Boston College Football Notes
January 10, 2009
The Boston College football program is in turmoil once again after the firing of head football coach Jeff Jagodzinski for interviewing with the New York Jets. Jagodzinski was 20-8 in his two seasons at BC. No one seems to know exactly how we reached this point but based on what has been reported, I am supportive of the firing though it seems to have been handled poorly by Athletic Director Gene DeFilippo. It's pretty apparent that Coach Jags was not committed to the Boston College program. By interviewing with the Jets, he made it clear that he was not interested in honoring his five year commitment. It is also disturbing that Boston College football is having its worst recruiting season in years. This seems odd coming off a season in which BC was ranked as high as #2 in the nation and its starting QB was chosen third overall in the NFL Draft. Does this mean that Jagodzinski neglected his recruiting duties knowing that he would be back in the NFL next season? Not necessarily. I am willing to give Jags the benefit of the doubt that he did his best on the recruiting trail. However, if that is his best then he must be about the worst recruiter on the planet. BC is being outrecruited by Duke, among many others. Either way, it does not reflect well on Coach Jags. There is also the question of honesty and intergrity. If Jagodzinski was planning to bolt for the NFL after this season then how could he, in good conscience, sit in the living room of a potential recruit and ask that recruit to join him at BC? Sadly, college football coaches are about as ethical as politicians. Most will say or do anything to anyone to get a better job and a few more bucks. They will happily sign a long-term contract knowing that they will ditch the school for a better job the first chance they get. If their program is not successful, they know they will be paid handsomely to leave town. I don't know if Jeff Jagodzinski fits into that mold or not. I will certainly respect Jags more if he does not pursue compensation from Boston College beyond his earnings for this season. I don't think a person of character, especially one who initiated the separation, would take money from a university that he did not earn.
As I said, I support the firing. Any way you cut it, Coach Jagodzinski was not fully committed to the program. BC needs someone who wants to be there for the length of his contract and beyond. I respect Boston College for taking a stand on long-term contracts. As I said, most coaches view these contracts as no lose propositions. If they win, they get a better job somewhere else for more money. If they lose and get fired, they get a big payout. This is not the way it should be. A five-year contract should mean a five-year commitment. Within reason, the school should try to honor the full term as well. When a college player wants to transfer from one program to another he must sit out a year but coaches can bounce from one program to the next without suffering a penalty. I'd like to see more schools take this kind of stand. Having said that, I wish Gene DeFilippo's threat to fire Jagodzinksi had not been made public. I would have preferred that BC wait to see what happened with Jagodzinski and the Jets (and other teams) before acting. By firing Jagodzinski immediately after the Jets interview, BC may have put themselves on the hook for the remainder of his contract or some kind of severance package? Had Jags taken another job, he would have had to buy his way out. Secondly, the threat made by DeFilippo did not play well in the media. The media is almost always going to take the side of the coach against the university. The media turned Jags into the victim when he is, at least in my eyes, the likely villian. I do not see why DeFilippo couldn't have waited for the dust to settle. Maybe Jags would have landed a pro job. In that case, BC would be off the hook financially and there would be no media stink that comes with a firing. I don't know the people involved. I could be way off base about Jags and his motivation. I would love to hear both DeFilippo and Jagodzinski speak candidly about the situation. Unfortunately, all we are getting is PR-speak from both. I appreciate that both Gene and Jags are taking the high road and being respectful of each other but I also think the students, alumni and fans deserve a few more answers.
I hope Defensive Coordinator Frank Spaziani is offered the head coaching job. To me, he is the best of the internal candidates. He's been loyal to the program and has done an amazing job with the defense. BC would create more buzz by hiring a known commodity from outside the program but that would likely put them back in the same position they were in with Jagodzinski. They would have a head coach with his eyes on a bigger prize. There are no guarantees with anyone, but I think Coach Spaziani is a guy who may want to be there for a while.
There was some good news amidst the chaos this week. ACC Defensive Player of the Year Mark Herzlich announced that he will return for his senior season. The Eagles will lose five starters on defense including Brace and Raji, but with Herzlich back they should be very strong on defense once again. BC returns eight of eleven starters on the offensive side of the ball.
With their nine win season, BC has now won more games this decade than all but eleven teams. Here is the complete list for 2000-2008:
This will be my last set of notes for the 2008 season. Talk to you in the fall.
January 4, 2009
Bowl Streak Ends
Losing is always unpleasant, but there are two particularly painful ways to lose a football game. Those two ways are (a) on a bad call by an official late in the game and (b) on a fluke play. On Wednesday, BC was victimized by both (a) and (b). Vanderbilt's only touchdown resulted directly from a bad Vanderbilt punt (it looked like a bad golf shot) that grazed BC's Paul Anderson about twenty yards downfield. It appeared BC had survived this mishap after taking a 14-13 lead with 6:38 remaining. Unfortunately, one of the officials called a ridiculous roughing the passer penalty on Mark Herzlich on a third down incomplete pass. This call extended what turned out to be Vanderbilt's game-winning drive. It is unfortunate that a pretty good season. a season which exceeded expectations, ended with such an absurd loss.
The Herzlich call was not the only officiating blunder. Not long after the Vanderbilt touchdown, the Vanderbilt quarterback (I don't recall which of the three it was) threw a backward pass that was ruled an incomplete pass. Had it been called correctly, several BC players were in the area to grab the fumble and return it for an easy touchdown. This would have been a nice offset to the Anderson play but the zebras blew the call.
Now the good news. The BC defense was again phenomenal. On the first two possessions, the Vanderbilt offense put together two drives totaling 91 yards. Those drives resulted in six hard-earned points. In their next 12 possessions, Vanderbilt's second longest drive was just 31 yards. Their longest drive during the final 3 1/2 quarters was the game-winning drive of 48 yards (30 of those yards came on two BC personal foul penalties). In the first two drives of the game, the Commodores gained 91 yards of offense on 10 plays. For the rest of the game, Vandy amassed only 109 yards on 46 plays. That's less than 2.4 yards per play. If this year's BC defense had played opposite Matt Ryan's offense last year, we might be walking around in "2008 National Champions" t-shirts.
We had a great story in the making when freshman wide receiver Colin Larmond, Jr. scored on a 55 yard touchdown pass from Davis to give BC a 14-13 lead with under seven minutes remaining. Larmond caught only one pass during the regular season, but caught three against Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship game and was nearly a Music City Bowl hero.
Another freshman, Montel Harris, rushed for 68 yards to bring his BC freshman record-setting rushing total to 900 yards. Without a doubt, Harris was the biggest surprise of 2008. Not only did Harris put up some nice numbers (5.0 yards per carry) but he showed the ability to stay on his feet and drag tacklers for extra yards. I haven't seen that from a BC running back in a while. I am optimistic that Haden and Harris will be a nice tandem for the next three years.
