined by key defensive injuries, most recently Antonio Garay and Mathias Kiwanuka.

As I said, this does not excuse the poor play on defense. Dunbar or not, surrendering 472 total yards to a pretty mediocre offensive team is ridiculous. The Terps completed three pass plays of 40 or more yards. Maryland QB Chris Turner came into the game with one TD pass and four INTs. He was averaging less than 200 yards passing per game. On Saturday, he looked like a cross between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Last night also marked the first time this season that a BC opponent was very effective the a running game.

Overall, the Eagles played their best offensive game since Bowling Green. They had 27 first downs and 466 yards of total offense. Calender averaged 4.7 yards per carry but unfortunately could not be used down the stretch because BC was so far behind. On the down side, BC receivers dropped several passes including an easy touchdown. Matt Ryan's interceptions were costly. Aponavicius missed a chip shot field goal that came immediately after the dropped would-be TD pass.

It wasn't the coaching staff's greatest moment either. Maryland's scored 20 or more points in both halves so whatever halftime adjustments were made did not work. Coach Jagodzinski also inexplicably punted down by 14 points with under five minutes left in the game. By punting, he was basically guaranteeing that he would have to go for an onside kick to win the game. The odds of BC converting the 4th and 15 (prior to the punt) was much higher than the odds of a successful onside kick. Hopefully, he won't make that mistake again.

CBSSportsline.com has updated their bowl projections and they still have BC vs Texas in the Gator Bowl. This means that CBS is predicting a Clemson victory next week. The ACC Champs will go to the Orange Bowl. The loser of the ACC Championship game will likely head to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta. CBS Sports is predicting that Virginia will end up with the ACC slot in the Champs Sports Bowl.

The new AP and USA Today polls have been released. BC is #18 in both polls, eight spots below #10 Virginia Tech. Both VT and BC are 8-2 and BC beat the Hokies on their home field but Virginia Tech sells more replica jerseys, has a higher profile coach and has more ex-quarterbacks involved in dogfighting rings so they clearly deserve to ranked eight spots higher than BC. (For those of you in the media, this is called sarcasm). In the end, the rankings don't matter. If BC wins the ACC, they go to the Orange Bowl.

The National Championship picture is once again a mess with seven one-loss teams plus undefeated Kansas (Hawaii is also undefeated but they really don't figure into the discussion). Kansas is currently #4 but if they finish undefeated, I would hope they would move up to one of the top two slots. What a travesty it would be if Kansas were to go 13-0 and then watch two one-loss teams play for the BCS Championship. I use the word "championship" very loosely when talking about college football.

I've started looking at 2008 NFL Mock Drafts. At this point, the mock drafts are very preliminary not only because the college season is not over but because we don't know where the NFL teams will be drafting and we don't know which Juniors will be leaving school. Still, it is interesting to see where the BC guys (particularly Matt Ryan) might go in the draft. WalterFootball.com is projecting Matt Ryan to go to Minnesota at #9. They also have DeJuan Tribble going to Dallas at #31 and Gosder Cherilus to Miami early in the second round. The folks at NFLDraftDog.com have Ryan at #7 to Minnesota and Cherilus at #18 in the first round. DraftKing.com thinks Minnesota would choose Andre Woodson, leaving Ryan for Chicago at #11. They have Cherilus at #17 and Tribble at #27. Minnesota, Chicago and Atlanta are all in desperate need of a quarterback and would be unlikely to pass (no pun intended) on Brian Brohm, Andre Woodson or Ryan.


November 4, 2007

What a nightmare. Saturday's contest was the classic Murphy's Law game (whatever could go wrong did go wrong). Most of this was BC's doing (dropped passes, turnovers, silly penalties, missed tackles and open receivers being overthrown). But we also had a shanked FSU punt roll thirty yards while another punt landed with a splat on the one-yard line as if it were hit by a Tiger Woods seven iron. We had what would have been a pivotal BC fumble recovery nullified because a Seminole was able to steal the ball out from under a giant pile of Eagles. We saw one FSU reception verified by replay despite the fact that the ball was rolling around on the turf as the receiver fell to the ground. In another case, a blatant pass interference on the Seminoles was ingored in the final two minutes. A shot to Matt Ryan's head was missed on the same play. The anchor of the BC defense was knocked out of the game while another key player hobbled around for most of it. FSU converted two trick plays for big yardage and one of the most inconsistent quarterbacks in the league played nearly flawless football. Frustrating does not even begin to describe that game. I am convinced that watching that game shaved at least six months off the end of my life.

