Boston College Football Notes
January 10, 2010
A better than expected season ended with a tough loss in the Emerald Bowl. The Eagles certainly could have won the game but they simply made too many mistakes against a very talented team. The key play of the game was the Montel Harris fumble early in the second half with BC six yards away from taking a six point lead. The Eagles had battled back from a 14-0 deficit to cut the lead to 14-13 at halftime. A Marcellus Bowman interception on the first play of the second half had given BC all the momentum. The turnover destroyed that momentum and changed the entire complexion (and maybe the outcome) of the game. The other key play was a horrendous call made the replay officials. With BC down only 17-13 in the third quarter Luke Kuechly recovered a fumble after a BC punt had bounced off the foot of a Trojan player at the USC 30 yard line. The replay officials determined that the USC player was blocked into the ball which nullified the turnover. There was no evidence that BC's Dominick LaGrande, who was engaged in a block with the USC player who made contact with the football, even knew the ball was there. This was a call that never would have been reversed had BC's opponent been someone like Central Michigan or Wake Forest. This is the type of call that the power teams like USC always seem to get and teams like BC never get. This play would have put the Eagles 30 yards away from taking the lead but the reversal turned out to be another momentum killer. There was another questionable call earlier in the game (a USC receiver appeared to be out of bounds on a long pass play but the ruling on the field was a catch). This time the call was not reversed. I didn't really have a problem with this call because the the officials did not have the "indisputable evidence" necessary to overturn the call.
There was some good Emerald Bowl news for BC. Montel Harris again rushed for 100+ yards, bringing his season total to 1,457 yards. Rich Gunnell played a great final game as an Eagle. He caught six passes for 130 yards and had an exciting 60 yard touchdown. On the down side, Dave Shinkie had another rough game. He completed 14 of 33 for 218 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. His lack of accuracy and consistency was a problem all season. He looked great in the second quarter but things fell apart in the second half. The defense looked terrible early but played fairly well in the second and third quarters. Once again, the Eagle defense was on the field way too much (USC possessed the ball for 34 minutes) because the offense could not sustain enough drives. The bottom line: this was a disappointing loss to end a season that exceeded my expectations.
So where do we go from here? Will the Eagles be better in 2010? First the bad news: The Eagles will begin next season without a proven ACC-quality quarterback. Dave Shinskie was disappointing more often than not and I didn't see anything that made me think he was progressing as a quarterback. I'm sure there will be another spirited battle for the starting QB job next summer. Presumably, backup Mike Marscovetra and true freshman Chase Rettig will be in the mix. The Eagles also need to figure out who is going to backup Montel Harris. Harris carried the ball an average of 30 times per game in the final five games of the season. That is unacceptable, especially for a 5'10", 190 pound college sophomore. Is Rolandan Finch the answer? I hope so. At receiver, the Eagles will need to replace a career 2,459 yard receiver in Rich Gunnell. Someone will need to step up and become the #1 guy. Larmond Jr is the obvious choice. Although Steve Aponavicius did not have a big leg, he was one of the most accurate kickers in the country during the past two years. The BC kicking game had been a horror show for at least a decade prior to Aponavicius taking over. He'll be missed.
Now the good news: the Eagles will return four of five starters from an excellent offensive line. The quarterback play is bound to be better, whether it is someone new or a more experienced Shinskie. Montel Harris will be poised for another big season. Tight end Chris Pantale, who caught 20 passes in his last seven games, should be a bigger part of the offense as a sophomore. The defense, which played well enough to win 11 of 13 games, will return 6 of 11 starters. They will suffer some key losses on defense but should be very good again in 2010. The best news of all will be the return of Mark Herzlich. Of course, there is no guarantee that Mark will return to the field and if he does, we don't know how close he will be to his 2007 ACC Defensive Player of the Year self, but I get goosebumps thinking about #94 coming out of the tunnel next September. The mind reels with the thought of a healthy Herzlich and Kuechly playing in the same defense.
As for the bowl season as a whole, it was a tough year for the favorites. Underdogs won 17 of the 34 bowl games and were 23-11 against the spread. As most of you know, I am not a big fan of the bowl system, but as usual the bowl season gave us several thrilling games. The most amazing was Auburn's 38-35 Outback Bowl victory over Northwestern. Check out the line from Wildcat quarterback Mike Kafka:
47 of 78 for 532 yards, 4 touchdowns and 5 interceptions
There was also a 990 total yard 43-42 Humanitarian Bowl won by Idaho over Bowling Green and a 1,076 total yard overtime GMAC Bowl between Central Michigan and Troy. As usual, the BCS bowls were far less entertaining than the second and third tier bowl games. Colt McCoy's injury coupled with the fact that nobody beat Boise State makes Alabama's "championship" even more mythical than the BCS titles we've seen in recent years.