Congratulations to junior linebacker Mark Herzlich who easily won the 2008 BCEaglesFootball.com MVP vote. Herzlich gained 67% of the 309 votes. This equaled Matt Ryan's 67% last season. BJ Raji finished a distant second with 10% of the vote. Chris Crane finished third with his numbers increasing after the injury.
Here are the results for the more lengthy BC poll that was up for most of the season:
Q1: Do you approve of the job that Coach Jagodzinski is doing at BC? 1. Yes 88% 2. No 6% 3. Unsure 6%
This is pretty impressive. I doubt that there are many coaches in America who would get an 88% approval rating. I KNOW there are no politicians at the 88% mark. By comparison, Tom O'Brien had a 65% approval rating when I asked the same question in 2006. I think if Coach Jags stops punting on fourth and four from the opponent's 35 yard-line, he could hit 90%.
Q2: How far will BC go this season? 1. Bowl Game, But No Division Title 44% 2. ACC Champions 34% 3. Loss in ACC Championship Game 17% 4. No Bowl Game 5%
This question lost its meaning over the course of the season as BC clinched a bowl bid, then the ACC Atlantic, then lost the championship game.
Q3: How do you feel about BC's move to the ACC? 1. Great Move 50% 2. Good Move 30% 3. Bad Move 10% 4. Doesn't Matter Much 7% 5. Terrible Move 3%
I really love this question. This is hardly a scientific poll but it is clear to me that BC fans are happy to be in the ACC. Eighty percent of you think the move to the ACC was a great or good move. Only 13% believe the Big East to ACC transition was a bad or terrible move. On the other hand, when I asked this question in 2006, 95% answered that this was a great/good move as compared with only 2% who responded that it was a bad/terrible move. So, an overwhelming majority of you are happy with the move but more of you are having second thoughts about the move to the ACC. I have a feeling that the small increase in ACC disenchantment has occurred because of the way BC has been treated in the bowl selection process. Maybe I will do a 2009 poll to get to the bottom of this.
Q4: Who is your pick for President of the United States? 1. McCain/Palin (R) 36% 2. Obama/Biden (D) 33% 3. Flutie/Ryan (QB) 31%
Sorry Flutie and Ryan, you are first in our hearts but third in our presidential race. Kidding aside, wouldn't Flutie be a lock for Mayor of Natick?
Q5: Which BC sports team do you care about the most? 1. BC Football 82% 2. BC Men's Hockey 15% 3. BC Men's Basketball 3% 4. BC Women's Basketball 0% 5. Other 0%
This was hardly an upset. BC Football pulled in 82% of the vote in 2008, the exact same percentage as 2006. There was a change in the two-spot, however, with BC Hockey moving up from 3% to 15% and BC Men's Basketball dropping from 13% to 3%.
Q6: Which college football postseason format do you prefer? 1. Scrap the bowls and have a 16 team playoff 44% 2. Current system (#1 vs #2 in BCS Title Game) 23% Final Four: winners of Orange, Rose, Fiesta and Sugar play on 23% 4. Plus-one (championship game after the bowls) 10%
I find these results interesting on many levels. First of all, nearly half of the respondents would do away with the bowls completely and set up a 16 team playoff. That percentage is quite a bit higher than I expected. Roughly a quarter of you agree with my playoff proposal that would have a football "Final Four" after the major bowls. The same number of people like the current BCS system. Only 10% of voters prefer the "Plus-One" model where a #1 and #2 would be chosen after the BCS bowls. The sad thing is that college football is currently leaning towards adopting the Plus-One in the next few years. Leave it to the college football "braintrust" to choose the method that the fewest fans want to see. I of course would be happy with the post-BCS Final Four model. I would also be excited about a 16 team playoff. In my opinion, the current system is lousy but I definitely prefer it to the Plus-One scenario. I discussed the reasons in my December 9th notes.
Last But Not Least
I get a lot of email about scheduling. I will post the 2009 schedule as soon as I have it so please do not email me about that. The schedule has been released in late January/early February the past two years so I expect that same timeframe. BCEagles.com will undoubtedly release it before anyone else.
There is already a 2009 BC Football preview at NationalChamps.net. It's not much, but I give that site credit for getting things together early.
Lastly, there is some breaking news about Jeff Jagodzinski and the New York Jets. Here is the link from ESPN. It would be ironic if Jagodzinski became the head coach of the Jets since it was Brett Favre (the quarterback Jags coached at Green Bay) who, through his horrible performance, got Eric Mangini fired.
December 29, 2008
Boston College is currently a 3 1/2 point favorite to win Wednesday's Music City Bowl in Nashville. Eight consecutive bowl victories have given the Eagles an impressive 13-5 all-time record in bowl games. Their Music City Bowl opponent, Vanderbilt, is just 1-1-1 in three bowl appearances. Vandy hasn't played in a bowl since 1982 and hasn't won one since 1955. The Commodores were 6-6 this season. They finished the season winning just one of seven games after starting 5-0.
The following are links to several Music City Bowl previews:
Vanderbilt ranks 117th (out of 119) nationally in total offense. They are 112th in passing and 69th in rushing. However, they rank 29th in total defense (18th vs the pass, 68th vs run). They are tied for 25th in sacks but are ranked 78th in sacks allowed. They are better returning punts (37th) than kickoffs (93rd). Junior cornerback/receiver/special teamer D.J. Moore ranks 12th in the nation in punt returns (14.4 per return) and is tied for 6th in interceptions (6 this season). Vanderbilt's two primary quarterbacks, junior Mackenzi Adams and senior Chris Nickson, have combined for 1,473 yards passing with 13 TDs and 11 INTs. They are both completing less than 50% of their passes. Nickson is second on the team with 485 rushing yards. Junior Jared Hawkins leads the Commodores with 580 yards rushing. Senior receiver Sean Walker has 34 catches for 452 yards this season to lead the team.
If BC can minimize mistakes, they should win this game easily. Statistically speaking, Vanderbilt has the third worst offense in the country. They will be facing a BC defense that ranks in the top ten. However, Vandy's running quarterbacks could give the Eagles some trouble, not unlike Mr. Taylor of Virginia Tech. If the BC defense can keep the QBs in the pocket, they should have a great day. Vanderbilt's defense is solid and SEC-tested so Dominque Davis and the offense will need to - broken record alert - take care of the ball. Special teams is always a worry if you root for the maroon and gold. Vandy's D.J. Moore is a playmaker. The Vanderbilt kicker, Bryant Hahnfeldt, is 10 for 14 in field goal attempts this season including a 48 yarder so BC would be well advised to keep this game from going to OT.
Happy New Year and Go Eagles!
