Boston College - Wake Forest Preview
Boston College will look to avenge last season's painful 32-28 home loss to Wake Forest with a victory over the Demon Deacons at Groves Stadium in Winston-Salem on Saturday. BC comes into the game with a 3-0 record thanks to wins over Ball State, Penn State and Connecticut. After a tough overtime loss to Clemson in the season opener, Wake Forest has won back to back games against East Carolina and NC A&T. Boston College will join Wake Forest in the ACC beginning next season. Here is a preview of Saturday's game, which will be televised on ESPN2 beginning at Noon:
Paul Peterson is off to a very good start this season. The Senior quarterback has completed 63.3% of his passes for 527 yards and six touchdowns while being intercepted only twice in three games. Peterson has done a good job spreading the wealth as six different receivers have caught at least five passes so far this season. Grant Adams remains Peterson's favorite target (11 catches, 160 yards, 2 TDs). BC will face an improving Wake Forest secondary which is ranked 15th in the nation through three weeks (they finished last season ranked 82nd in Division 1-A). Three seniors will start in the secondary for Wake Forest, including cornerback Eric King who had three interceptions and 15 passes broken up in 2003.
Paul Peterson should have a pretty solid day on Saturday. The Wake Forest pass defense has improved but is probably no better than what Peterson faced against Penn State and Connecticut. I have been impressed this season by the ability of Eagle receivers to make tough receptions. Dropped passes have been a major problem in recent seasons, but this year they have made nearly all of the routine catches and many of the difficult ones. Peterson should have plenty of time to throw the ball against Wake's anemic pass rush. The Deacons have just three sacks in three games and no returning player had more than two sacks last season.
Advantage: Boston College
BC has had a solid, though unspectacular, rushing attack in each of the first three games. Andre Callender stepped in for injured starter L.V. Whitworth last week and has gained an average of 106 yards per game (4.0 yards per carry). Paul Peterson has been very effective running the ball as well. Peterson has gained only 86 yards in three games, but many of those runs resulted in critical first downs. Wake Forest's run defense was very poor last season. The Demon Deacons gave up an average of 158 yards per game in 2003 (4.1 yards per carry). This year, they are giving up 173 yards per game, a lofty 4.5 yards per carry. Linebackers Jonathan Abbate, a redshirt freshman, and Senior Georgia transfer Brad White lead the Deacons in tackles with 22 and 18, respectively.
There is no reason why the Eagles should not have great success running the ball on Saturday. Callender and the BC offensive line have run the ball well over the past two weeks against two teams that are more adept at stopping the run than Wake Forest. As usual, the Eagles have a large advantage in size. The BC offensive line outweighs the Wake front four by an average of 49 pounds per man.
Advantage: Boston College
Throwing the ball is certainly not a high priority for Wake Forest. Last year, the Demon Deacons ranked 108th in the nation in passing yards per game. This year, they rank 74th through three games. The Wake Forest starting quarterback, Junior Cory Randolf, is a returning starter who passed for 1,773 yards last season with 8 TDs and 10 INTs. This season, Randolf has had his ups and downs. He completed only 7 of 21 passes for 55 yards against Clemson, but passed for 344 yards the following week against East Carolina. Backup Ben Mauk has played occasionally, completing 9 of 14 for 151 yards and a touchdown. Wake's receivers have also had their ups and downs. Senior receiver Jason Anderson (44 catches last season) caught seven passes for 139 yards against Clemson but has been suffering from an ankle sprain and did not play against NC A&T. Sophomore Nate Morton caught five passes for 142 yards against ECU. BC's pass defense has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete a high percentage of their passes (60.4%) but most of those completions have been for short yardage (an average of only 5.6 yards per completion). BC has eight sacks in the first three games, three by Mathias Kiwanuka.
BC's "bend but don't break" pass defense has been very effective this season. Opponents have completed passes and moved the chains, but the defense has not surrended the big play very often. The Eagles could be more susceptible to the big play against Wake, however, because so much of BC's focus will be on stopping the run. This will put more pressure on the BC defensive backs. I think they are up to the challenge.
Advantage: Boston College
Wake Forest's ground game has been nothing short of devastating this season. The Demon Deacons are 10th in the nation in rushing, averaging 277 yards per game (5.1 yards per carry). Three different running backs have carried the bulk of the load for Wake Forest. Junior Chris Barclay leads the team with 295 rushing yards, 179 of those came against Clemson in the season opener (he has only 116 yards in two games since). Micah Andrews was the star against North Carolina A&T with 126 yards on 17 carries. Cornelius Birgs has 96 yards as well. Quarterback Cory Randolf can also hurt the defense with his legs. He rushed for 404 yards last year and already has 145 yards rushing this season (107 against ECU). The Wake offensive line returned two starters from last season - 298 pound center Blake Lingruen and 297 pound left tackle Steve Vallos. BC has four players with 15 or more tackles - cornerback Will Blackmon and three linebackers, Ricky Brown, Ray Henderson and true freshman Brian Toal. Mathias Kiwanuka already has 5.5 tackles for lost yardage.
The BC defense was outstanding against the run against Ball State and Penn State but had problems stopping Connecticut back Cornell Brockington. This will be the key matchup of the game. Wake Forest is averaging 5.1 yards per rush and BC is surrendering only 2.8 yards per rush. Wake Forest should be effective running the ball, but the question is how effective? Normally, if the opponent averages four yards per carry, it is going to be a long day. Given the mediocrity of Wake's defense and the weakness of their passing game, BC could probably survive a four yard per rush Wake Forest average. Five yards per carry would be a different story.
Advantage: Wake Forest
The Wake Forest kicking game is off to a great start in 2004. Senior kicker Matt Wisnosky has made four of five field goals and all 12 of his extra points. Junior punter Ryan Plackemeier is averaging 46.1 yards per punt. BC freshman kicker Ryan Ohliger made both of his field goals last week, his first two attempts of the season. Eagle punter Johnny Ayers has pinned the opponent inside the 20 yard line on six of 14 kicks this season. Redshirt freshman Kevin Morton handles most of the kick returning duties for Wake Forest. He's averaging nearly 27 yards per return. Willie Idlette has returned punts for an average of 6.3 yards this season. BC's Will Blackmon is averaging 43 yards per kick return (thanks to a 96-yard touchdown) and 6.4 yards per punt return.
BC should have a slight advantage in special teams only because of Blackmon, who is always a threat to return a kick for a touchdown.
Advantage: Boston College
The key to the game for BC will be stopping the Wake Forest running game, which no one has been able to accomplish this season. However, Wake's success has come against some very poor defensive teams. Clemson has given up 863 yards in two games since beating Wake Forest and West Virginia rushed for an astounding 478 yards against East Carolina, Wake's second opponent. BC's front four should be able to contain Wake Forest's running game, leaving the linebackers and secondary to make sure that Randolf doesn't scramble for first downs. It is encouraging that the BC defense has been strong in the second half. The Eagles have given up just one score in six quarters in the second half this season.
The BC offense has been very efficient so far this season and I expect much of the same against Wake Forest. Wake hasn't been able to stop the run and Tom O'Brien will be sure to take advantage of that, especially with a 49 pound per man weight advantage in the offensive line. Wake Forest doesn't appear to have much of a home field advantage. The Demon Deacons were 3-4 at home last season, including a 51-17 loss to Connecticut. BC is averaging 9 penalties per game for an average of 70 yards, but were much more disciplined against Connecticut last week.
Prediction: Boston College 24 Wake Forest 19