Thank you to everyone who voted in the 2009 BCEaglesFootball.com MVP and fan opinion polls. The 2009 BC MVP, with 49% of the vote, was Montel Harris. Luke Kuechly finished second with 25% while Rich Gunnell raked in 12% to take third place. I was very surprised. I thought Kuechly and Harris would be neck and neck. You couldn't go wrong either way. In the fan poll, voter turnout was down. I'm not sure why. Frank Spaziani came away with a perfect 100% approval rating (44 votes). Here are the results:
Do you approve of the job that Coach Spaziani is doing at BC? Yes: 100% No: 0% Not Sure: 0% How do you feel about BC's move to the ACC? Great Move: 43% Good Move: 21% Bad Move: 16% Doesn't Matter Much: 7% Terrible Move: 2% Which BC sports team do you care about the most? BC Football: 93% BC Basketball: 7% BC Hockey, Women's Basketball, Other: 0% Which college football postseason format do you prefer? Scrap the Bowls and go to a 16-team playoff: 47% Current System: 19% Final Four - winners of the Rose, Sugar, Orange and Fiesta play on: 19% Plus-One (Championship Game after the bowls): 16% The BC-Notre Dame series ends in 2010. Would you like to see it continue? Yes: 86% No: 7% I Don't Care: 7%
What do I take from this? You love Coach Spaziani. Coach Jagodzinski had an 88% approval rating last season. Coach O'Brien was at 65% in 2006. 64% of you are happy with BC's move to the ACC. That's down from 80% last year and 95% in 2006. I find this very interesting. Some of you seem to be souring on the ACC. BC football, as usual, is your favorite BC sports team. BC hockey has gone from 3% in 2006 to 15% in 2008 to 0% this year. Winning a championship does wonders for a team's popularity. Go figure. Like last year, the 16-team playoff is the overwhelming postseason choice with the current BCS system and a "Final Four" vying for second. The "Plus-One" format which appears to be the NCAA's most likely path was again the last popular option. As for the new question, nearly 90% of you want to keep Notre Dame on the schedule. I couldn't tell you whether or not the 7% who want to see the series end are BC fans who want to move on or Notre Dame people tired of losing to BC. This, of course, is not a scientific poll.
With 88 wins in the last ten seasons, Boston College was tied with Auburn for 12th place on the bowl subdivision list for the recently completed decade. The Eagles and Georgia Bulldogs won more bowl games than any other team during the '00s. As you can see, Boise became a football powerhouse. At 19-97, Duke had the worst record among bowl subdivision (aka, 1-A) teams between 2000 and 2009.
Top Programs (2000-2009)
The Eagles have now been in the ACC for five years. During that time, they have the second best overall record and the third best conference record.
ACC team records since 2005
Note: only regular season conference games are included in the conference record column
This is my last set of notes for the 2009 season. Have a great 2010. Talk to you in the Fall.
December 12, 2009
Boston College hasn't played in two weeks but there has been news. We learned last Sunday that the Eagles will be headed to the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco on December 26th. This was not surprising. What was a little surprising was that USC will be the opponent. The Trojans were a top five team on Halloween but lost three of their last five games and essentially backed into the Emerald Bowl spot. This is the first time since joining the ACC that the Eagles have not been cheated in the bowl selection process. Last season's 9-3 regular season and ACC Atlantic title wasn't enough to get BC into one of the ACC's top four bowl games. During Matt Ryan's senior season, the Eagles were 10-2 before losing the ACC Championship Game but were kept out of the ACC's #2 and #3 bowl games (Chick-Fil-A and Gator). In 2006, BC was 9-3 but went to the Car Care Bowl and in 2005 the Eagles ended up in Boise despite going 8-3. In each of these cases, ACC teams with poorer records (some of which were beaten by the Eagles in that season) were given better bowl slots. This year, the Eagles are exactly where they deserve to be. I can't say the same for 6-6 and Gator Bowl bound Florida State. I think we all know that it is a parting gift for Bobby Bowden. He put the ACC on the map so he probably deserves it.
Notre Dame decided not to accept a bowl invitation. They used the coaching situation as an excuse but the real reason is: (a) Notre Dame feels it is too special to accept anything less than the Gator Bowl and (b) losing the GMAC Bowl or the Pizza Bowl would have been even more humiliating than what has happened in the last month. USC is known to some as the University of Spoiled Children but that nickname clearly belongs in South Bend. BC has had coaching turmoil in two of the past four Decembers yet they played in bowl games in those years and in one case, won. Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate are heading to the NFL. Will Brian Kelly be looking for a job about 358 days from now? It wouldn't surprise me.
The sham that is the BCS will ruin yet another college football season. It's been a fun regular season and as usual, we'll end it with a phony championship. This year we have five undefeated teams heading into the bowl season. The two who will draw the biggest television audience ended up #1 and #2 and will play for the "championship" next month. What a shock. Alabama clearly deserves to be #1. They did struggle against Auburn but pounded an exceptional Florida team last weekend. Texas at #2 is very debatable. The Longhorns could have easily lost to Texas A&M two weeks ago and were very lucky to beat Nebraska last weekend. If the Horns were any luckier, we'd have to rename them the Indianapolis Colts. What's worse, the BCS has pitted TCU against Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl. As fans, we were cheated out of the chance to see how each of these non-BCS titans stack up against the top BCS teams. This is probably the way the BCS people want it. The last thing they need is for TCU and Boise to sweep a couple of teams from BCS conferences. Outside of whatever bowl Boston College is playing in, I don't typically go out of my way to watch any bowl game but I would have made it a point to watch Boise and TCU take on Florida, Georgia Tech, Iowa or even Cincinnati. I have zero interest in the TCU-Boise matchup. I think a lot of people feel the same way. Congress is discussing the BCS and even passing bills in a House subcommittee. This makes me laugh because the BCS folks may be the only group in America with lower job approval ratings than the U.S. Congress (26% at last check).
The other news of the week concerned the 2010 schedule. Hofstra has decided to drop football beginning next season. This left a gap in the BC schedule which they promptly filled with Weber State. I'm serious ... Weber State. The Eagles will now open the 2010 campaign on September 4th against those Weber State Wildcats (7-5 this season). They lost to William and Mary 38-0 in the first round of the FCS playoffs. Weber State is in Ogden, Utah in case you were wondering. So, BC opens at home with Weber State on 9/4, Kent State visits on 9/11, Brian Kelly's Notre Dame Spoiled Children come to the Heights on 10/2 and the Eagles close the regular season at Syracuse Thanksgiving weekend. The ACC schedule will likely be released sometime in late January/early February. Please do not email me asking about the schedule. When it's released, BCEagles.com will post it. I will post it shortly thereafter.