Saturday's reminded me a lot of the ACC home opener against FSU two years ago. In that game, BC turned the ball over via the interception on their first two possessions spotting FSU 14 points. The Eagles came back and had a good chance to win but the game was essentially lost in those first five minutes of the first quarter. Last night, BC's first three possessions ended with a fumble, an interception at the goal line and a missed field goal (a holding penalty killed that particular drive). BC should have been up at least 10-0 at that point but it was 0-0. Those possessions set the tone for the entire game. Had BC been ahead 10-0 at that point, I believe they would have won and may have even won big.

The undefeated season is gone, the national title hopes are gone and Matt Ryan's Heisman hopes are probably gone. However, as they say in the Geico commercials, there is good news. The Eagles remained in the top ten (they are #8 in both polls and in the BCS). They also retained their spot in first place in the Atlantic Division and control their own destiny in the ACC. Here are some scenarios that would give BC the division title and a spot in the ACC Championship Game.

  • BC wins their remaining three games against Maryland, Clemson and Miami
  • BC beats Clemson and either Maryland or Miami
  • Wake Forest beats Clemson next week and BC wins two of their remaining three games

If BC loses two of their remaining three games and finishes 5-3 in the ACC, they could conceivably win the division in a tie-breaker. Right now, I really don't want to go there. Things could be a lot clearer a week from now. If BC beats Maryland and Clemson beats Wake Forest next week, then the BC-Clemson game the following week will decide the ACC Atlantic Division title regardless of what else happens. It looks like the ACC Coastal Division will be decided on November 24th when Virginia Tech visits Virginia.

The bowl predictions are out. As of last week, ESPN was projecting a BC-Missouri Orange Bowl. It will be interesting to see if the BC loss or the big Kansas win changes that. College Football News updated their picks today. They have BC and South Florida in the Gator (please, no!). CBS Sports (also updated) has BC and Texas in the Gator. CFN and CBS are both picking Virginia Tech to win the ACC title.

Bowl Predictions

There really is no need for a Good News/Not-So-Good News list this week. The Good News: Brandon Robinson. The Not-So-Good News: everything else.

Congratulations, Navy, on ending your 43 game losing streak against Notre Dame. This was a rough weekend for BC, but it's a heck of a lot better than being 1-8 and wondering what it will take to upset Air Force.

October 28, 2007

Boston College remained #2 across the board - AP, USA Today and BCS - thanks to their thrilling fourth quarter comeback on Thursday night. I was afraid that the voters would punish BC for winning ugly but BC didn't move in the rankings. The Eagles beat #8 on the road and they deserved to keep their spot at #2. The voters obviously agree with me. Ohio State was very impressive in their win at Penn State and clearly deserve the #1 spot. However, one voter in the AP poll and three voters in the USA Today poll have BC at #1. Thankfully, Bill "BC Rejection Letter" Simmons doesn't have a vote. Okay, I don't know for a fact that Simmons was rejected for admission by BC, but I'd bet my car against a box of donuts that he was.

Now that we are nine weeks into the season (eight games for most teams) it is reasonable to start talking about the BCS title game contenders. Realistically, the race comes down to nine teams -- Ohio State from the Big Ten, Boston College, LSU from the SEC, Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri from the Big XII, Arizona State and Oregon from the Pac Ten and West Virginia from the Big East. If there ever was a year where a two loss team could find their way into the BCS Championship Game, this is it. But that would mean that at least eight of these teams would have to lose between now and the end of the season. In fact, Ohio State would probably have to lose twice. BC does not have that luxury. If it comes down to a one loss BC team and a two loss team from the Pac Ten, Big Ten or SEC, the voters will undoubtedly nudge the two loss team into the #2 spot.

BC's victory over Virginia Tech was not only huge from a rankings and National Championship perspective, but it kept them in the driver's seat in the ACC Atlantic. The Eagles are guaranteed a spot in the ACC Championship Game if they win at least three of their final four regular season games. Wake Forest is the only other Atlantic Division team with one conference loss and BC holds the tiebreaker by virtue of their head to head victory over the Demon Deacons.

I thought that last Thursday's game would be a perfect measuring stick for the 2007 Eagles, but I must confess that I still don't know exactly how good this Eagles team can be. For 56 minutes, the offense couldn't get out of its own way. They looked completely outclassed by the VA Tech defense. In the final four minutes, it looked like the New England Patriots offense. Did the Virginia Tech defense let down at the end or did it simply take the BC offense that long to find their stride? The BC defense gave up some big plays and did not completely shut down the Virginia Tech running game. On the other hand, they made several huge third down stops, many of which were late in the game. They only gave up ten points, which should have been six (the first VT touchdown shouldn't have counted for two reasons: (a) the Tech receiver was juggling the ball as he was going out of bounds and (b) he freed himself for the catch by way of one of the most blatant push offs you will ever see). All things considered, the defense played well with flashes of weakness and the offense played poorly with flashes of brilliance.