December 9, 2008
For the third time in five seasons, the BC Eagles lost with a trip to a BCS game on the line. Over the past five seasons, BC is 5-0 in bowl games but 1-4 in the final game prior to the bowl season. The Eagles have now won 48 games in five seasons but won't have a BCS visit on their resume unlike Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Wake Forest, Hawaii, Illinois and Kansas just to name a few teams who have been far less successful than BC over the past five years. Saturday's game was frustrating in every sense of the word. The BC defense allowed only 84 passing yards and 234 total yards but the Hokies ended up with 30 points on the scoreboard. Virginia Tech scored four touchdowns without having a drive longer than 61 yards. The Eagles turned the ball over four times, five if you count Jeff Jagodzinski's decision to punt on fourth down and three from the Virginia Tech 33 yard line. In the past ten years, I can only recall two times where a coach punted from inside the opponent's 35 yard line on a fourth down with less than four yards to go. Both times it was Jeff Jagodzinski. Coach Jags has done a great job, but that decision made no sense. Two BC turnovers led to 14 Tech points and another fumble inside the VT five yard line may have taken away seven Eagle points. Saturday was a very bad day but if you asked me at the beginning of the season, I would have gladly taken nine wins and a chance to win number ten in a "middle of the road" bowl game on New Year's Eve.
That middle of the road bowl game will be the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl in Nashville where the Eagles will take on the 6-6 Vanderbilt Commodores. This will be the third time in five years that BC has played a bowl game against a team taking the field in their home state. They played North Carolina in Charlotte in 2004 and Boise State in Boise in 2005. Despite playing in the ACC Championship, BC will be headed to the ACC's #5 bowl. I have no problem with Georgia Tech (9-3) playing in the ACC's #2 bowl, the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Florida State is headed to the Champs Sports Bowl (ACC #4). Since BC played there last season, I have no issues with Florida State in that slot. The problem is that 7-5 Clemson will be playing in the Gator Bowl (ACC #3). In 2005, BC went 8-3 and was shipped off to Boise. Last season, BC earned a spot in the Chick-fil-A Bowl but was sent to the Champs Bowl. This season, BC deserved the Gator Bowl and was pushed aside once again. In each of these cases, greed was the primary reason for BC's snub though I think loyalty to the old ACC teams plays a role as well. The BC Eagles are football players but they are also college students. If they earn their way to the Gator Bowl, then they should go to the Gator Bowl. The spirit of college athletics has clearly alluded the people running these bowls and the ACC bigwigs who seem to think they have an 11 team conference. I have a feeling that these nitwits would sell out their own mothers for a few bucks. As I did in the last paragraph, I will close my rant with the silver lining. Vanderbilt has lost six of seven games so BC has a very good chance to win their ninth bowl game in nine seasons and notch a ten win season for the third year in a row. That task would have been a little tougher against Clemson's Gator Bowl opponent, 8-4 Nebraska.
My 2008 Playoff Proposal has been updated. Click on the link to see my matchups. Sadly, we seem to be getting farther away from any kind of a rational method for deciding football's national champion. There has been talk of a "plus-one" scenario where we would have five BCS games then two teams would be chosen by a BCS formula to compete in a national championship game a week or two later. In my opinion, the "plus-one" format would be even worse than the current BCS because most of the time it would be more difficult to choose two teams from among the five BCS winners than it is to choose two teams after the regular season and conference championship games. Take this season for example. The Oklahoma-Texas decision created a lot of controversy, but imagine if we had five BCS games leading to the "plus-one" championship and Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, USC and Alabama all won their games. Does Texas now leapfrog Oklahoma into the championship game because of the head-to-head victory? If Alabama wins their bowl game by 30 and Florida wins by 3, does Alabama have a case for the championship game? What if USC wins big and the rest don't, do they move up from #4 to become one of the top two? What if undefeated Utah beats someone like Alabama? Do they now have a case for the championship game? It seems to me that this system would also create a large incentive to run up the score. That's the last thing we need in college football.
I saw an interesting article from The News & Observer out of North Carolina. They ranked the top Division 1A (aka FBS) programs by combining winning percentage and graduation rankings. Boston College came in second behind Virginia Tech. Nebraska is a surprising third. Eight of the top 24 are ACC schools. For the top 66, please click HERE.
That is not the only list where Virginia Tech and BC reside at the top. Here are the updated records of all ACC teams since the Eagles joined the ACC in 2005.
ACC team records since 2005
Note: only regular season conference games are included in the conference record column
I have updated my Future Schedules page. Please be aware that the non-conference games can change. The ACC opponents are set through 2015 but the game dates will not be announced until after the bowl season is over. Last season, the ACC schedule announcement came on February 8th. The season before that, it was January 24th.
Lastly, congratulations to Mark Herzlich who was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year. Here's the story.
December 2, 2008
Boston College is currently a one-point favorite to defeat Virginia Tech in their ACC Championship rematch on Saturday. Another low scoring game is expected. Both the Eagle and Hokie defenses are ranked in the top ten in the country (VT is 6th, BC is 8th) while both offenses rank among the bottom 25% (BC is 94th, VT is 103rd). The big statistical difference between the two teams is point differential. BC has outscored its opponents by 109 points this season. Virginia Tech has outscored its foes by only 44 points in 2008. After losing to Miami, the Hokies narrowly defeated Duke and Virginia to win their third ACC Coastal title in four years.
Virginia Tech has relied on the run again this season. They rank third in the ACC in rushing offense and 11th in the league in passing. Freshman running back Darren Evans has already carried the ball 228 times this season and is just two yards from a 1,000 yard season. He also has nine touchdowns. However, since a 253 yard effort against Maryland a month ago, Evans is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry over three games. The way the BC defensive front seven is playing, I'd be surprised if Evans has a big game. What worries me is the running ability of Tech's sophomore quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Taylor has rushed for 661 yards this season including 117 yards last week against Virginia and 110 yards on 15 carries against BC in October. Taylor and Georgia Tech back Jonathan Dwyer are the only players to rush for more than 67 yards against BC this season. Taylor splits time at quarterback with senior Sean Glennon. Combined, the two Hokie quarterbacks have completed 58% of this passes for an average of 132 yards per game with five TD passes and ten interceptions. Freshman Danny Coale leads Tech with 32 receptions. Another freshman, Jarrett Boykin leads in receiving yards with 407. One more important note: Virginia Tech ranks 112th in the country (ie. ninth worst) in sacks allowed per game. Virginia Tech quarterbacks have been sacked 37 times this season (as compared to 16 for BC QBs). I'm sure that some of those sacks were designed runs by Taylor for lost yardage but there is no doubt that protecting the quarterback is a problem for Virginia Tech.
Defensively, Virginia Tech has had a great season. Three Hokies earned spots on the All-ACC first and second teams. Senior cornerback Victor "Macho" Harris was a first teamer while defensive ends Orion Martin and Jason Worilds earned second team honors. Martin and Worilds combined for 14 1/2 sacks and 29 1/2 tackles for lost yardage. Senior linebacker Purnell Sturdivant led Virginia Tech in tackles with 87. Virginia Tech has 29 sacks this season, three fewer than BC. The Hokies were 6th in the nation against the pass and 19th against the run so yards will be tough to come by, run or pass.