There is still time to vote in the BC Fan Poll and the 2009 MVP ballot (front page, right side). I've removed the "How far will be go this season?" and "Who will win the ACC?" questions. The first question was somewhat irrelevant because BC was out of the division title mix a while ago. Most of you were correct in your assessment that Georgia Tech would win the ACC (67%). However, Clemson gave the Yellow Jackets all they could handle. It was a great championship game. Here are the five multiple choice questions in the Fan Poll:
November 29, 2009
After losing their first three road games of the season, BC bounced back to win their final two at Virginia and Maryland. Those road wins were not pretty and Virginia and Maryland are last place teams but winning a couple of tough games on the road should be a confidence-builder for the Eagles heading into the bowl game and next season. There has been a lot of drama in the BC football program over the last 12 months. The Eagles had to break in a new coach and a new quarterback, deal with key transfers including one at midseason, battle through more than their share of injuries and deal with the horrible news about Mark Herzlich. Given all of those problems and obstacles, an 8-4 finish shows a tremendous amount of character from both the players and the coaching staff. This season has already exceeded my expectations. A bowl victory on top of the 8-4 record would greatly exceed my expectations. The only major disappointment is the loss to Notre Dame.
I don't mean to bias the MVP voting (see front page) but I think three players have really excelled in 2009. With a big performance in the bowl game, Montel Harris will top 1,500 yards rushing this season. What's most impressive is his durability. Harris has carried the ball 285 times this season, including 38 and 41 times in the last two road games. I don't like to see a sophomore carry the ball 40 times but given the circumstances, Coach Spaz hasn't really had a choice. Montel has risen to the challenge. With a better passing game, Montel could do really big things next season. On the defensive side of the ball, Luke Kuechly's play can best be described as ridiculous the last few games. He is now second in the nation in tackles with 142 including 19 and 16 in his last two games. If he is not named a First Team All American, there should be an investigation. The thought of Mark Herzlich and Luke Kuechly playing together gives me goosebumps. The third guy I wanted to mention is Steve Aponavicius (aka. Apona-voo-shus according to the unprepared hacks from yesterday's ESPN-U broadcast). He finally missed a field goal yesterday after making 18 straight but rebounded to nail his next attempt, a 42-yarder which turned out to be the game-winner. Aponavicius has now made 19 of his last 20 field goal attempts. Not bad for a walk-on.
For the first time in a few years, BC may actually end up playing in the bowl game they deserve. Since BC joined the ACC, the greedy pigs who run the bowl games have repeatedly bypassed the Eagles for less qualified teams. This year's Eagle team belongs in the Emerald Bowl or Music City Bowl. Georgia Tech, Clemson, Virginia Tech and Miami have earned their spots in the ACC's top four bowl games (Orange, Chick-Fil-A, Gator and Champs). BC, North Carolina and Florida State will also be bowling. Unfortunately for the ACC, the conference will be forfeiting their spots in the Eagle Bank and GMAC bowls because only seven ACC teams qualified for a bowl game. There are some interesting bowl possibilities for BC. One of the potential Emerald Bowl opponents is 8-4 Stanford. I would be very interested in seeing the BC defense tested by 1,700-yard rusher and Heisman candidate Toby Gerhart. Cal is apparently also a possibility. The ACC will face an SEC team in the Music City Bowl. Kentucky is the most likely SEC representative according to ESPN and CBS Sports. The Meineke Car Care Bowl is also a possibility. The ACC will face the Big East in that one.
I mentioned that the ACC lost two bowl slots due to ineligibility. This was a very disappointing season for the conference as a whole. I looked at ACC non-conference games against other BCS schools as well as teams from non-BCS conferences that have been on the Top 25 (BYU, TCU, Notre Dame). The ACC's record in those games was 10-14. The most notable ACC non-conference victories this season were: FSU over BYU, NC State over Pitt and VA Tech over Nebraska. Yesterday was a chance for ACC redemption but Florida State was blown out at Florida, Georgia Tech lost at home to Georgia and Clemson was soundly defeated by South Carolina.
November 22, 2009
Like many of you, I spent Saturday's perfect Fall day watching a perfectly awful offensive gaffe-fest between the Eagles and Tar Heels. The Tar Heels came out on top for four reasons: (1) their first offensive possession led to a touchdown which put immediate pressure on the BC offense (2) they turned BC turnovers into immediate touchdowns (two defensive TDs and a one-play, six inch drive) while BC settled for field goals following a couple of key UNC turnovers (3) they converted on third down, BC did not and (4) they were +2 in the turnover battle which isn't wasy when you turn the ball over four times. Once again, the BC defense played well enough to win. After scoring on their first possession of the game, North Carolina failed to gain more than 19 yards in any of their remaining seven first half drives (66 total yards). Unfortunately, the Tar Heels outscored BC 14-13 during that stretch thanks to fumble and interception returns for touchdowns. BC played bend but not break defense in the third quarter and into the fourth as North Carolina failed to score on their first five possessions of the second half. The bad news ... neither did BC. So, on a day when the opponent scored on only once in their first 13 offensive possessions and Montel Harris rushed for 132 yards (5.7 per carry), BC managed to lose by 18 points. It was not a fun afternoon to say the least.
