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2015 Boston College Football Notes

Tuesday November 24, 2015

Notre Dame squeezes by Boston College

It was a strange game at Fenway Park on Saturday, starting with the fact that Notre Dame was the home team in the city of Boston. The Irish turned the ball over five times (they were lucky it wasn't more) while the Eagles shot themselves in the foot with a couple of a critical penalties and a dropped pass that could have resulted in a touchdown. The BC offense struggled as usual but did some good things in the final 10 minutes of the game. The Eagles scored 13 points in the fourth quarter on Saturday after scoring just 21 points in the previous 11 quarters. BC has now gone three games without scoring in the first half. The BC defense wasn't great, but they held to Notre Dame to just one touchdown and it would have been no touchdowns without a roughing the kicker penalty in the first quarter. Fenway was a pretty backdrop but it wasn't a pretty game.

After beating Notre Dame six times in a row between 2001 and 2008, the Irish have beaten the Eagles five times in a row. Notre Dame now leads the series 14-9. BC is scheduled to host Notre Dame in 2017.

A loss next week at Syracuse would be an eighth consecutive defeat. BC would finish 3-9 and 0-8 in the ACC. But it appears that Steve Addazio's job is safe because of a contract extension signed last year that runs through 2020. Apparently, he makes $2.6 million per year and BC won't just "eat" $13 million. I can't imagine what Boston College was thinking. The Hanley Ramirez contract with the Red Sox looks like a smart move by comparison.

Playoff Race Heats Up

We're down to two weeks of football games that will decide the four teams in this year's college football playoffs. Thirteen teams still have a shot to make the top four. Here they are:

Tuesday November 17, 2015

Eagles prepare for Notre Dame at Fenway

Now that Boston College has officially been knocked out of bowl contention, Saturday's Shamrock Series game at Fenway Park against Notre Dame will be the Eagles' de facto bowl game. The 2015 season will be recorded as a failure no matter what happens on Saturday but an upset win would certainly remove much of the sting.

Notre Dame is a team that can be upset. They have oscillated between looking like a legitimate NCAA playoff team and looking like a team that shouldn't be in any bowl, much less a four-team playoff. Notre Dame barely survived games against Virginia and Temple. USC put up 590 yards of total offense against the Irish defense. UMass amassed 450. Pitt scored 27 second half points against Notre Dame. Lowly Wake Forest outgained them by 58 total yards last week. On the other hand, Notre Dame nearly knocked off #1 Clemson on the road. The late game heroics at Virginia and Temple showed their resiliency.

The Notre Dame offense can hurt you in a variety of ways. Quarterback DeShone Kizer has thrown for 16 TDs and rushed for 8 TDs. Junior receiver Will Fuller gets the headlines (47 catches, 937 yards, 12 TDs) but it's the Irish running game (216 yards per game, 25 TDs) that has probably done more damage. Statistically, the Notre Dame defense has been mediocre but, unfortunately, medicore has been good enough to dominate the Boston College offense this season.

So we're left a fantastic matchup between the potent and dynamic Notre Dame offense against the nation's #1 ranked defense. I'm confident that the BC defense can perform as well or better than Wake Forest did a week ago (and hopefully avoid giving up a 98-yard touchdown run). The problem is, of course, the BC offense. How are they going to score points? I hope that the BC coaching staff understands the need for creative play calling. We should see some plays this week that we haven't seen all season. Fadule is going to have to run for a lot of yards for BC to have a shot. If BC gets the ball with around two minutes left in the half, they can't do the usual "run out the clock" offense. They need to be aggressive. There is nothing to lose.

Notre Dame is currently a 16 point favorite with an over/under of around 42. So Las Vegas is expecting about a 29-13 Irish victory. That's probably a pretty reasonable expectation (I was thinking 24-10). But one touchdown for the BC defense and one extra big play for the BC offense and we could see a close game. Anything is possible. Just ask Holly Holm.

If you go back to the home page, you'll see that I've opened the voting for 2015 BC Football Most Valuable Player. For the first time, every nominee plays on defense. In the ten years I've done MVP polling, defensive players have won four times (Kiwanuka, Herzlich and Kuechly twice).

Tuesday October 20, 2015

Eagles lead early but lose big to #5 Clemson

Boston College, a 16-point underdog, grabbed an early 7-0 lead after a Justin Simmons interception and a Jeff Smith touchdown pass to Bobby Wolford. Unfortunately, not much went BC's way after that. The Clemson offense nearly quadrupled the average total yards allowed by the BC defense in the prior six games. Tigers QB Deshaun Watson wasn't particularly sharp early but still threw for 420 yards and 3 TDs. Jeff Smith completed just 7 of 22 passes for 87 yards. Considering that they have no pass attack, it is rather impressive that the Eagles rushed for 159 yards. Willis and Outlow combined for an average of 6.4 yards per carry. Meanwhile, the BC defense kept the Clemson running game in check (3.1 yards per carry) but when you can't stop the pass you can't win a football game.