As always, Virginia Tech is a threat to change the game with a blocked kick. In last year's ACC Championship Game, Matt Ryan's 14 yard TD run put the Eagles ahead 16-7 with about five minutes left in the first half. The extra point which would have given BC a ten point lead was blocked and taken to the BC endzone by Tech's Brandon Flowers to cut the BC lead to 16-9 (the defense can score two points on a conversion attempt). This play seemed to change the momentum of the game. BC never scored again and Virginia Tech won 30-16. This season the Hokies have blocked five kicks, three by sophomore John Graves). Virginia Tech has been somewhere in the middle of the pack when it comes to returning kicks. They rank 45th nationally in punt returns and 78th in kickoff returns. Senior placekicker Dustin Keys (20 for 25 in field goal attempts) and junior punter Brent Bowden (40.4 per punt average) have both been excellent this season.
I hate to sound like a broken record, but I am once again expecting a hard-hitting, low-scoring, classic ACC style game. The team that makes fewer mistakes (turnovers, blocked kicks, bad kick coverage and big penalties) will probably win. In addition to the blocked kick threat, Virginia Tech could hurt BC with Taylor's running ability. Not a single running back has had success against BC since Georgia Tech's Jonathan Dwyer ran for 100-plus three months ago but BC had trouble containing Taylor last time. Coach Beamer will hope for more of the same. For BC, the #2 key to the game (#1 is avoiding mistakes) is putting pressure on the quarterback. The Eagle front seven was in Chris Turner's face for much of last week's game and there is no reason they can't to duplicate that performance against this Hokies. Virginia Tech doesn't have the kind of offensive weapons to consistently move the chains in a series in which their quarterback is sacked. Unfortunately, Taylor is more elusive than Turner so BC will need to be very sharp with their tackling. My other worry is the kicking game. Steve Aponavicius has been accurate of late (he's connected on his last five FG attempts) but Dustin Keys is more reliable and has more range. Aponavicius hasn't made a kick of more than 36 yards this season. Keys is 5 for 5 from 30-39 yards and has made three kicks this season from 45 yards. I hope this game does not go to overtime.
Comgratulations to the six Eagles who were named to the All-ACC first or second team. LB Mark Herzlich, DT B.J. Raji and OG Clif Ramsey earned first team honors while DT Ron Brace, TE Ryan Purvis and OT Anthony Costanzo grabbed spots on the second team. Three Eagles - Matt Tenant, Thomas Claiborne and Paul Anderson received honorable mention.
November 30, 2008
Congratulations to the Boston College Eagles. They are ACC Atlantic Division champions for the second year in a row. Last season, I fully expected BC to compete for the division and league titles behind Matt Ryan and the other senior leaders. This season, on the other hand, has been an unexpected and very pleasant surprise. When the Eagles lost the heartbreaker to Georgia Tech to begin the ACC season, it looked like this could be a long season. After another devastating loss to Clemson, another bowl date in Boise seemed inevitable. Still, the coaching staff and the team kept things together through all the injuries and bad breaks and won three tough league games (including two on the road) to close the season. Now the Eagles are in a very good position to finally win a conference title and play in a BCS bowl game. They have come close in each of the past four seasons. BC was one win away from the BCS in 2004 and 2007 and two wins away in 2005 and 2006. Tampa awaits. Hopefully, so does Miami.
If Jeff Jagodzinski doesn't win the ACC Coach of Year award this season, there should be an investigation. BC graduated an NFL franchise quarterback and several other key seniors, played this season with a new quarterback and a pair of freshman running backs, lost one of the best linebackers in the country midway through the season and lost the starting quarterback in the second to last game of the season but still managed to win the division title. The Eagles were picked to finish a distant fourth in the ACC Atlantic and not a single voter (there were 65) picked the Eagles to win the division. If that doesn't qualify someone for Coach of the Year, I don't know what does.
Another guy who deserves some postseason hardware is Mark Herzlich. I have little doubt that the junior linebacker will be an All-ACC first team selection but I would like to see him get some consideration for a spot on the national All American teams. Herzlich has dominated nearly every game he's played in this season. He has 98 tackles (ten for lost yardage), three sacks, six interceptions and two forced fumbles. He may end up being the best player on a BCS team. As good as the numbers are, they don't reflect just how good he has been this season.
The key to Saturday's game for BC was ball control. I mean that in more than one sense. First, the Eagles did not commit a turnover. Maryland committed two and both were converted into BC touchdowns. Second, BC ran the ball well and controlled the line of scrimmage. Harris and Haden combined for 165 yards on 33 carries (5.0 yards per carry). BC gained at least one first down (or scored) in six of their last eight drives and held the ball for four minutes or more three times. If BC can have similar success against Virginia Tech on Saturday, I believe they will leave the field as ACC champs.
The latest bowl projections are out (see links below) and all of the websites that I have been following (ESPN, CBS Sportsline and College Football News) are picking BC to defeat Virginia Tech to earn a spot in the Orange Bowl. There isn't much doubt that Big East champ Cincinnati will be headed to Miami. If BC loses to Virginia Tech, they could wind up in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, the Gator Bowl, the Champs Sports Bowl or the Music City Bowl. The ACC bowl selection process is linked below.
The rest of the BCS is coming together. If Oklahoma defeates Missouri next week in the Big XII Championship, they will likely advance to the BCS Championship to take on the winner of the SEC title game between Alabama and Florida. Texas would then play in the Fiesta Bowl and probably face Ohio State. The loser of Florida-Bama will probably wind up in the Sugar Bowl against Utah. Barring a shocking upset by UCLA, USC will be headed to the Rose Bowl to face Penn State. That leaves the ACC champion in the Orange Bowl against Cincinnati. I am using the words "likely" and "probably" because neither the BCS nor the voters are predictable. Even if Oklahoma takes care of Missouri, the voters could push Texas ahead of OU in the BCS. It is assumed that Florida will move ahead of Texas in the BCS with a win over Alabama but that is not 100% certain. Missouri can makes things easy for voters and take some of the heat off the BCS by beating Oklahoma. At that point, it would be hard to argue that Texas and the winner of Alabama-Florida are not #1 and #2 (in no particular order).
I find it unfortunate that the Big XII South tiebreaker came down to BCS rankings. Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech were all 11-1 overall, 7-1 in their conference, 4-1 in their division and 1-1 against each other. By rule, BCS ranking is the next tiebreaker and Oklahoma came out ahead because of the BCS computer component. The voters actually gave Texas a tiny edge and I am sure that is because Texas defeated Oklahoma on a neutral field earlier this year. Texas Tech is a few BCS notches behind their conference counterparts due to their poor showing last week against Oklahoma. Whatever the case, this is another black eye for the BCS.
Boston College continues to move up in the polls. The Eagles are #18 in the AP Poll, #20 in USA Today poll and #17 in the BCS.
I expect to have some VA Tech notes by the end of the week. Stay tuned.