Stats of the Day:
The bowl situation remains murky. Obviously, the Orange is officially out of the equation. Even with ten wins and Matt Ryan, the Chick-Fil-A Bowl and Gator Bowl passed on BC two years ago so they certainly weren't going to take this year's BC squad. The Champs Bowl in Orlando (essentially the ACC's fourth-ranked bowl) isn't entirely out the question but it appears an unlikely destination for BC. ESPN's Mark Schlabach is projecting a BC-Michigan State Champs Bowl (sound familiar?) but I can't imagine why. Bruce Feldman at ESPN and CBS Sports are projecting a BC appearance against a Pac Ten team in the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco. CollegeFootballNews.com has BC and Tennessee in the Music City Bowl. The Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte is also a possibility for BC. If I had to bet, I'd wager on the Emerald Bowl. Here are those bowl projections:
Next week's game at Maryland may or may not impact BC's bowl destination but I still feel like it is an important game. A win next week gives BC an 8-4 record and two consecutive road wins. A loss on Saturday would put BC in jeopardy of losing three in a row to end the 2009 season. I think BC will be a better team in 2010 and winning the next two games would be a great momentum-builder. Maryland has lost six games in a row and eight of nine. They have been outscored this season by a total of 117 points. They are 88th in total defense and 101st in total offense. For BC, there is no excuse for losing this game.
Barring a major upset, there won't be any BCS Championship selection drama this year. It looks like we'll see an undefeated Texas team face an undefeated SEC champion on January 7th in Pasadena. If there is an upset -- Texas losing one of the next two (@Texas A&M, Nebraska) or the eventual SEC Champion losing next week (FSU and Florida, Alabama at Auburn) -- then we'll have loads of drama. TCU, Cincinnati and Boise State are all still undefeated and could claim a right to the BCS title game if they remain undefeated and two of the three among Texas, Florida and Alabama lose. Would the voters leave a one-loss team ahead of an undefeated TCU team? I hope we find out. I love anything that makes the BCS look bad and gets us closer to a better system.
The other bowl drama concerns Notre Dame. That bowl drama goes with their coaching drama and "will Clausen go pro" drama. Will this lousy Notre Dame team actually end up in the Gator Bowl with Cincinnati or Pittsburgh relagated to the Car Care Bowl? That would be bold even by bowl selection standards. I mentioned prior to the BC-Notre Dame game that beating BC might end up being the difference between Notre Dame getting an undeserved spot in the BCS and not getting one. As it turns out, Notre Dame probably needed the BC victory just to go to a bowl game. ESPN's Schlabach and CollegeFootballNews.com are both projecting a Notre Dame invitation to the GMAC Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. CBSSports thinks Notre Dame will be headed to the Pizza Bowl in Detroit. ESPN's Feldman still thinks Notre Dame will be in the Gator Bowl. Whatever the case, it's hard to imagine that Charlie Weis will be coaching in that bowl game.
If you would like to vote in the 2009 BCEaglesFootball.com MVP poll, please go to the home page and scroll down for the poll on the right side. Also, please cast your vote in the 2009 BCEaglesFootball.com Fan Poll, courtesy of Bravenet. Here are the questions:
November 16, 2009
Saturday's game was hardly a classic but several goals were accomplished:
The bad news is that the division title hopes are fading fast. The Eagles stand a very good chance of winning the next two games but I cannot imagine Clemson losing to Virginia at home. Regardless of what happens the next two weeks, BC appears headed to the Emerald Bowl, the Car Care Bowl or the Music City Bowl. The ACC's top four bowls (Orange, Chick-Fil-A, Gator and Champs) will likely want Georgia Tech, Clemson, Miami and Virginia Tech (not necessarily in that order). That leaves BC, North Carolina and Florida State (if they become bowl eligible) to battle it out for the ACC's middle of the road bowl games. BC played in the Music City Bowl last season and the Car Care Bowl in Charlotte seems like a logical fit for North Carolina. That leaves San Francisco. BC will likely be eligible for a spot in the Chick-Fil-A and Gator but "eligible" doesn't really mean anything. Neither of those bowls wanted any part of a 10-win, Matt Ryan-led BC team so it's inconceivable that they would actually consider this year's squad. Based on last year's ACC bowl selection rules (which I believe are still in effect), the Chick-Fil-A, Gator and Champs bowls would be forced to take BC if they finished with at least two more wins than the other bowl eligible teams in the ACC. So if Miami, VA Tech and North Carolina finish 7-5 and BC finishes 9-3, the next bowl to select would be forced to take BC. Miami (last two games: Duke, @ South Florida) and Virginia Tech (NC State, @UVA) are both likely to win at least once in their next two games so the odds of BC doing any better than the Music City/Care Care/Emerald group are slim.
Duke can still become bowl eligible. I guess that would put them in the Eagle Bank Bowl. At the very least, the ACC will have to surrender its bowl tie-in with the GMAC Bowl because they will not have enough bowl-eligible teams. If Duke and FSU fail to win in the next two weeks, the ACC could lose two more spots. That would be a major black eye for the conference.
Once again, it was the BC defense that was the key to victory. In ten games, the Eagle defense has given up just 16 touchdowns (five of those against VA Tech). If you exclude the Virginia Tech game, the Eagle defense has given up just two touchdowns in the first half this season and four TDs in the first three quarters. Four of the eleven TDs given up to opponents other than VA Tech have occurred in the final four minutes of the fourth quarter. Thankfully, that number did not become five on Saturday.