It was also a tale of two Matt Ryans. With four minutes left in that game, Ryan's Heisman hopes were gone. Four minutes of clock time later he was back in the thick of the Heisman race. Ryan looked like a Heisman quarterback on those final two drives. ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit described the end of the end of the game as Ryan's "Heisman Moment" and added that the other top contenders do not have a moment like that. Currently, the ESPN Experts Poll has Ryan a close second behind Florida QB Tim Tebow. It looks like it is a six-man race heading down the stretch. Those six include four QBs (Tebow, Ryan, Andre Woodson of Kentucky and Dennis Dixon of Oregon) and two running backs (Mike Hart of Michigan and Darren McFadden of Arkansas). Hart hasn't even played the past two weeks and McFadden rushed for only 3.2 yards per carry against Florida International on Saturday so I think the running backs are longshots at best. Dixon is rising fast. Woodson's stock is down after a bad loss to Mississippi State in which he threw three INTs. Tebow has the best numbers but as a Sophomore he is at a disadvantage compared to the other three Senior quarterbacks. No freshman or sophomore has ever won the Heisman Trophy.

Good News from Thursday's Game

  • Johnny Ayers -- the BC punter had a fantastic game averaging 45.6 yards per punt and pinning the Hokies deep in their own territory on several occasions. Ayers had as much to do with this victory as anyone.

  • The defense -- The Eagles held Virginia Tech to 265 total yards on 66 plays. That is pretty solid. What impressed me most, however, was their ability to stop the Hokies late in the game. The most important stop came after Matt Ryan's second INT. The Eagle defense never quit.

  • The offense in the final four minutes -- This was a great effort across the board. Those two drives were efficient and gutsy. Ryan was phenomenal and there were several tough catches and key blocks. Like the defense, the offense never quit.

  • Steve Aponavicius -- I am not sure if that was a great onside kick or not, but the important thing is that he got the job done.

The Not-So-Good News

  • The offensive line -- Ryan was getting hit and pressured all night. VA Tech deserves a lot of the credit for the tenacious pass rush but this is now an area of concern.

  • Matt Ryan in the first 56 minutes -- Ryan did not perform well under pressure (not that many QBs do). In fact, he looked rattled for much of the game. The final four minutes showed that Ryan can be elusive. He need to use that ability more often.

  • Penalties and Dropped Passes -- I don't know the exact drop pass count but I do know that BC amassed 9 penalties for 83 yards. They were not all bad penalties (some were holding calls to save Ryan from a big hit) but the penalty yardage trend is not a good sign.

  • The referees on the first Virginia Tech touchdown -- I would love to know how the back judge was able to see a supposed toe drag but not the world's most blatant push off by the receiver. Also, were the replay officials watching a different video feed? The ball was clearly being juggled as Eddie Royal was flying out of bounds. But, the Eagles won so all is forgiven.

Some interesting numbers:

  • Since joining the ACC, BC is 27-6 overall and 14-6 in conference play.
  • Of those six losses, only two were by more than 7 points.
  • The Eagles have gone 25 games (21-4) without losing by more than seven points.
  • BC is ranked 100th in the country in pass defense yardage allowed but a respectable 16th in pass efficiency defense. Pass efficiency is usually a better barometer of how a team is playing.
  • The Eagles rank 15th in the nation in first downs per game and have allowed the 16th fewest sacks.

Saturday's game against FSU will be televised on ABC starting at 8pm. Please note that game times are often set just a week or so prior to the game. This enables the networks to choose the best matchups for the best time slots. Please don't email asking me for game times. The most up to date source is bceagles.com, BC's official sports website.

October 14, 2007

Somebody pinch me. The Boston College Eagles are ranked #2 in the country ... and I am not looking at a hockey poll. I am not sure what is more amazing, the fact that BC is #2 or the fact that BC is #2 without a single win against a team currently in the Top 25. College football fans have witnessed a seven week stretch of upsets that we undoubtedly have not seen seen before and may never see again. For the third week in a row, the top ten included multiple shocking upsets, most notably Oregon State's 31-28 victory at #2 Cal. The previous #1, LSU, lost a 13-point lead and the game and USC narrowly escaped with a victory over Arizona at home. At this point, I don't believe that BC is the second best team in the country but I do believe they deserve the ranking. The Eagles have won their games while others have not. I must also mention that BC is #3 in the AP Poll behind #2 South Florida. The most amazing fact of all might be that BC is NOT the most improbable top five team. Ohio State, Boston College and South Florida. The top three college football teams in America, ladies and gentlemen. Next weekend, Ohio State hosts a very tough Michigan State team so it very possible that BC could be the #1 team in college football by this time next week. (By the way, South Florida visits Rutgers on Thursday night). Part of me does not want the Eagles to reach #1 next week. I already fear that a bye week coupled with the #2 ranking will take focus away from the Virginia Tech game a week from Thursday. If the Eagles jump to #1, it may present even more of a distraction for the players. This might be one of the rare occasions when I am happy that the local media ignores BC sports (BC's success must be tearing Dan Shaugnessy, Michael Felger and Bill Simmons apart).

