Boston College - Wake Forest Preview
On Saturday the Boston College Eagles will begin a quest for their fifth consecutive bowl appearance when they take on the ACC's Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Alumni Stadium. BC finished last season with a 9-4 record and a 51-25 win over Toledo in the Motor City Bowl. After years of losing, the Wake Forest football program has shown signs of life under Coach Jim Grobe with two consecutive winning seasons (7-6 last year) and a victory over Oregon in last December's Seattle Bowl. The Eagles will have a lot to prove this season, the last with Miami and the disgraceful weasels of Virginia Tech in the Big East Conference. Here is a preview of Saturday's game:
When BC passes
The biggest question mark coming into the season for the BC Eagles is at quarterback. Junior Quinton Porter nudged out Utah JUCO transfer Paul Peterson to grab the starting job to begin the season. Porter had the inside track before he broke his collarbone during Spring practice. Porter will work with some speedy wide receivers in Juniors Joel Hazard and Grant Adams. Adams hauled in 37 passes for 542 yards and 6 TD's last season in limited action and should put up some big numbers this season. Hazard had a semi-breakout game in the Motor City Bowl with 5 catches for 66 yards and a 40 yard TD. Senior Tight End Sean Ryan could be a huge factor, especially with a young quarterback at the helm who might be more comfortable with short, safe passes to the tight ends and running backs. Derrick Knight caught 37 passes for 342 yards last season and should be a favorite target for Porter. For Wake Forest the good news is that they return every starter in their defensive backfield. The bad news for Wake is that this unit finished 85th in the nation in passing yards allowed per game despite using a 3-3-5 defensive setup which utilizes a fifth defensive back called a Bandit. The player at the Bandit position, Junior Caron Bracy, was second on the team with 82 tackles a year ago. Hard hitting Free Safety Quinton Williams, a possible future NFLer, was active with 72 tackles, 5 passes broken up and 3 INTs in 2002. The Demon Deacons sacked opposing quarterbacks only 19 times last year and lost their best pass rusher in All American Calvin Pace, who tallied eight sacks. The experience gap between Wake Forest's veteran secondary and BC's new starters at quarterback, wide receiver and three of the o-line positions will certainly favor the Deacons. On the other hand, Wake Forest's duo of 5'9" cornerbacks may have a hard time covering the 6'0" Grant Adams. There is also the question of how Porter will handle the unique 3-3-5 defensive alignment. This is a very tough matchup to handicap.
When BC runs
If one thing has been consistent at Boston College over the past decade, it has been their running game. In 2002, Derrick Knight became the 8th Boston College back to surpass the 1,000 yard mark in a season since 1992 (William Green accomplished the feat twice). Knight's achievement was aided by a tremendous offensive line. Fortunately for the Eagles, Knight is back for his Senior season. Unfortunately, three of those offensive linemen are not, including NFL Draftees Marc Parenteau and Dan Koppen. But all is not lost because the Eagles have stockpiled talent to replace those standouts including 6'8" 315 pound Sophomore left tackle Jeremy Trueblood and Sophomore Center Pat Ross. Senior Augie Hoffman and Junior Chris Snee will return as starters at the guard position. Based on the projected starters, BC's defensive line will average 6'5" and 312 pounds. Wake Forest's defensive front six (that's right, six) will return only two starters, Junior Middle Linebacker Brad White, who led the Deacons in tackles last year with 94 and Senior Linebacker Kellen Brantley (61 tackles). Wake Forest will more than likely go with a Junior and two Sophomores on the three-man defensive line, none of whom have significant experience. BC will undoubtedly focus on the running game, both to take advantage of the inexperienced Wake Forest defensive line and to ease the pressure on Porter. I'm predicting a 150-yard game for Derrick Knight and a big advantage for the Eagles.
Advantage: Boston College
When Wake Forest passes
Like BC, Wake Forest will be breaking in a new quarterback in 2003. Sophomore Cory Randolf, who threw only 48 passes in 2002, will take over the helm from Seattle Bowl MVP James MacPherson who threw for 1,800 yards last season. Randolf's targets will all be new starters as well, including Junior deep-threat Jason Anderson who caught 23 passes for 535 yards (a 23.3 yard average) and 6 TDs in an injury-plagued 2002. BC lost three starters in the secondary (returning only Sophomore corner Larry Lester), but has plenty of talent and experience to fill the gaps. BC has several options at Cornerback including former standout Peter Shean, who was a starter last season before suffering a season-ending knee injury, electrifying Sophomore Will Blackmon and another impressive Soph Jazzmen Williams. Senior Paul Cook and Junior TJ Stancil both have experience and will likely get the nods at Safety. BC's pass rush will be led by Sophomore Mattias Kiwanuka, who sacked five quarterbacks in 2002 and should double that total in 2003. Like Wake Forest, BC's secondary could take advantage of an inexperienced opposing quarterback, though Randolf does have more than a few snaps to his credit. I don't expect much passing from the Deacons, but BC will need to be cognizant of the abilities of Jason Anderson. If they can contain Anderson, I can't see much of an aerial assault coming from Wake Forest.