True freshman Luke Kuechly is already a superstar in college football and seems to be getting better each week. He may be the best freshman on the defensive side of the ball in the entire country right now. Not bad for a guy who was rated as the 44th best outside linebacker in last year's graduating class according to Rivals.com.
As for the Tar Heels, they looked lousy a month ago but have won three in a row, including wins over #13 VA Tech and #14 Miami. North Carolina Junior QB T.J. Yates averages about 150 yards passing per game and has thrown as many interceptions (10) as TD passes (Shinkie has similar numbers). Junior running backs Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston each have rushed for more than 500 yards. Houston rushed for 164 against Duke two weeks ago. Draughn had 126 against Florida State. Overall, Carolina ranks 113th in the country in total offense (BC is 95th). However, UNC ranks first in the ACC and eighth in the country in total defense (BC is 30th). Saturday's game has all the makings of a defensive slugfest. Whichever team takes better care of the football will probably win the game. Turnovers almost always determine the winner in an evenly-matched game but in a defensive battle, turnovers are magnified.
November 1, 2009
Yesterday's victory was a very nice bounceback after the "Great South Bend Giveaway" the week before. Regardless of the outcome at Notre Dame, Central Michigan matched all of the criteria for a letdown game (the week after an emotional game on the road, late October game with a bye week ahead, non-conference opponent, banged up defense). There was certainly no letdown on the defensive side of the ball. The Eagles held Dan LaFevour and the starting offense to just a single field goal over the first three quarters. The BC offense looked half asleep through most of the first half. Because the defense kept the game close, the offense didn't need to abandon their gameplan. They had a great drive to end the first half and never looked back. Central Michigan was just outside the Top 25 so this was a very nice win for the Eagles.
We are now three quarters of the way through the regular season and I am very pleased with the 6-3 record at this point. Given the key losses to graduation, the quarterback worries, the transfers, the preseason injuries and the devastating news about Mark Herzlich, there was a strong possibility this could be a very long season for the Eagles. Instead, they are bowl-eligible and are in the hunt for a third consecutive ACC Atlantic title. If the defense continues to play the way they have been and the offense takes care of the ball, the Eagles should finish 9-3. I think that would exceed everyone's expectations.
There are plenty of accolades to go around. Montel Harris increased his rushing total to 930 yards (836 at home) and scored his 13th and 14th TDs of the season. Steve Aponavicius became BC's all-time leading scorer. Aponavicius now has 267 career points, five better than kicker Brian Lowe (1986-1989). He's 7 for 7 this season in field goal attempts. Rich Gunnell had another big game. He has 18 catches for 313 yards in the past two games. Gunnell has 24 catches for 427 yards in his last three non-conference games but only 16 catches for 146 yards in five ACC games. Luke Kuechly has 94 tackles which puts him in the top 15 in the country in that category. Ryan Quigley is averaging 41.6 yards per punt and has punted the ball inside the 20 yard line a total of 16 times. The offense has scored on 92% of their redzone opportunities with 72% touchdown rate (79% and 38% for the opposition). The BC offense has not gained a lot of yards this season but they have been efficient with those yards.The BC defense has held opponents to just 3.1 yards per rush this season (the BC offense is averaging 4.1). In my opinion, the defense has played well enough to win in eight of nine games (VA Tech the obvious exception).
BC will now have a well-earned week off before facing Virginia on the 14th. However, next weekend is a very big week for the Eagles. If Florida State can win at Clemson on Saturday, the Eagles would control their own destiny in the ACC Atlantic. If Clemson beats the Noles, the odds that BC will win the division will drop precipitously. Clemson beat BC so they would own the tiebreaker should BC and Clemson finish the season in a two-way tie at 6-2 in ACC play. Clemson's final two games are at NC State and at home against Virginia, two games they will almost certainly win. An FSU win on Saturday also opens the door for a possible three or even four way tie in the Atlantic. BC could win a three or four way tiebreaker.
As usual, the ACC is extremely competitive. As we enter November, ten of the twelve ACC teams are within a game of first place in the loss column. Clemson and Georgia Tech control their own destiny. Duke, who like BC was picked to finish last in the ACC Football Kickoff Preseason Media Balloting, also controls their own destiny in the ACC. At the very least, Duke will need to beat Georgia Tech in two weeks to have a chance to win the Coastal. It should be a wild November in the ACC.
In case you missed it, I have uploaded some pictures from the Wake Forest tailgate and game. Please click HERE to view the pictures.
October 26, 2009
I hope the Eagles get a tax write-off for Saturday's charitable donation to the Notre Dame win column. The Eagles turned the ball over five times for a -5 turnover margin. I was curious about the odds of winning a football game with a -5 turnover margin so I did some online searching. Amazingly enough, I didn't find the data I was looking for (surely someone has calculated this). Anyway, I'd guess the odds are well under 1% if not under 0.1%. The only thing more astonishing than BC's five turnovers is the fact that had they been -4 instead of -5 in turnover margin they probably win the game. The five turnovers were all harmful in one way or another but the most destructive was the Montel Harris fumble at the Notre Dame one yard line. At the time, they Eagles had all the momentum. A touchdown would have put them up ten points with a little over a quarter to play. Notre Dame would have been finished. There is nothing wrong with losing a road game as an eight point underdog (granted, that spread was ridiculous) but losing in that manner was very, very disappointing. BC may have been the better team overall but Notre Dame took care of the football and therefore deserved to win the game.