To be honest, BC does not look like a top five or even top ten team right now. Of course, this season I am not sure if anyone looks like a top ten team. The Eagles dominated the Irish on Saturday in terms of big plays, time of possession (39-21) and yardage (459-222) but thanks to penalties, a game-changing turnover, a missed extra point and an inconsistent running game, this game was stressful pretty much from start to finish. Bottom line - if the Eagles play like that against Virginia Tech, not only will they lose but they will be blown out and their ranking will plummet into the mid-teens. Here's the recap:

The Good News:

  • Matt Ryan played an excellent game with the exception of the Notre Dame interception that was returned for a TD. What I loved was that Ryan bounced right back after the INT to lead the Eagles on a touchdown drive (albeit a short drive) to get the lead back to 13 points. I am not sure if Saturday's game helped Ryan in the Heisman race or not. My guess is that it helped a little, but the true Heisman audition will occur in a week and a half.

  • The backup receivers really stepped up. BC's top two receivers, Challenger and Robinson, were kept in check (only 3 catches) but Megwa, Purvis and Gunnell each caught five passes or more.

  • The screen passes were devastating to Notre Dame. In fact, a couple of the best screens were called back because of penalties. Andre Callender has been mediocre running the ball but he has been outstanding catching passes out of the backfield.

  • As usual, the opponent could not run on the Eagles. Notre Dame backs rushed 14 times for only 36 yards. BC is doing such a good job stuffing the run that teams are simply giving up on their running game.

The Not-So Good News:

  • The penalties. I just about lost my mind watching BC accumulate 15 penalties for 131 yards against Notre Dame. I had to check the sideline to make sure Tom O'Brien wasn't back in charge. BC was the victim of some terrible calls but at least ten of those flags were earned by the Eagles. Penalties on Cherilus killed three promising drives. As I've said before, I can live with some of the holding calls but BC must cut down on the lack of discipline penalties, namely the five yard illegal motion calls and the personal fouls.

  • Steve Aponavicius missed his third extra point of the season on Saturday. That point lingered for the entire game. I could not escape the feeling that BC would eventually lose by a point. That miss may have actually cost the Eagles another three points because Coach Jagodzinski later opted to go for it on 4th and 9 rather than kick a 41-yarder. Aponavicius later missed a 34-yarder. Having said all of that, Aponavicius has done a very solid job this season going 7 of 9 in field goal attempts.

  • Once again, the running game was mediocre. Callender and Whitworth combined for 158 yards rushing on 30 carries which is a solid 5.3 average. However, if you take away Whitworth's early 52-yard run, the stats are 106 yards on 29 carries (3.7 yards per rush). They did make some key first downs on the ground and Callender had two rushing TDs but the running game needs to be better when the ACC season resumes. I hate to say this every week but it's true.

More Notre Dame Thoughts:

  • What is wrong with Pat Haden? There was a play where Callender's elbow clearly hit the ground before the ball came loose. Haden kept saying "but his knee wasn't down." My mother watches about one game every three years and would have known that play was not a fumble. Haden also referred to BC as "them" at one point. There is one good thing about the end of the BC-Notre Dame series in 2010. We'll only have to watch BC on the NotreDame Broadcasting Company one more time.

  • Is it just me or does Evan Sharpley look like a much better quarterback than Jimmy Clausen? I am not simply saying that he is playing better. I think he actually looks like a better prospect. I know Clausen is just a freshman but he still looks quite unimpressive even after seven games.

  • I got a kick out of Charlie Weis complaining to the officials after the holding penalty that nullified what would have been ND's third touchdown. Weis yelled something about BC getting the calls all day. BC racked up 15 penalties (for 131 yards) at least three of which were terrible calls. All day long BC was getting shortchanged on forward progress spots. Those of you who watched the game closely know exactly what I'm talking about. Most of the Notre Dame offense (what little of it there was) resulted from BC penalties and without the penalties the BC offense would have put up at least 40 points. Like I said, BC earned most of those penalties but for Charlie to complain because the refs finally called holding on his team is preposterous. Then again, that is a classic Notre Dame move to get one call after another then complain when one call finally goes against them.

  • Speaking of that missed extra point. How would you like to be the guy who bet on BC -13.5?

  • I find it funny that at one time I used to get somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty emails from Notre Dame fans in the week before and after the BC-Notre Dame game. Some of these were interesting and thoughtful messages but the majority of the emails involved some kind of boasting or complaining. I hadn't seen any this year at last check. In 2002, I wrote an article about Notre Dame hate email I'd received. Here's the LINK if you want to take a look. I said at the time that I thought Tyrone Willingham was the right man for the Notre Dame job. I'm not sure I was wrong.