November 25, 2008
I have been following BC football for about 25 years and I think last Saturday's win over Wake Forest was the strangest BC game I've ever seen. It's extremely difficult to accumulate just 191 total yards of offense and still put 21 points on the scoreboard but Wake Forest managed to do just that thanks to two BC fumbles and a blocked kick. As for BC, their offense following the Crane injury was anemic at best. In 11 drives prior to the game winning drive, BC had eight punts, two fumbles and a three-yard drive leading to a field goal. During those 11 drives the Eagles gained just 35 yards on 36 plays. I was stunned when they drove 70 yards in under four minutes for the win. Amazing. Ugly or not, it was a huge win that leaves the Eagles just one win away from a trip to Tampa for the ACC Championship Game.
I was surprised to see that BC is a seven point favorite to beat Maryland. I guess the injury to Crane is more than offset by (a) how terrible the Terps looked last week against Florida State and (b) the fact that Maryland is out of the race for the ACC title (if BC loses, FSU wins the ACC Atlantic). Honestly, I'm not sure if I would rather play a Maryland team fighting for the division title or one with nothing to lose. In pro sports, contending teams love to end the season against teams who has been eliminated from the playoffs. They usually roll over. That never seems to be the case in college football where every game counts. Saturday's game is eerily reminscent of the BC-Syracuse season finale four years ago. In that game, freshman Matt Ryan started for the first time in place of an injured Paul Peterson. That afternoon was a disaster, though Ryan was not the main cause.
The key for BC on Saturday is pretty simple: continue to dominate on defense and avoid turnovers. My hope is that Dominque Davis will be more comfortable heading into the Maryland game than he was after being tossed into last week's battle with Wake Forest. He'll have a full week of practice with the starters under his belt and probably some confidence stemming from the final drive last weekend. Davis doesn't need to throw a lot to be successful but he does need to at least be a threat to throw. BC cannot allow Maryland to ignore the pass and key on the run as Wake Forest did on Saturday. I am a big fan of throwing the ball downfield. A lot of good things can happen (as the throw to Gunnell proved). It is worth taking a shot at least once per quarter. When you have a great defense, you can afford to risk an interception 20 or 30 yards downfield. What BC cannot afford are fumbles and blocked punts that Maryland can bring into the red zone or worse, the endzone.
Maryland Mini Preview
Maryland Junior quarterback Chris Turner has had a pretty mediocre season. He's averaging 178 yards passing with about one TD and one INT per game. He's completed just 58% of his passes which is about six percentage points lower than last season. He had one breakout game: a 28/41, 321 yard performance against Wake Forest about a month ago. He hasn't thrown more than one TD pass in any ACC game. In his last two games, he's completed just 52% of his passes with no touchdowns and two INTs. Maryland does have a dangerous ground game, led by Sophomore back Da'rel Scott who has rushed for 940 yards (5.2 yards per carry) and 6 TDs. He's also caught 21 passes for 172 yards. Freshman Davin Meggett, son of former NFLer Dave Meggett, has gained 418 yards for the Terps, a 5.5 yard per carry average. The Maryland running game against the BC run defense is certainly the marquee matchup of this game. Junior Darrius Heyward-Bey leads the team in receptions (38), yards (561) and receiving TDs (3). The Terps offense ranks 100th in the country, averaging exactly 20 points per game, but they are capable of making big plays. The Maryland offense has 46 plays of 20 or more yards this season.
Defensively, Maryland ranks in the middle of the pack this season. They rank 63rd nationally in total defense (72nd rush, 67th pass) but are 31st in scoring defense. They are giving up just under 21 points per game. Sophomore linebacker Alex Wujciak is 14th in the nation in tackles, averaging ten per game. Senior linebacker Dave Philistin is averaging 7.3 tackles per game. Senior LB Moise Fokou leads the team in sacks with five. Junior CB Jamari McCollough has four of Maryland's eight team interceptions. Maryland has 24 sacks this season which is just over two per game.
The Terrapins have a solid kicking game. Sophomore punter Travis Baltz is 25th in the country and first in the ACC with a net punting average of 42.3 yards per kick. Senior placekicker Obe Egekeze is 27th in the nation in field goals and had made 15 of his last 18 attempts (after missing his first five). Maryland is nothing special when it comes to returning kicks (88th in punt returns, 59th in kickoff returns). They cover both punts and kickoffs very well.
Boston College improved its bowl prospects with the win at Wake Forest. Both ESPN guys are now projecting a BC-LSU Chick-Fil-A Bowl. Mark Schlabach's BC-LSU Chick-Fil-A pick makes sense because he has Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl (he thinks BC will beat Maryland then lose the ACC Championship Game to VT). Bruce Feldman, however, is picking Florida State to win the ACC meaning that he believes BC will lose to Maryland. I have my doubts that BC would be invited to the Chick-Fil-A even with a win over Maryland. I can't see how they can get there with a loss this week. College Football News and CBS Sportsline are predicting a BC-Cincinnati Orange Bowl. Cincinnati can clinch the Big East title with a win over Syracuse on Saturday.
November 20, 2008
I guess BC's victory over Florida State left Las Vegas somewhat unimpressed because the Eagles are currently a two-point underdog at Wake Forest on Saturday. After beating Clemson on October 9th, the Demon Deacons were 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the ACC. Since that time, Wake Forest is 2-3 with one of those victories coming in overtime against Duke (the other win was 28-17 over Virginia). Wake not only lost 26-0 to Maryland but also lost to Navy earlier in the season. Last week, they lost to North Carolina State. The bottom line: Wake Forest is not playing very good football.
Wake Forest had high expectations for the offense coming into this season with the return of Junior quarterback Riley Skinner, a third year starter, and Sophomore running back Josh Adams, who rushed for 953 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. To say that the offense has been disappointing is a rather huge understatement. Wake currently ranks 101st in the country in total offense (308 yards per game) and 98th in scoring offense (20 ppg). Skinner hasn't had a bad year. He's completed 64% of his passes for 1,882 yards and has more than twice as many TD passes (11) as interceptions (5). He just hasn't had any big games. In seven ACC games, his top passing performance was only 232 yards (OT against Duke) and he hasn't passed for more than two TDs in any game this season. That might not be so bad if not for the miserable rushing numbers. Wake's top two running backs, Josh Adams and Freshman Brandon Pendergrass are averaging just 3.6 and 3.3 yards per carry, respectively. They have combined for just six touchdowns. Adams has missed two of the last three games after spraining his ankle against Miami on October 25th. Senior receiver D.J. Boldin (Anquan's brother) has caught 63 passes this season for 622 yards and 3 TDs. However, Boldin's high water mark for receiving yards in ACC play is just 89 (against Duke). Wake also ranks 102nd in the nation in sacks allowed per game. Wake quarterbacks are dropped an average of 2 1/2 times per game.