Some good news from Saturday:
More bad news from Saturday:
Looking ahead -- Some people may not know that Central Michigan is a very good team. In fact, they may be BC's toughest second half opponent. Since losing the opener to Arizona (currently 20th in the country), the Chippewas are 7-0 including a win at Michigan State. Senior QB Dan LeFevour has passed for more than 11,000 yards and 90 TDs in his career. Since the start of last season, he had thrown 37 TDs and only 10 INTs. He's completing 70% of his passes in 2009. He's even rushed for 522 yards and 9 TDs this season. In 2007, he rushed for 1,122 yards and 19 TDs. Yes, he plays in the MAC but those numbers are stunning. This is an interesting matchup. The Eagles are currently a 5 point favorite.
October 19, 2009
Saturday was an excellent day for Boston College and its fans. For the first time in ACC play in 2009, the Eagles played a great game from start to finish. The record-breaking performance of Montel Harris certainly washed away much of the bad taste left by the Virginia Tech demolition job the previous Saturday. The win gives BC a 3-2 record in the ACC, good enough for the top spot in the Atlantic Division. In the loss column, however, the Eagles are tied with Wake Forest (2-2), Clemson (2-2) and Maryland (1-2). BC and Georgia Tech are the only ACC teams to have played five conference games so far this season. The Eagles will leave ACC play for two weeks (Notre Dame and Central Michigan). I'm on the fence as to whether or not the two non-confernce games in a row at this stage of the season is a good or bad thing for BC. Though it would have been nice to take last week's momentum into another ACC game this coming weekend, I think the conference break is a good thing because it gives the many inexperienced Eagles another two weeks of game action before returning to ACC action.
At 3-2, the Eagles are in a great position to win their third consecutive ACC Atlantic title. The final three ACC games are at Virginia, at home against North Carolina and at Maryland. It's possible, perhaps even likely, that BC will be favored in all three of those contests. Virginia is certainly playing better football (three wins in a row after an 0-3 start). We'll find out if they are for real when they face Georgia Tech on Saturday. UNC has been a big disappointment. They have scored a combined 10 points in their two ACC games and nearly lost to UConn. Maryland has been horrendous this season though strangely enough beat Clemson. If BC can defeat those three opponents, they would then need just one Clemson loss to win the division. Clemson's toughest remaining game is this coming Saturday at Miami. If you are a BC fan, you'll definitely want to be rooting for the Canes (as strange as that sounds). It's also very possible that 5-3 will be good enough to win the ACC Atlantic. One big reason for that is the superiority of the Coastal Division, which is 6-0 against the Atlantic this season.
In the Coastal, Georgia Tech made themselves the front-runner with an impressive victory over Virginia Tech on Saturday. However, Virginia is still on top in the Coastal and is the only ACC team without a conference loss. Needless to say, this has been a strange year in the ACC. BC (picked to finish last in the Atlantic) and Virginia (picked 5th in the Coastal) lead their respective divisions. Florida State, picked to win the Atlantic is currently tied for last place at 0-3. Duke is 3-3 and even won an ACC road game.
Now on to Notre Dame. I was asked by a friend on Saturday night what I though the spread would be for Saturday's Holy War. I answered that ND would get their usual bonus points and probably be about a 5 to 5 1/2 point favorite. According to Caesar's, the Irish are currently an 8 point favorite to beat BC. This is actually down from 9 earlier in the day. Clearly, the bettors have not bought into the Notre Dame hype. This is a huge game for Notre Dame. Notre Dame's remaining schedule is very weak and the only likely loss for the Irish is at Pittsburgh. If BC wins this week, Notre Dame will probably finish the season 8-4. If Notre Dame wins on Saturday, they will likely finish 9-3 and be eligible for the BCS. That means that the BC game is the main obstacle standing between Notre Dame and another BCS trip they don't deserve.
As we all know, BC and Notre Dame have played some classic games over the years. All signs point to another exciting, high-scoring affair on Saturday. Notre Dame's strength, needless to say, is the passing game. Jimmy Clausen is averaging 300 yards passing per game, has completed 65% of his passes, and has 16 TD passes (compared to only 2 INTs). He has pulled off three amazing comebacks, and nearly two more, in the past five games. If not for Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame would be 1-5 with five blowout losses and Charlie Weis would be looking for his next job. Clausen's favorite receiver has been Golden Tate, who has already caught 41 passes for 719 yards and 6 TDs. Sophomore Michael Floyd has only caught 13 passes this season but he's averaging 27.5 yards per reception (that's not a misprint - 27.5). Sophomore tight end Kyle Rudolph has 24 catches, three for touchdowns. The Notre Dame running game has been solid. Armando Allen and Robert Hughes are averaging about 5.0 yards per carry on about 20 carries per game. As a team Notre Dame is averaging about 100 yards per game on the ground. The BC defense needs to do a better job stopping the run than that. If Clausen throws for 300 yards, BC still has a great chance to win this game. If they run for 100, I doubt that BC will leave South Bend with a victory.
As I said, I think both teams will score a lot of points. The BC offense has peformed very well against mediocre to bad defenses. So far this season, Notre Dame has been an awful defense. In the last five games (ie. since the Nevada opener), Notre Dame opponents have passed for just 31 fewer yards than the Irish and have rushed for 22 more yards. Notre Dame ranks 117th in the country (out of 120) in pass defense. This is good news for the BC passing offense which ranks 106th in the country. Notre Dame opponents are averaging 4.3 yards per carry. Potentially, we could see another huge effort by Montel Harris.
On special teams, the return game is about a wash. BC has been better returning punts, Notre Dame has been better returning kickoffs. The big difference is the kicking game. Notre Dame's Nick Tausch has made 10 of 11 field goals this season, including 3 for 3 beyond 40 yards. BC normally does not even attempt field goals beyond 40 yards. Big advantage: Notre Dame.