In case you missed it, BC dropped from second to third in football graduation rate. So BC is now ranked higher on the field than off it. Strange times indeed.

October 7, 2007

The Eagles are halfway through the regular season and three-fourths of the way through their very weak non-conference schedule. Quite remarkably the Eagles, who were unranked when the season started, are now ranked 4th in the nation in both the AP and USA Today polls behind LSU, Cal and Ohio State. This is BC's highest ranking since Doug Flutie's 1984 team. This is also the first time since 1942 that the Eagles have started the season 6-0. These are amazing times for the BC football program.

What an amazing football season we are having. Last weekend, five top ten teams lost with four of those coming against unranked opponents. This week, three of the top eleven teams lost to unranked opponents. We have also seen two of the biggest upsets in college football history - Appalachian State over Michigan and Stanford over USC. USC was a 41-point favorite. Obviously, all of this has been great news for BC. Based on their overall play this season, I don't believe that BC is one of the four best teams in America but they do deserve the ranking. BC has beaten two teams in Wake Forest and Georgia Tech that are at least as good as Stanford (who beat USC) and Colorado (who beat Oklahoma). BC certainly deserves to be in the top five more than South Florida deserves to be in the top ten. Arguably, the Bulls were outplayed by Florida Atlantic on Saturday. At least the "Rutgers in the top ten" nonsense is over once and for all.

Cincinnati, Kentucky, Illinois and Kansas are all ranked in the top 20. Are we sure these aren't the basketball rankings? In all seriousness, it's great to see some new blood in the Top 25. Add those four to South Florida, Hawaii and Missouri and you've got seven teams that have not spent much time (or in some cases any time) in the Top 25 in recent years.

With Notre Dame on the schedule next week followed by a bye week, the Eagles have some chances to move up in the rankings prior to their October 25th battle at Virginia Tech. LSU plays at Kentucky next week followed by Auburn. Cal plays Oregon State next week followed by a game at UCLA. The Bruins played a pitiful seven turnover game against Notre Dame but they have the talent to beat Cal. After beating Kent State to a pulp next Saturday, Ohio State will host Michigan State. I doubt that Cal and Ohio State will lose in the next two weeks but as we know anything is possible in college football. It is very possible that LSU could lose in the next two weeks though my guess is that they would remain ahead of BC in the rankings if they were to beat Kentucky and lose to Auburn. BC will have to prove that they are worthy of their ranking by beating Virginia Tech in two and half weeks. If BC loses in Blacksburg they will likely drop out of the top ten. And yes, I realize there is a game next week and yes, I have not ruled out the nightmare scenario that Notre Dame will ruin BC's perfect season. As I said, anything is possible.

The Good News:

  • Matt Ryan was exceptional. He completed 75% of his passes and that percentage should have been higher (there were a few drops). He passed for 312 yards, 4 TDs and most importantly no interceptions. Ryan has been good but not great since the Georgia Tech game. He really needed this performance.

  • The return of Nick Larkin and Jeff Smith. With Toal and Raji out for the season, the Eagles simply cannot afford to be without Larkin when the ACC season resumes. Jeff Smith made an immediate impact with 117 yards of kick return yardage including a 64-yard return.

  • Steve Aponavicius nailed a career long 45-yard field goal. It's good to know that he can hit from that distance.

  • The run defense was stingy as usual. Most of Bowling Green's rushing yardage came in garbage time. If I am not mistaken, the Falcons had two yards of rushing offense when Ryan and many of the starters left the game.

The Not-So Good News:

  • The pass defense was suspect once again. Bowling Green passed for 401 yards and completed about two-thirds of their passes. To be fair, the defense gets a passing grade because of the incredible six interceptions.

  • The running game was decent but once again not dominant. A top ten team should be averaging 6-7 yards per rush against a team like Bowling Green. The Eagle backs averaged 4.5. Again, this is not a terrible number (it would be great number against a VA Tech or an FSU) but it should be higher against this type of opponent.

Thanks to BC's success Matt Ryan is getting legitimate Heisman hype. He remains a long shot and BC will need to go 12-0 or at worst 11-1 in the regular season for him to win but he's in the mix. In fact, Todd McShay of ESPN had Ryan #2 on his list as of last week. The panel of ESPN experts have Ryan ranked 5th (link below). Andre Woodson of Kentucky had an average game in a loss to South Carolina last week. John David Booty tossed four INTs in a loss to Stanford. Brian Brohm is probably out of the running now that Louisville has lost three games. Colt Brennan left with an injury on Saturday and his numbers this year pale in comparison to what he accomplished last season (5,500 yards and 58 TDs) when he didn't win. Tim Tebow's Florida Gators have already lost twice. Two running backs, Darren McFadden and Mike Hart are putting up ridiculous numbers but their teams have been disappointing. The success of the candidate's team is just as important as the candidate's success. DeSean Jackson of Cal is an interesting candidate but he has only three TDs and plays a position that rarely gets a serious look from Heisman voters. If Ryan can do some stat-padding next week then play well and beat Virginia Tech, he will be in the thick of the Heisman race.