Advantage: Boston College
When Wake Forest runs
Wake Forest lost its top rusher Tarence Williams to graduation, but looks to have an adequate replacement in Sophomore Chris Barclay who rushed for 703 yards (4.9 yards per carry) and 9 TDs last season, while splitting time with the oft-injured Williams. Wake Forest returns two of five starters on the offensive line, the best of which is Senior Right Guard Tyson Clabo (6'6" 314 pounds). The Deacons protected the quarterback very well last season, allowing only 12 sacks. BC's defensive front seven lost two important players, Defensive End Antonio Garay who missed most of last season with an ankle injury and Middle Linebacker Vinny Ciurciu who was second on the Eagles with 108 tackles. Returning at linebacker will be Seniors Josh "Big Play" Ott who had 128 tackles, three fumble recoveries, two interceptions and a forced fumble in 2002, and Brian Flores (74 tackles). The BC defensive line should be very strong with the aforementioned Kiwanuka and Junior Phil Mettling at the ends and Seniors Tom Martin and a hopefully healthy Doug Goodwin at the tackle positions. BC can also throw Tim Bulman (56 tackles) into the mix. Tom O'Brien will hope that the Cook and Stancil can contribute as much to stopping the run as former BC safties Ralph Parent and Doug Bessette (a combined 177 tackles last season). It's no secret that Wake Forest loves to run the ball (55 attempts per game last year). They averaged 241 yards on the ground last season and I expect Coach Jim Grobe to continue with the same game plan this year. This could be the best matchup on the field on Saturday, but Wake Forest's inexperience on the offensive line (three new starters - two Sophomores and a Freshman) gives BC the advantage in the season opener.
Advantage: Boston College
Boston College Kicker Sandro Sciortino is coming off a BC record 23 field goal season. After missing many of his attempts early, Sciortino connected on his last 11 over the final four games. It looks like Tom O'Brien will go with Fairfield transfer Jeff Gomulinsky to take over Kevin McMyler's punting duties. Wake Forest counters with Kicker Matt Wisnosky who connected on 15 of his last 19 FG attempts and Punter Ryan Plackemeier who may be the best punter in the ACC. He averaged 43.2 yards per kick in 2002. Returning kicks for the Eagles will be Sophomore Will Blackmon who averaged 22.5 yards per kickoff return last year. He will also take over on punt returns with the graduation of Jamal Burke who did an excellent job in that role last year. Plackemeier's booming punts may actually be a disadvantage for Wake Forest if he outkicks his coverage and gives Blackmon a chance for a long return. Wisnosky has a reputation for short kickoffs so the Eagles may benefit from very good field position after Wake Forest scores. Both teams have a good kicking game so Blackmon is the key to BC's advantage in this category.
Advantage: Boston College
On paper, this looks like a fairly easy win for the Eagles. BC will have the home crowd and a battle-tested defense facing an offense that returns just two starters from last season. They have the best offensive player on the field in Derrick Knight and the best special teams weapon in Will Blackmon. Wake Forest is coming off a bowl win, but they have very little that scares you other than wideout Jason Anderson. What does scare me is that BC will start an inexperienced quarterback and that could turn the advantage to a disadvantage in a very big hurry. BC should be able to control the line of scrimmage, but that won't matter if BC turns the ball over. Wake Forest was very opportunistic last year, forcing 38 opponent fumbles and recovering 21 on their way to a +18 turnover margin. Wake's defense was outstanding in the Seattle Bowl, but surrendered an average of 503 yards of total offense in the prior three games. I am confident that Porter will play within himself and allow Derrick Knight and the offensive line to control the game. I don't expect Wake Forest to generate much of a pass rush which will give Porter more time to make decisions, thus reducing the possibility of rookie mistakes. BC's huge offensive line should take its toll on Wake Forest's young defensive line by the second half. BC's increasingly atheltic defense should be able to contain Wake Forest's solid ground game. The Eagles may surrender some yards and a few long drives, but I don't anticipate much big play potential from the Wake Forest offense. I expect that BC will head to Happy Valley ... well, happy.
Final Score: Boston College 23 Wake Forest 13