Wake Forest has been very solid on defense this season. They rank 28th in the nation in total defense (312 ypg) and 18th in scoring defense (18.5 ppg) with better success against the run (27th) than the pass (48th). Senior cornerback Alphonso Smith is tied for ninth in the nation with five interceptions (0.5 per game). Senior safety Kevin Patterson has four INTs. Smith and Patterson are just two of the reasons why Wake Forest is ranked third in the country in turnover margin (+14). Senior linebacker Aaron Curry is tied for 21st in the nation in tackles for lost yardage. Wake is very experienced on defense. They start seven seniors and two juniors and eight members of Wake Forest's starting defense have at least 20 career starts.
Wake Forest is in the middle of the pack in both kickoff returns and kickoff coverage. They are among the worst in the nation returning punts but among the best in punt coverage. Wake Forest is a solid 16th in the nation in net punting and they have made a respectable 17 of 25 field goals. Senior standout placekicker/punter Sam Swank has missed the last six games with a quad injury but is expected to be available against BC. Swank's replacement, Freshman Shane Popham, has been improving as both a kicker and punter. He's connected on his last four field goal attempts and has a 44.8 yard per punt average in his last two games.
This game has "defensive battle" written all over it. A BC defense that has given up just 17 points in the past two weeks will face a Wake Forest offense that has had trouble moving the ball and scoring points this season. On the other side of the ball, BC's offense has been improving but putting up points against this talented and experienced Wake defense will not be easy. With or without Sam Swank, I would give the special teams edge to the Demon Deacons simply because they have been covering kickoffs better than BC. This game, like most ACC games this season, will likely come down to turnovers. Wake Forest has created nearly twice as many turnovers (29) as they have committed (15) and BC leads the ACC in interceptions (21) so one would expect some big plays and maybe some scoring from the defenses. BC has played excellent football the past nine quarters while Wake Forest has struggled. BC appears to be the better team right now but this is the ACC where it is impossible to predict anything from week to week.
November 17, 2008
For the fourth time in four seasons, the road team won the annual ACC Atlantic battle between BC and Florida State. Two years ago in Tallahassee, Florida State also rallied in the fourth quarter but the Eagles held on for a 24-19 victory. The Seminoles were wearing the alternate black jerseys on that day as well. BC seems to play its best road football when the opponent sports the alternate jerseys (just ask Notre Dame). The 27-17 victory over Florida State leaves the Eagles just two wins away from their second consecutive ACC Championship Game.
The offensive star on Saturday was undoubtedly running back Montel Harris. The freshman from Jacksonville returned to his home state in style, rushing for 121 yards against one of the top defenses in the nation. What was most impressive were the yards after contact. The 5'10" 192 pound Harris repeatedly dragged multiple Florida State defenders for extra yards. If you take away his first carry of the game, Harris rushed for 75 yards on 24 carries and most of those 75 yards were gained the hard way. Harris now has four 100-yard rushing games this season and has scored five touchdowns. Chris Crane made some very good throws and made a few big plays with his feet. He fumbled three times, threw one interception (not really his fault) and missed some open receivers but all things considered, he played a solid game. The BC defense was, in a word, phenomenal. The Eagles held an FSU ground game that was averaging more than 200 yards per game to just 74 yards rushing (49 if you exclude the punter). The pass defense was nearly as good. FSU quarterback Christian Ponder completed less than 50% of his passes with no touchdowns and three interceptions. There were a few special teams blunders but Aponavicius nailed both of his field goals and BC did not allow FSU's devastating kick return team to do any damage. Seven penalties could have hurt Boston College but the offense worked around some of those mistakes (including the first touchdown) and the defense made some big stops following penalties.
I hate to be critical of coaching, especially after a win, but there were three coaching decisions that I simply could not believe. The first came in the first quarter when BC punted on 4th and 2 from the Florida State 35-yard-line. It drove me crazy when Tom O'Brien would do stuff like that. What made it worse was that BC had already been successful with an onside kick. Why would a coach be willing to gamble with an onside kick in the first quarter but not go for the first down on 4th and 2 from the opponent's 35? It makes no sense. The second play that bothered me was the shotgun handoff when BC had a 2nd and goal from the FSU 1-yard-line. I am fine with the shotgun handoffs, but not one yard from the goal line. The call that made me wonder if I was taking crazy pills came on BC's second to last offensive play of the game. BC was milking the clock when Crane fumbled on some kind of fake handoff. Crane recovered but it could have easily been picked up and run 90 yards in the other direction for the tying touchdown. The only plays that made sense there were a knee or a quick handoff to Harris up the middle. I am not sure if that was a coaching blunder or a mistake by Crane but whatever the case, that ball should never have touched the ground.
I have to give a lot of credit to Saturday's officials. They were excellent. They correctly made a lot of defensive pass interference calls against Florida State. Normally, you would expect a "marquee" team like FSU to get away with a lot at home. Saturday's officials were not intimidated by the big crowd or by the fact that a coaching legend was on the home sideline. I am very happy with the way BC has been treated by the officials since joining the ACC. When BC joined the ACC, I feared that they would be treated like "that Northern team" by the ACC refs but that has not been the case, at least not on the football field. Unfortunately, that has been the case on the basketball court, especially where Duke is involved.
I hated seeing FSU safety Darius McClure injure his knee during a flying chest bump celebration with a teammate following the Seminoles lone interception. According to reports, it could be an ACL injury. Let's hope not. Let's also hope that coaches around college football (and all other pro and college sports for that matter) use this example to ban any "this has a very good chance of destroying your knee and/or ankle" type of celebrations.
The ACC division races remain up for grabs with only two weeks left in the regular season. In the Atlantic Division, both Maryland (remaining games: FSU, @BC) and BC (@Wake, Maryland) control their own destiny. Wake Forest and Florida State still have a shot to win the Atlantic but will need to win next week and get help. Maryland is the only team among those four that could lose another game and still win the division. Clemson (5-5) and NC State (4-6) cannot win the division but remain bowl eligible. The ACC Coastal Division is even crazier. Miami, the only team in the division with only two losses, controls their own destiny with road games against Georgia Tech and NC State left on the schedule. Georgia Tech (hosts Miami on Thursday), North Carolina (NC State, @Duke), Virginia Tech (Duke, UVa) and Virginia (Clemson, @VA Tech) have each lost three division games but can still win the division if they win the rest and get the right help. Duke (4-6) is still bowl eligible. If Georgia Tech beats Miami on Thursday, we will head into the weekend with eight ACC teams with exactly three conference losses. Maybe someone in the math department can tell me the odds of that happening.
BC's victory pushed them into the #25 spot in the USA Today poll this week. Maryland is #23. In fact, the ACC holds spots 23, 25, 26, 27, 28 and 29 in this week's poll. Eight of twelve ACC teams received Top 25 votes this week. BC is #26 (ie. the first team listed in "Others Receiving Votes") in the AP Poll. After watching the fourth quarter meltdown against Georgia Tech back in September, I did not expect BC to be in the Top 25 after ten weeks much less be in contention for the division title heading into Game 11. Great job, Eagles.