A note for those of you who like to plan WAY ahead. BC and Northwestern have agreed to a home and home series in 2011 and 2012. The Eagles will host the Wildcats in September of 2011 then play at Northwestern in September of 2012. It's not the most exiting opponent but at least it's not another MAC team.


September 16, 2007

What a great win for Boston College on Saturday night. When the season started, the road game at Georgia Tech appeared to be the second toughest game on the BC schedule (Virginia Tech on the road being the toughest). But not only did BC win the game, they dominated the Yellow Jackets. I think most observers would agree that the 24-10 score was not indicative of how much better BC was last night. The victory over Georgia Tech gives the Eagles a 3-0 record in ACC play heading into a stretch of four non-conference games. BC should win all four of those games and be 7-0 heading into Virginia Tech on October 25th. Of course, none of those four games are automatic wins. Army actually outgained Wake Forest yesterday in a 21-10 loss. UMass is an excellent football team at the 1-AA level (yes, I realize there is a stupid new name for Div 1-AA). Bowling Green lost of Michigan State by only 11 on the road. Right now, Notre Dame looks like an automatic "W", but I am sure they will be a better team in a month (could they be worse?). I would not be surprised if at least one of those four games is very close heading into the fourth quarter.

BC's victory, coupled with losses by quite a few top 25 teams, catapulted BC into the #12 spot in the USA Today Coaches Poll. They are ranked 14th in the AP Poll behind South Carolina and Oregon, two teams behind them in the Coaches Poll. If BC can win the next four games, they should be a top ten team when the arrive in Blacksburg at the end of October.

The Positives

  • Three Up, Three Down -- Most games played in the first three weeks of the college football season are non-conference battles so having three ACC wins under their belt is a tremendous advantage for BC. The Eagles now have four weeks to work out the kinks in their game before returning to conference play.

  • Matt Ryan -- After a rough week against NC State, the senior quarterback was exceptional once again. He has now put up 400 yard games against the two teams who played in last year's ACC Championship Game (that game ended 9-6). The only negative is that Ryan misfired on what should have been two easy TD passes. It helped that the receivers limited the dropped passes this week. A lot of the credit should go to Coach Jags and Steve Logan. BC now has a legitimate offensive game plan.

  • Pass Protection -- Ryan took a beating in the first two games but was protected nicely last night. He took a few shots but I noticed solid improvement in this area. This is the same Georgia Tech defense that sacked Notre Dame QBs nine times.

  • The Run Defense -- The BC front seven proved its legitimacy last night. Even without Toal, Raji and Larkin, the Eagles were able to hold Tashard Choice to 31 yards rushing on 15 carries. BC is currently fourth in the nation in run defense (40.3 rushing yards allowed per game).

  • Kickoffs -- Billy Bennett did a nice job last night. If I recall correctly, most of his kickoffs were around the five yard line which is pretty good given that the ball is now kicked from the 30 yard line.

The Negatives

  • Penalties -- BC racked up eight penalties for 92 yards, most of those on the offensive side of the ball. The penalties were the reason that BC did not score more points. That number does not include two holding penalties that were declined by Georgia Tech. However, there are penalties and there are BAD penalties. Holding and pass interference calls are much more acceptable than encroachment, illegal procedure and after-the-whistle personal fouls. In recent years, we have seen way too many of the bad penalties from Boston College players. A holding penalty to save Matt Ryan from a big hit or a pass interference to avoid a touchdown are penalties I can live with. I think we'll see fewer holding penalties as the BC offensive line gains experience and has more game time as a unit.

  • The Running Game -- Overall, the numbers weren't horrible. Callender and Whitworth combined for 102 yards on 29 carries (3.5 yards per rush). The problem is that BC does not appear able to grind away with the running game when they have the lead in the fourth quarter. This causes many problems: First, it forces Matt Ryan to throw more passes which increases his chance of injury. Second, when those passes fall incomplete, the clock stops. Third, the inability of the running backs to get first downs often forces Matt Ryan to run for first downs and risk injury. Fourth, pass plays are more risky (Ryan almost threw an interception for a GA Tech TD late in the game). The next four games against weaker opponents will provide BC with a great opportunity to get the running game to where it should be.

All things considered, last night's game was one of the best the Eagles have played in the past few years. They have set the stage for a great season.