It should come as no surprise that Coach Addazio and his staff couldn't figure out the end-of-half clock management situation. BC began their final drive of the first half on the Clemson 41 yard line with 1:17 and three timeouts. The first play of that drive was a trick play where Bobby Swigert gets a second hand off and apparently had a pass option. He didn't throw the ball and was tackled for a one-yard loss. I don't have any problem with the trickery. To beat the #5 team in the country on the road you need to take some chances (the use Addazio's catch phrase: "be a dude") so this was a reasonable decision. The problem was that Addazio didn't call his FIRST timeout after the play blew up. The next snap occurred at 0:40, 37 seconds after the first snap. In other words, they used nearly half of their drive time to run one play.

After a Jeff Smith incomplete pass, confusion forced BC to call back-to-back timeouts with the game clock already stopped. A completion to Thadd Smith, a spike to stop the clock and a Clemson pass interference gave BC the ball on the Clemson 10 yard line with 21 seconds left in the half. On the next play, the Eagles ran the ball with Rouse who was knocked down at the Clemson 2 yard line with 17 seconds left. Addazio and company couldn't get their act together and waited until there were 7 seconds left to call their final timeout. To make matters worse, they didn't try one more pass into the endzone (7 seconds is more than enough time for one play from the 2 yard line). Instead, they kicked the field goal. So the ball carrier hit the ground with 17 seconds left in the half and BC didn't run another offensive play. A smart coach would have given his team at least two more offensive plays before settling for the field goal. It was an amazing combination of cluelessness and gutlessness. You aren't going to beat #5 on the road by kicking 20 yard field goals and bypassing chances to score touchdowns because you have no faith in your offense. Addazio obviously felt that an interception was a more likely scenario than a touchdown pass or incomplete pass (no harm done on an incomplete pass). What a terrible message to send to those players.

As for Clemson ... They look like a legitimate National Championship contender. Their toughest remaining opponent is Florida State and that game will be played at home. The ACC Coastal is not particularly strong so you would expect Clemson to win the ACC Championship Game if they get there. They are a 6 1/2 point favorite at Miami this coming weekend. If Clemson, Ohio State, LSU, Utah and Baylor or TCU (they play each other) all finish undefeated, one will be left out of the playoffs and that team could be Clemson. However, that scenario seems unlikely so a 13-0 season should put Clemson in the four-team playoff. Clemson won the National Championship in 1981 with an undefeated 12-0 season. Their best end-of-the-season ranking since then is #7 which they achieved two years ago.

By the way, anyone who votes for Michigan State ahead of any undefeated team from a top five conference should have their voting rights revoked. That win over Michigan was dumb luck. Of course it's a win in the standings but should be viewed as a loss as far as the playoff rankings are concerned. Not only that, but Michigan State nearly lost to Oregon, Purdue and Rutgers. They are 7th in the AP Poll and 4th in the Coaches' Poll which is ridiculous. Hopefully, the playoff rankings will reflect more intelligence.

Tuesday October 13, 2015

Eagles 3-3 at the season's midpoint

Needless to say, it's been a disappointing and bizarre first half of the 2015 Boston College football season. A look at the schedule reveals that the Eagles have scored 76 points in a game but have also been shutout twice. Boston College is ranked #1 in the country in total defense, run defense and pass defense yet they are just 3-3 and likely to miss out on a bowl bid for the first time in three years. The defense did not give up a single point to Florida State after the opening drive of the game and did not surrender a single touchdown in games against Duke and Wake Forest, yet they lost all three. Steve Addazio continues to be the worst game management/clock management coach in all of football (though Detroit Lions fans could make a strong case for Jim Caldwell). Down 3-0 late in Saturday's game, the Eagles twice had the ball inside the Wake Forest ten yard line and somehow didn't score or even give themselves an attempt at a field goal.

The most heartbreaking thing about the first half of the season is the waste of great defense. Last year's team was hardly an offensive juggernaut but they averaged a healthy 26 points per game. They scored 17 or more against every opponent but Clemson (lost 17-13). If BC had last year's offense with this year's defense, they would be 6-0 and ranked in the top 15. The Clemson game would be getting a lot of media attention if it was a battle of undefeated top 15 teams. We've been cheated out of that by the worst BC offense in many years and some truly horrible game coaching.

