Boston College - Virginia Preview

#17 Boston College (4-1) will face #25 Virginia (3-1) on Saturday at Alumni Stadium. The Eagles are coming off a 38-0 win over Ball State. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers gave up 21 fourth quarter points in a 45-33 loss at Maryland. The Eagles and Cavaliers are in different divisions within the ACC but this game could impact the bowl selection process. The game will be broadcast on ABC beginning at 1:00 pm. Boston College is a seven point favorite. Here is a preview:

When BC Passes

Matt Ryan (or possibly Quinton Porter) will face a Virginia defense that was dismantled last week at Maryland. The Terps rolled up 570 yards of total offense, 320 of those via the pass. Hard-hitting safety Nate Lyles was one of the lone bright spots for the UVA defense last week. The sophomore had eight tackles and an interception. Lyles is third on the team with 23 tackles and has two interceptions. Junior cornerback Marcus Hamilton is second on the team with 24 tackles (20 solo) and also has two interceptions.

Last week, Maryland quarterback Sam Hollenbach completed 76% of his passes for 320 yards. Was this an aberration or does the UVA pass defense have that many holes? Virginia contained Syracuse and Duke, but both of those teams are ranked in the bottom 20 in the country in total offense. I am not sure that Ryan or Porter will be as locked in as Hollenbach was last week but I think 200-250 yards passing is a likely scenario.
Advantage: Boston College

When BC runs

Virginia’s All-ACC linebacker Ahmad Brooks returned to the lineup last week and made two tackles in limited action. Brooks is still recovering from off-season knee surgery and is unlikely to play a major role in the game. Junior linebacker Kai Parham leads the team with 41 tackles, including 5 sacks. Senior defensive end Brennan Schmidt is a four-year starter. He had eight tackles and a sack against Maryland.

The BC running game is slowly but surely getting their act together. The Eagles have rushed for a total of 527 yards (176 yards per game) in the last three games. The Virginia defense is giving up only 3.3 yards per rush this season but Maryland rushed for 250 yards last week (5.4 yards per carry). I expect the Eagles to be very successful running the ball.
Advantage: Boston College

When Virginia passes

Senior quarterback Marques Hagans had 325 all purpose yards (270 passing, 55 rushing) against Maryland. For the season, Hagans has completed 59% of his passes for 841 yards, 6 TDs and 5 INTs. Virginia’s top receiver is 6’3” junior Deyon Williams who has already caught 21 passes for 251 yards and 2 TDs this season. No other Virginia receiver or tight end has caught more than 6 passes this season. Fullback Jason Snelling has 9 receptions for 63 yards.

With the exception of two second half drives by FSU's Drew Weatherford, the Eagles have done a good job defending the pass in ACC play. It will be interesting to see how BC reacts to a mobile quarterback. Hagans is averaging nearly 40 yards per game rushing, but has been sacked 14 times (some of those were undoubtedly failed rushing attempts). Hagans could have some success if he can get out of the pocket. Williams will be very difficult to cover, especially if Hagans is given time to throw.
Advantage: Virginia

When Virginia runs

Junior speedster Michael Johnson (204 yards), freshman Cedric Pearman (195 yards) and senior Wali Lundy (67 yards) have split time at tailback for the Cavaliers this season. Johnson’s 6.4 yards per carry is a bit deceptive because he has rushes of 70 and 68 yards. Lundi has rushed for more than 800 yards in each of his three seasons but has seen limited time because of a foot injury he suffered in the season opener. Left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson, a 2004 First Team All-ACC selection, anchors an offensive line that averages 6’5” and 293 pounds (about 25 pounds per man less than BC's offensive line). He missed last week’s game because of a knee injury suffered the week before against Duke. Center Brian Barthelmes also missed the Maryland game with an ankle injury. It is still unknown whether or not Ferguson and/or Barthelmes will play against BC.

This is a very interesting matchup. Virginia highlights the run (58% of their plays have been running plays) while BC specializes in stopping the run (they are second in the country against the run behind only Ohio State). The Eagles have surrendered only 51 yards per game (2.0 yards per rush) while Virginia has averaged 176 yards per game (4.5 yards per game). Something has to give. BC should handle the Virginia running backs with or without the two starting offensive linemen. As I said, Hagans is the key.
Advantage: Boston College

Special Teams

Virginia has performed well in the special teams department this season. The Cavaliers are ninth in the nation in kickoff return average. Michael Johnson (31.8 yards per return) and Cedric Peerman (30.6) are both among the top 20 kick returners in the country. Johnson averages 7.7 yards per punt return. Virginia senior kicker Connor Hughes was the ACC’s preseason all conference selection. He’s made eight of his ten attempted field goals and is 8 for 9 from inside of 50 yards. Punter Chris Gould is averaging a mediocre 39.4 yards per kick. Virginia opponents are averaging only 18.3 yards per kickoff return and 4.0 yards per punt return and kickoff specialist Kurt Smith allowed Maryland to return only two of eight kickoffs last week.

Virginia has a big advantage in this area. BC’s special teams have been a disaster. The Eagles rank second to last in the country in kickoff return average and 84th in punt returns. BC opponents have blocked two punts. Virginia is solid across the board.
Advantage: Virginia

Final Analysis

Virginia started the season with three wins but they were not particularly impressive victories. The Cavaliers beat Western Michigan at home by only 12 points then barely escaped the Dome with a 27-24 win over Syracuse. They pummeled Duke the next week 38-7, but I think I could grab ten friends and beat Duke by 31. Last week, Maryland shredded the Virginia defense to the tune of 570 yards. If Virginia is a top 25 team, they certainly haven’t shown it.

Virginia has put together a nice running game, but their trio of backs shouldn’t be anything the Eagles can’t handle. The biggest concern for BC is Hagans. He is very dangerous once he gets out of the pocket. He has been pretty successful throwing the ball and is a huge threat to run. It is critical that the BC defense not allow Hagans to make big plays with his feet. The BC linebackers will need to keep a close eye on Hagans. If he throws, the secondary will face a big challenge in 6’3” Deyon Williams.

BC has done a great job balancing the offense in recent games and there is no reason why this shouldn’t continue on Saturday. Virginia has allowed opponents only 3.3 yards per rush this season, but last week they had trouble with Maryland’s Lance Ball (17 rushes for 163 yards). BC should be able to average 4.0 yards per carry. Matt Ryan now has two starts under his belt and seems to be gaining confidence. If BC can avoid costly turnovers and penalties, the home fans should go home happy.

Prediction: Boston College 24 Virginia 17

Statistic Adv
When BC Passes
When BC Runs
When Virginia Passes
When Virginia Runs
Special Teams
BC 24 Virginia 17

Virginia Links
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Virginia by the Numbers

Virginia is 0-2 alltime against BC

26 former UVA Cavaliers play in the NFL

Statistic BC VA
Offense - Run 43 38
Offense - Pass 40 65
Total Offense 36 50
Defense - Run 2 54
Defense - Pass 38 52
Total Defense 4 44