September 9, 2007

To win the ACC Atlantic Division this season, the Eagles will need to avoid bad losses to weaker opponents. Two years ago, a November loss to North Carolina cost the Eagles the division title. Last season, losses to NC State and Miami ruined what would have been a great season. This season, the Eagles desperately needed to take care of business at home against Wake Forest and NC State to remain top contenders for the division title. It wasn't pretty at times, but the Eagles came away with victories against those weaker foes and are now 2-0 in ACC play for the first time since joining the conference. A win against Georgia Tech next week would not only give BC a 3-0 start to the ACC season and put a difficult road game in the win column, but it would virtually guarantee that the Eagles would head into Notre Dame on October 13th with a 6-0 record.

Not unlike last week, I came out of the NC State game with mixed emotions.

The Good

  • The Victory -- I cannot overestimate how important it was that BC win these first two games. This will be a great confidence builder and makes the Eagles an ACC Championship contender regardless of what happens next week.

  • Run Defense -- Even without B.J. Raji, the BC run defense has been spectacular. BC has held opponents to only 58 rushing yards on 48 carries this season. If you remove the quarterbacks (sacks count as rushing attempts in NCAA statistics) and a 47-yard rush by NC State in garbage time, BC has held opposing rushers to 41 carries for 53 yards (1.3 ypc). By the way, Wake Forest rushed for 236 yards against Nebraska (a net of 2 yards against BC).

  • Running Game -- Callender, Whitworth and Brooks combined for 228 rushing yards on 37 carries on Saturday. Against NC State, BC was able to pick up first downs late in the game. This was a weak spot against Wake Forest.

  • Forcing Turnovers -- BC is doing a phenomenal job of forcing turnovers. However, they cannot rely on opponent miscues every game. Saturday's game would have been competitive if not for the Wolfpack mistakes.

The Bad

  • Kickoffs -- Billy Bennett kicked two balls out of bounds on Saturday though he also boomed a long one for a touchback late in the game. It was clear that BC wanted to keep Darrell Blackman from making a big return.

  • Passing Offense -- Matt Ryan was as bad this week as he was good last week. Ryan completed only 15 of 34 passes for 142 yards. He threw one interception, but it could have easily been four or five. It didn't help that the receivers (who were great last week) kept dropping passes. I'd like to think that this was simply a case of a former coach knowing exactly how to defend his former quaterback.

  • Pass Protection -- Matt Ryan has been getting hit a lot this season. Hopefully, as the offensive line sees more game action together, the protection will improve.

  • Pass Defense -- This is an area of major concern. For the second straight week, opposing QBs passed for more than 350 yards against the BC secondary. Interceptions are great but BC cannot allow opposing quarterbacks to pick them apart like they have.

  • Injuries -- Nick Larkin left Saturday's game with a knee injury. No word on his status. With Raji academically ineligible for the season and Brian Toal redshirting, BC cannot afford to lose Larkin.

It's been a rough start to the season for the ACC. Eight of the twelve ACC teams have already lost this season. Miami and Virginia Tech were both humiliated by top ten opponents on Saturday. Wake Forest played pretty well against Nebraska but could not avoid falling to 0-2. Florida State, coming off a loss to Clemson, struggled to beat UAB. BC, Georgia Tech, Clemson and Maryland are all 2-0.

It was also a rough weekend for much of the top 25. Georgia, Auburn and Boise State all lost to unranked opponents. Wisconsin, California, Nebraska, Hawaii and Texas A&M all won by seven points or less against unranked foes. This helped BC move up to #21 in the AP poll and #19 in the USA Today poll. Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Clemson and BC are all in the top 25.

Speaking of rough weekends, no one is having a harder time that Michigan. After losing to 1-AA Appalachian State last week (I refuse to use the term "subdivision" or whatever the heck they call 1-AA now), Michigan lost 39-7 at home to Oregon. Honestly, the game was not nearly as close as that score indicates. Next week, Michigan will host Notre Dame in a battle of 0-2 teams. The Irish have been outscored 64-13 in two games and have yet to score an offensive touchdown. In the preseason, this looked like a lock for Michigan but I guess ND has a shot. It will be classic matchup between Notre Dame's putrid offense and Michigan's putrid defense.

Finally, polling has closed on my first BC Poll of the season. Here are the results:

How many regular season games do you think BC will win in 2007?

  12 (12-0)    16%
  11 (11-1)    12%	
  10 (10-2)    32%
   9  (9-3)    24%
   8  (8-4)     9%
   7  (7-5)     4%
   6 or less    4%

September 4, 2007

The Eagles put the fans through plenty of stressful moments but came away with a pretty impressive ten point victory over Wake Forest to open the season. Matt Ryan may have put himself into a few Heisman discussions with his 408-yard, five touchdown pass performance. Ryan became the first BC quarterback to throw five TD passes in one game since a guy named Flutie threw for six in 1984. Equally impressive was DeJuan Tribble who intercepted three passes in the opener, two in or near the BC endzone. Another star was Brandon Robinson who hauled in nine passes for 127 yards. The defense was extremely impressive against the run, holding Wake Forest to a meager two yards of rushing offense. Even if you take out the sack yardage, BC held Wake to 20 yards on 22 rushes.