Saturday's win changed the bowl projections a bit. ESPN's Feldman still predicts a BC-South Florida Car Care Bowl but Schlabach has recently upgraded BC to the Emerald Bowl and a matchup with San Jose State. Sportsline is sticking to their BC-Boise State Humanitarian Bowl battle. The most interesting projection comes from College Football News. They now have a BC-Notre Dame Gator Bowl matchup. I like the fact that CFN is giving BC some love but this matchup simply doesn't make sense. I can't imagine a scenario where the Gator Bowl would voluntarily take BC and even if they were somehow persuaded, the rematch with Notre Dame wouldn't make sense. Everyone is in agreement that Notre Dame will play in the Gator Bowl if they beat Syracuse. In my opinion, the Gator is the least likely bowl spot for BC among the nine ACC bowls. Two of the four projections above have Miami winning the ACC. Maryland and Virginia Tech get the other two votes.
I should have some BC-Wake Forest notes by the end of the week. One more item: the BC-Maryland game in two weeks will be either a Noon or 3:30 kickoff. The time and network will be announced on Sunday.
The 2008 BC poll:
November 11, 2008
The Eagles extended their winning streak against Notre Dame to six games on Saturday thanks to a stellar defensive effort. The BC defense now ranks in the top 15 in the nation against both the run and pass. They are ninth overall. The BC offense continues to struggle (now ranked 95th) but unlike the Irish, the Eagle offense minimized big mistakes and did a solid job controlling the ball (167 rushing yards and a 32-28 time of possession advantage). Chris Crane completed only nine passes for 79 yards but did not turn the ball over. The BC special teams unit missed two field goals and surrendered a 42-yard punt return. The key to this game: five Notre Dame turnovers, one of which was a Paul Anderson interception returned 76 yards for BC's first touchdown. That was no doubt the biggest play of the game.
The Eagles now face their biggest challenge of the season, a road game against a resurgent Florida State team. The road team has won all three meetings between BC and FSU as ACC opponents. The Eagles hope that trend will continue on Saturday. FSU will be the most potent offense that BC plays this season. The Noles are averaging 411 yards of total offense per game and scoring 36 points per contest. Sophomore quarterback Christian Ponder has passed for 1,421 yards this season with 11 TDs and 8 interceptions. However, he has thrown more interceptions (7) than TDs (5) in six ACC games. Florida State's offensive focus is on the ground game. Senior back Antone Smith has rushed for 632 yards and 13 TDs while Freshman Jermaine Thomas has rushed for 437 yards and a pair of TDs. Together, Smith and Thomas are averaging six yards per carry. The BC defense is giving up just 3.2 yards per rush so the BC front seven against the FSU running game will be a very interesting matchup. If BC can stop the run, they have a very good chance in this game. Defensively, Florida State ranks fifth in the nation (14th against the run and fifth against the pass). FSU opponents are completing less than 50% of their passes for just 163 yards per game. The FSU defense has sacked opposing quarterbacks 28 times this season (nine by lineman Everette Brown). Oddly enough, Florida State has only six interceptions this season. Like BC, the FSU defense is holding opponents to an average of just 3.2 yards per rush. As usual, the Noles are dangerous on special teams. Senior Michael Ray Garvin leads the nation with a kickoff return average of 34.2 yards and senior Tony Carter is returning punts at an average of 14.1 yards per return. Kicker Graham Gano has been the best placekicker in the country this year (17/18 FG, 21/21 PAT). Gano has five field goals of 50 yards or longer this season.
On paper this looks like a blowout. The BC and FSU defenses are comparable but the Noles have a much better and well-rounded offense and the gap in special teams prowess is enormous. The speed of Florida State is astounding. Add to that the home field advantage. Despite all of those great numbers, however, Florida State's ACC opponents have been competitive this season. Wake Forest beat FSU and held them to just three points. Georgia Tech put up 31 points in their victory two weeks ago. FSU trailed NC State with 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter and last week Clemson hung around for 58 minutes before a long run by Antone Smith sealed Clemson's fate. Florida State has either been behind or ahead by no more seven points in the fourth quarter of all six of their ACC games this season. This means that if BC can stop the run and force Ponder to make plays, avoid costly turnovers, make a big non-offensive play or two (kick block, pick six, fumble return) and somehow avoid big Seminole special teams plays, they have a real shot to win this game. In the ACC anything can happen. At last check, Florida State was a seven point favorite.
There haven't been too many changes in the bowl projections. Sportline is still projecting a BC-Boise Humanitarian Bowl. College Football News now has a BC-Oregon Emerald Bowl. The two ESPN guys have another vote for a BC-Boise Smurf Turf battle and a BC-USF Car Care Bowl. BC is not expected to beat Florida State so a win this weekend would shake up the ACC bowl picture quite a bit. The good news is that BC is now bowl eligible and it would take some strange scenario for BC not to be invited to a bowl someplace. In fact, there are now so many bowls someone may have to waive the requirements and let a 5-7 team into a bowl game. Ridiculous.
Despite being 2-3 in ACC play, BC still controls their own destiny in the ACC Atlantic. If they beat FSU, Wake Forest and Maryland, they will be headed to Tampa for the ACC Championship Game. Amazingly, nine of the ACC's twelve teams are within one game of first place in the loss column. Each of those nine have a legitimate chance to win the conference title though Georgia Tech and Virginia would need a lot of help. Both Maryland and BC control their own destiny in the Atlantic Division. Virginia Tech controls their own destiny in the Coastal. Thursday's game between Virginia Tech and Miami will be huge. If the Hokies beat Miami, they will need only to close the season with home wins over Duke and Virginia to win their division. If Miami wins on Thursday, North Carolina would control their own destiny with a win at Maryland on Saturday. The Tar Heels would then have the two last place teams, Duke and NC State, left on their schedule. A Miami win and a North Carolina loss puts the Canes in the top spot with road games at Georgia Tech and NC State remaining on the schedule. There is even a scenario where all six Coastal teams could finish at 4-4 in the ACC. If nothing else, the ACC is competitive.
Some random numbers:
November 6, 2008
Boston College and Notre Dame will meet on Saturday for the 15th time since the 1992 season. The Eagles are 8-9 in their history against the Irish but have won the last five meetings. The last Notre Dame victory over BC came in 2000. Both Notre Dame and BC are 5-3 so Saturday's winner gains bowl eligibility. BC is currently a 3 1/2 point favorite. Notre Dame will coming off a 36-33 quadruple-OT loss to Pittsburgh. Irish Sophomore quarterback Jimmy Clausen has thrown for 18 TDs against only 9 INTs this season (those numbers were 7 and 6 last season). Clausen has averaged 300 yards passing in his last four outings. Two Notre Dame receivers, Sophomore Golden Tate and Freshman Michael Floyd, have combined for 78 catches, 1,309 yards and 12 TDs. Sophomore Armando Allen leads the Irish with 433 rushing yards. Safeties Kyle McCarthy and David Bruton lead the Irish defense with 76 and 73 tackles, respectively.