I like BC's chances in this game. The elephant in the room is BC's performance on the road this season. With the exception of the last five minutes against Wake Forest and the last quarter or so against Florida State, the Eagles have been outstanding at home this season. However, their two road games are among the five worst games BC played this entire decade. Is it the quality of the opponent or being on the road that has caused the great disparity in play? I lean more towards the quality of the road opponents though clearly playing away from home is a difficult task for a young team with a first year quarterback. This game is critical from an ACC standpoint because two of BC's three remaining conference games are away from Alumni Stadium. They need to build some road confidence.
Keys to the game for BC:
Will BC make it seven wins in a row over the Irish? I think if they win the first quarter, they win the game. It should be fun.
October 11, 2009
It's already been a weird year for BC and we're only halfway through the regular season. During the past four weeks, the Eagles have sandwiched two of the worst performances since the Dan Henning era around a couple of dramatic victories. I'm horrified by the performance yesterday yet relatively happy with the 4-2 record at this point in the season. The key play in yesterday's game was, without a doubt, the third down sack evasion and touchdown pass by Tyrod Taylor on Tech's second drive of the first quarter. Had the BC defense sacked Taylor and forced a long field goal, they could have potentially been down only 3-0 heading into their second offensive possession. Taylor's touchdown pass was a devastating blow for the BC defense and put additional pressure on the offense. At that point, the floodgates opened. No matter what happened on that play, BC was not going to win the game. Virginia Tech is simply a far better team right now. However, I do believe that play changed the complexion of the game and led to the first half blowout. This is one of the most inexperienced BC squads in quite some time. The inexperience really showed yesterday as the young Eagles completely lost their focus and composure. They bounced back strong after a similar debacle at Clemson. Let's hope the same thing happens next week.
The lone bright spot in yesterday's game was true freshman quarterback Mike Marscovetra, who completed 10 of 16 passes for 114 yards including two TD passes. His successful drives occurred long after the game was decided but it was a great confidence-builder for the freshman and some of the second and third string players who were able to get snaps.
As for next week, Tom O'Brien will visit Alumni Stadium as an opposing head coach for the second time. The Eagles won 37-17 in O'Brien's first visit two years ago. After a 3-1 non-conference start, the Wolfpack have lost back-to-back ACC games to Wake Forest and Duke. Yesterday, Duke quarterback Thad Lewis completed 40 passes, five of them touchdowns, for 459 yards to help Duke to a 49-28 road win over NC State. Two weeks ago, Riley Skinner passed for 361 yards. That's good news for Dave Shinskie and the BC quarterbacks. The NC State offense - Dana Bible's offense - has been surprisingly good this year. Sophomore QB Russel Wilson continues to put up amazing numbers. He's thrown 32 touchdown passes and only 4 interceptions since the start of last season. However, he's thrown three INTs in the past two games. He's also rushed for 190 total yards in his last three games. Tight End George Bryan (26 receptions, 4 TDs) has been Wilson's favorite target this season. Senior Toney Baker is carrying the ball about 11 times per game for a healthy average of 5.4 yards per carry. It goes without saying that Wilson is the key to this game. Wilson can do a lot of damage with both his feet and his arm. The BC defense needs to show discipline and if they get their arms around Wilson, they need to put him on the ground.
I mentioned that it's been a weird season for BC. It's actually been a weird season for the ACC in general. Last night, Florida State put up more than 400 yards in the first half against Georgia Tech and still lost the game. The Noles are 0-3 in ACC play and 2-4 overall. Clemson, the other popular pick to win the ACC Atlantic, is 2-3 overall and 1-2 in ACC play. On the other side of the coin, we have Duke sitting at 3-3 (and they only lost to Virginia Tech by eight points) overall. Virginia, which lost their opener to William and Mary, soundly defeated North Carolina. The Heels were picked to finish third behind VA Tech and GA Tech in the ACC Coastal. The other strange thing about the 2009 season is the number of points being scored in ACC games. The conference has been very defense-heavy over the past three or four years. That has not been the case this season. Another very important note: the ACC Atlantic Division is 0-5 against the Coastal so far this season. If this trend continues, it is very possible that 5-3 might be enough to win the Atlantic. It looks like it's going to be a wild year in the ACC.
October 5, 2009
We knew going into the recent three game stretch against Clemson, Wake Forest and Florida State that the Eagles would need to beat at least two of those three division rivals to have a realistic chance of winning a third consecutive division title. Following the Clemson game, it appeared that the predictions of a last place finish for the Eagles in the Atlantic Division was right on the money. Things have certainly changed in the past two weeks. Amazingly enough, Clemson and Florida State, the two preseason ACC Atlantic front-runners each have a pair of conference losses and are 2-3 overall. Next week's game at Virginia Tech will be a great test for the young Eagles (let's include Shinskie in the "young" category). They have taken care of business at home but the trip to Clemson was a nightmare. Given that Virginia Tech is not an ACC Atlantic Division opponent, this is not a must-win game for BC. However, if BC loses next week they will almost certainly need to win their final four conference games to win their division and return to the ACC Championship Game. Winning at Virginia Tech or even playing well in defeat would be a tremendous confidence builder.