On the negative side, the turnovers were maddening. I don't think BC will be able to hand two defensive TDs to another ACC opponent and win. Aponavicius was perfect on PATs and field goals but his kickoffs were ugly at best. BC has a very good defense but no team can win consistently if the opponent starts every drive at the 40-yard line. The pass defense, outside of Tribble, was also a big weakness. The Wake QBs combined for 366 yards and a 75% completion percentage. The BC running game was also weak as Brooks and Callender combined for 67 yards on 21 carries. Not unlike last season, I am concerned that BC will not be able to put games away with the running game.

As for the accolades ... Matt Ryan was named the ACC's Offensive Back of the Week for Week 1. DeJuan Tribble was named the league's Defensive Back of the Week. Tribble was also named as the National Defensive Player of the Week. Boston College moved into the #25 spot in the USA Today poll this week. They remain 26th in the AP Poll (Clemson grabbed #25).

BC is currently a 14 point favorite to beat NC State on Saturday. NC State will be coming off a 25-23 loss to underdog Central Florida. The Wolfpack scored 20 unanswered points in the second half but it wasn't quite enough to erase the early 25-3 deficit. NC State was penalized 10 times on Saturday so it looks like Tom O'Brien has already put his personal stamp on his new team (sorry, I couldn't resist).

August 29, 2007

Boston College will open the 2007 season in just three days. Expectations are very high with the Eagles returning 16 starters from last season's 10-3 team. On the down side, BC faces the fourth toughest schedule in the nation (based on last season's records). A healthy Matt Ryan is back for his senior season. College football guru Phil Steele named Ryan his preseason first team All-ACC quarterback. DeJuan Tribble was also a preseason first-teamer according to Steele. The Eagles are just outside of the Top 25 in both the USA Today and AP preseason polls. BC was picked to finish second in the ACC Atlantic by the media at the ACC Football Kickoff. Links to these polls are listed below.

There are some pretty good, albeit brief, team previews on the ACC's official site TheACC.com. There is both a text and video preview on the ACC site. CollegeFootballNews.com also has a good BC preview. CFN is projecting an 8-4 season for the Eagles. Oddly enough, they have the Eagles losing to Notre Dame in October.

Because of the very tough schedule, 8-4 is a reasonable projection though I think the Eagles should win 9 games are very capable of winning 10 or even 11 games. I believe that BC will win all four non-conference games. Yes, Notre Dame will be fired up to play BC at home but I don't believe the Irish will have the experience to beat BC this season. BC is at a tremendous disadvantage in 2007 because they play the three best teams in the ACC Coastal Division (Miami, VA Tech and GA Tech). The Atlantic is tough from top to bottom so there will no easy conference games on BC's schedule. The Wake Forest opener could dictate how this season goes for BC. Not only will that be a key division game against a team that has beaten BC three times in four years but it will likely have a big impact on team confidence heading into the NC State and Georgia Tech games. The toughest game on the docket appears to be the road contest against Virginia Tech on October 25th. I feel that every one of BC's ACC games could go either way. As it stands today, I would give BC at least a 40% chance and no more than a 60% chance of winning each ACC game. Injuries and performance will obviously impact those odds. I have a poll on my main page asking how many games the Eagles will win this year. Right now, the top choice is 9-3 (32% of voters). Please feel free to cast your ballot.

Registration for the 9th Annual Kevin M. Eidt Memorial Scholarship Fund ends on Thursday. If you are a golfer and would like to compete in a fun, low pressure tournament for a great cause, please visit KevinsFund.org. Prizes include BC-Army and BC-Bowling Green football tickets.

As for the miscellanous BC information:

  • The official site, BCEagles.com, has put together a road game travel page. There are some excellent road venues this season (link below).

  • If you want to talk BC sports, I encourage you to visit the message boards at EagleAction.com. Occasionally, you'll have to sift through off-topic posts about subjects such as "Is Castro Dead?" and "Need Legal Real Estate Help?" (actual topics on the board now) but for the most part you'll find solid BC analysis and commentary (link below).

  • I am always happy to answer your email unless you ask me about tickets. If you need tickets, please contact the ticket office at 617-552-GOBC. If the game is sold out, I have a StubHub banner on the front page. If that doesn't pan out, you might want to try EBay. Please contact BC if you have questions about parking on game day.

  • NCAA kickers will kickoff from the 30-yard-line this season (matching the NFL rule). Obviously, this will result in more kickoff returns and should be good news for Jeff Smith. Thankfully, the ridiculous clock rules that were implemented last season are gone. For more on NCAA rule changes please take a look at this article from ESPN.