The Irish are outscoring opponents by an average of 6.5 points per game (compared to 9.0 for BC). BC is running the ball better than ND (4.2 yards per carry vs 3.5 for ND) and stopping the run better (BC: 3.2 ypc, ND: 4.0). However, the Irish are passing for 264 yards per game, nearly 80 yards better than BC's 185. The BC defense is giving up 37 fewer passing yards per game than the ND defense. Both teams have had problems with the kicking game (ND 8/15 in FG attempts, BC 7/12). The Eagles have done a better job returning punts (14.5 yard average vs 6.8 for ND) but the Irish have covered kickoffs better (16.6 yards per opponent return vs a horrible 24.4 average for BC). Overall, BC has slightly better statistics but Notre Dame has played better the past two weeks. This one has all the makings of another close game between the Irish and Eagles.
BC's losses the past two weeks have changed the bowl projections dramatically. Sportsline now has BC going to the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise against Boise State. This is an odd projection since Boise is currently 9th in the country. College Football News thinks BC will wind up playing Troy in the Papa John's Bowl in Birmingham, Alabama. This is not an ACC bowl but BC could wind up there if an SEC or Big East team is not bowl eligible and if the ACC has ten bowl eligible teams. The ESPN guys are projecting a Meineke Car Care Bowl matchup with South Florida and an Eagle Bank Bowl (aka Congressional Bowl) matchup with Navy in Washington DC. Hmmm, Boise, Birmingham, Washington DC or Charlotte for the third time since 2004. Yikes! It drives me nuts that the bowl system is structured in a way that allows a team to play in essentially the same bowl in the same city three times in a span of four calendar years. Clearly the bowls are trying to maximize ticket sales by forcing teams to play as close to home as possible, but it would be nice for BC fans (and the team) to have a chance to travel to a non-BCS bowl in San Diego, New Orleans or Las Vegas rather than going to Charlotte for the third time or Orlando, San Francisco or Boise for the second time.
Some numbers to ponder:
On an off-topic note, here are some interesting BC-related videos, courtesy of YouTube.
October 23, 2008
It seems that bowl projections are becoming a lot like Christmas decorations in your local mall. They arrive earlier and earlier with each passing year. Nevertheless, it is interesting to find out what the experts think of BC's postseason chances. Both CBS Sportsline and ESPN's Mark Schlabach are currently projecting a BC-Illinois Champs Sports Bowl. That would put BC in the same bowl game in back to back seasons. Bruce Feldman of ESPN sees a BC-South Florida Meineke Car Care Bowl matchup. The projection that really grabbed my attention came from College Football News. They are predicting an ACC Championship for the Eagles and a matchup with Pittsburgh in the Orange Bowl. The links to these projections are listed at the bottom of this page.
Boston College's victory over Virginia Tech last week vaulted them into the #23 ranking in the AP Poll. They are the last team out (ie. #26) in the USA Today poll. This is great news but with BC's four weakest opponents behind them, this ranking doesn't mean a whole lot at this point. A road win over a solid North Carolina team would go a long way toward convincing me that BC is in fact a Top 25 team and worthy of being mentioned in the Orange Bowl discussion. If the Eagles win at Chapel Hill on Saturday, they will almost certainly be favored to beat Clemson and Notre Dame at home. That would put the Eagles at 8-1 heading into a tough final three games with FSU, Wake Forest and Maryland. Those three teams just happen to be part of a four-way tie with BC in the ACC Atlantic.
As of Thursday, the Tar Heels were a 2 1/2 point favorite to beat the Eagles on Saturday. This means that Las Vegas sees the teams as pretty even but gives the Heels the edge based on home field advantage. The only common opponent for BC and UNC so far this season is Virginia Tech. The Tar Heels lost to the Hokies 20-17 five weeks ago. Carolina's 2008 stats are pretty mediocre. They are ranked 87th nationally in total offense (81 rush, 78 pass) and 59th in defense (47 rush, 84 pass). They are in the top third nationally in both punt and kickoff return average. The player to watch on the UNC offense is Junior WR Hakeem Nicks (39 catches for 643 yards and 4 TDs). On defense, a player who could cause problems for BC is Senior Trimane Goddard who has 31 tackles and 4 interceptions from the safety position. North Carolina is tied for the NCAA lead with 14 interceptions. On special teams, UNC LB Bruce Carter has already blocked five kicks this season. This has all the earmarks of a game that will be decided by big plays on defense and special teams. Please click HERE to view the BC-UNC preview at ESPN.com.
I don't think that anyone is overly surprised with the way the season has gone. As expected, the BC defense has been excellent. The Eagles are #1 in the nation in pass efficiency defense, #4 in overall defense and #11 in scoring defense. However, the Eagles have not faced an offense ranked better than 57th in the nation and three of their victims have been ranked 110th or worse (out of 119 teams). Luckily for BC, the only remaining opponent ranked better than 58th is Florida State. It also comes as no surprise that the offense has struggled. Chris Crane ranks 95th in the NCAA in passing efficiency. His average game: 16/29, 185 yards, 0.8 TD, 1.5 INT. Those interceptions are particularly disturbing when the opponent returns them for TDs as was the case twice last week. On the plus side, Crane has looked good at times (428 yards passing against NC State) and seems pretty resilient (he did not fall apart after the poor start last weekend). As for the running game, freshman Montel Harris has been impressive early. His 6.4 yard per carry average is good for 22nd in the nation. This ranking is based on a small number of carries and most of those carries came against weaker opponents, but I like what I have seen thus far. Special teams have been okay. The Eagles rank in the middle of the pack in punting, field goal percentage and kickoff returns. They are 11th in punt returns, thanks in large part to Rich Gunnell's touchdown last week. One more positive stat: the Eagles have committed the second fewest penalties in the nation (21). Only Pittsburgh has been better in this area.
Boston College has now been a member of ACC football for three and a half seasons and as far as wins and losses are concerned, things have gone very well. Virginia Tech and Boston College have by far the best overall records in the ACC during that time. Since the start if the 2005 season, the Hokies are 37-10 followed by the Eagles at 35-10. Georgia Tech is next with an overall record of 29-17. In ACC play, VA Tech is comfortably on top with a record of 23-6, including conference title games. Georgia Tech and BC are next at 19-10 and 18-10, respectively. I wonder what happened to all of those Big East fans who claimed that BC would be knocked around in the ACC? Back in 2003 and 2004, the Big East was in the grips of a massive BCDS (Boston College Derangement Syndrome) epidemic. It seems that those people (and their lawyers) have moved on. Here are the combined ACC standings since the start of 2005.
Lastly, please click on the link below to take my new BC poll. I asked a couple of the same questions in 2006 so it will be interesting to compare the results.