There was a lot to like and dislike about last week's game. I really liked the way Dave Shinskie and the offense performed in the first half. The Eagles mixed the run and the pass extremely well. Shinskie looked like a veteran quarterback and showed great accuracy in his passes. What I didn't like was the conservative play calling for most of the second half (before they lost the lead). The BC offense was rolling in the first half. There was no reason to change the game plan. I loved the way the defense played in the first half. I didn't like the way they played in the second half. In all three conference games, the Eagle defense has wilted at some point in the second half. They will need 60 minutes of great defense to beat Virginia Tech. I loved the way Montel Harris ran the ball (179 yards and 2 TDs). I hated the fact that both Haden and Harris fumbled for the first time as BC Eagles. The Harris fumble was particularly upsetting because it was during run-out-the-clock time. Last week, Harris nearly cost BC the game when he ran out of bounds in a similar situation. I was pleased with the fact that ESPN College Gameday came to The Heights. This may have been the Herzlich factor. Whatever the reason, it was great for the university and the program to have them there. I was not pleased with the failure of both the officiating crew and the replay booth to correctly mark what should have been a BC first down early in the fourth quarter. Shinskie's QB sneak put him at least a yard past the first down marker. I can forgive the officials on the field for blowing the call but the replay guys should all be fired for not reversing it. This seemed like one of those "Bobby Bowden is a legend and BC is that 'Northern team' so we aren't going to reverse the call even though we know he made the first down" situations. Fortunately, the refs made up for that giant game-changing blunder when they called a ridiculous pass interference on the Seminoles during BC's game-winning drive. Bottom line: all's well that ends well.
Virginia Tech has had an interesting season. The #5 Hokies have already played three top 25 opponents. They lost to then #5 Alabama 34-24, but defeated #19 Nebraska 16-15 and destroyed #9 Miami 31-7. Last week, they defeated Duke by a fairly slim margin of 34-26. Presumably, this a decent matchup for the BC defense which has done a much better job stopping the run than the pass. If you exclude a 76 yard run by Wake's Brandon Pendergrass last week, the three Eagle ACC opponents have averaged just 2.6 yard per rush against the Eagle defense. By contrast, Wake QB Riley Skinner and FSU's Christian Ponder combined for 695 passing yards the past two weeks. Virginia Tech currently ranks 25th in rushing offense (203 yards per game on the ground) but 103rd in passing offense (174 yards per game). The most dangerous thing for the BC defense is probably Tyrod Taylor's ability to run. Taylor rushed for 75 yards against a good Miami defense. He completed only four passes that day. Actually, he only needed to complete four passes (in nine attempts). Hopefully, BC can force Taylor into passing situations. If Taylor throws less than 20 passes on Saturday, chances are good that BC will not be leaving Blacksburg with a W. On the other side of the ball, Shinskie needs to show the same confidence on the road that he has shown at home. Virginia Tech has had some trouble stopping the run at times. Alabama's Ingram and Upchurch combined for 240 yards rushing in the opener and Nebraska's Roy Helu Jr. exploded for 169 on the ground. Miami was not nearly as successful running the ball (or passing for that matter) against the Hokies. Obviously, BC needs to establish the run to take some pressure off Shinskie. Special teams, as always, is a big factor when you face VA Tech.
The Hokies are currently listed as a 13 1/2 point favorite.
September 20, 2009
Saturday was a long day, in more ways than one, for the Eagles. The 4:46 game was twice delayed for a total of 103 minutes because of lightning, prolonging the agonizing afternoon for BC and its fans. The Boston College offense produced just 54 total yards of offense. Freshman quarterback Justin Tuggle had nearly as many interceptions (3) as completions (4). The BC running game, which should be strength of the offense, rushed for just 29 yards on 28 attempts. I looked at single game statistics for the last five years and found that 183 total yards was the low point (prior to yesterday, that is). During Matt Ryan's last three seasons, the Eagles gained less than 300 total yards only four times. The most disappointing aspect of Saturday's debacle was the offensive line. At this point in the season, I expect some growing pains from the quarterback position but not the line.
Special teams did not play well either. They gave up a CJ Spiller 77 yard punt return for a touchdown that set the tone for the long, miserable day. Spiller returned his other two punts for an average 21 yards. BC returned eight kickoffs and a punt but couldn't eclipse 26 yards on any return. In other words, no big plays to offset BC's consistently terrible field position.
On the bright side, the BC defense played a pretty solid game. The defense allowed Clemson just 253 yards of total offense, which is a great number when you consider how long the defense was on the field and how little time they had to rest between possessions. Clemson averaged just 3.0 yards per rush and 3.6 yards per pass attempt and did not score an offensive touchdown. The defense tired a little in the fourth quarter but that was understandable. The Eagle defense has now given up just one TD in the first three games of the season.
I have a feeling that next week will be the pivotal game in the 2009 season. Coming off of the Clemson nightmare, BC needs a good showing to restore its confidence, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Secondly, with Florida State and Virginia Tech on the schedule the two following weeks, a loss against Wake could potentially send the Eagles into a long losing streak which could snowball into a really miserable season. A win next week, however, would guarantee the Eagles no worse than a 3-3 record heading into a manageable second half of the season. Arguably, BC's three toughest games (at Clemson, Florida State, at Virginia Tech) are all in the first half of the season. The toughest game in the second half of the season is probably North Carolina and that is a home game.
This past week was a good one for the ACC. Florida State defeated #7 BYU by 26 points and Virginia Tech beat #19 Nebraska 16-15. On the down side, Duke, Virginia and Maryland all lost to non-conference foes. The ACC was 4-6 out of conference in Week 1, 8-1 in Week 2 and 5-3 this past week. The biggest news is Miami. They are already 2-0 in the ACC following impressive victories over FSU and Georgia Tech. Miami, now ranked #9 in the country, visits #11 Virginia Tech next week and returns home to face #10 Oklahoma the following week.