Time to say something positive ... the defense has been incredible so far this year. Not only are they ranked #1 in the country, giving up 140 yards per game, but they are 41 yards per game better than #2 ranked Michigan and more than 100 yards better than #3 NC State. So the ranking is not driven by the extra game against an FCS opponent (Howard gained only 11 yards against BC). The Eagles would still be #1 if you excluded Howard. It's true they haven't played a great offensive team (Florida State is the highest ranked offense at 47) but the numbers are exceptional. Deshaun Watson and Clemson will be their toughest test by far.

The BC offense has been terrible (ranked 118th out of 127 teams) with most of the blame going to the passing game. The Eagles are ranked 123rd in passing yards and 25th in rushing yards. The rushing total is a bit deceptive because they run so much. They rank a mediocre 60th in yards per rush. Clemson ranks 13th in total defense and is strong against both the run and the pass so BC will have a difficult time scoring points on Saturday. The betting over/under for Saturday's game is 36.5 points with Clemson as a 15.5 point favorite. That means Vegas expects BC to score around 10.5 points. That's about as low as you will ever see.

Can BC still make it to a bowl game? The Eagles need seven wins this year to become bowl-eligible because the Howard win (second over an FCS opponent) doesn't count toward their minimum six wins for eligibility. That means they need to finish 4-2. Obviously, Clemson is a very unlikely win but they should have a reasonable chance against overrated Notre Dame and mediocre Louisville, Virginia Tech, NC State and Syracuse. But if the offense doesn't improve they will lose all of those games.

You have been voting all season in my online poll that asks "How many regular season games will BC win in 2015?" A plurality (46%) said 7 or 8 wins with 40% expecting a non-bowl season (6 wins or less). That leaves 12% who thought BC would have a 9 or 10 win season and 1 person expecting 11 or 12 wins (I like the enthusiasm).

As I close the Expected Wins poll, I will be rolling out the Coaching Staff Approval Ratings poll. Please click back the home page if you'd like to cast your vote.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Boston College shutout a week after scoring 76 points

The Boston College defense played one of their most impressive games in recent years on Saturday. Unfortunately, the offense and head coach flunked the test. On their first drive, Florida State marched 83 yards on 8 plays to take a 7-0 lead. The Seminole offense did not score a single point the rest of the game. After that opening drive, the BC defense allowed just 134 total yards on 49 Florida State offensive plays despite not getting much rest between drives. Harold Landry led the Eagles with 11 tackles and 2 sacks. Unfortunately, BC couldn't produce any turnovers and missed a great opportunity to tackle Golson in the endzone for a safety.

The offense, in a word, was putrid. BC quarterbacks completed just 5 of 15 passes for 56 yards. The Eagles rushed for 139 yards but that was on 43 carries (3.2 per attempt). If you take away their top three carries (11, 16 and 18 yards) you're looking at 40 carries for 104 yards and that just won't get it done against a Top 10 team. To add salt to the wound, Darius Wade suffered a broken ankle in the fourth quarter and is likely out for the season. True freshman Jeff Smith and redshirt freshman Troy Flutie (or maybe both) will get their opportunity next week.

Once again, Coach Addazio looked like a deer caught in the headlights at the end of the first half. An 18 yard Myles Willis run gave the Eagles a first and ten at their own 43-yard-line with 1:52 remaining in the first half. That was plenty of time to score even with only one timeout remaining. But as usual Coach Addazio took the cowardly ("Un-Dude-like") approach and simply ran out the clock with basic running plays. That move would have been inexcusable against a mediocre team with a 14-lead but when you're trying to upset a top ten team and you have no points it's coaching malpractice. I hate to keep saying it, but Steve Addazio is the worst game/clock management coach I have seen at any level. And he seems to be getting worse! I suspect his approach in these situations is the result of a deep distrust and lack of confidence in his players. Addazio coaches to keep the score close, not to win.

Despite only losing to #1 Ohio State by seven points, Northern Illinois is a 5 point underdog against BC. The Eagles are ranked #1 in the nation in total defense, pass defense and run defense but 109th in total offense. NIU ranks 43rd in total offense and 75th in total defense. They defeated UNLV and Murray State before losing to the Buckeyes last week.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Eagles Score 11 Touchdowns, Beat Howard 76-0

In the first drive of the season last week, Maine went 44 yards into BC territory and kicked a field goal. Since then Boston College has outscored their two opponents 100-0. The BC defense has surrendered 58 total yards in 83 plays. BC should dominate FCS opponents like Maine and Howard but you still have be very impressed with the performance of the defense. The offense has also looked sharp over the past five quarters but it's impossible to evaluate their progress against the defenses they have played. BC's original opponent, New Mexico State, would have been a much better tune-up for Florida State. Quarterback Darius Wade needs the experience but was only in the game long enough to throw five passes against Howard. No BC running back carried the ball more than eight times. The Florida State speed will make Maine and Howard look like they were in slow motion.

Florida State stuggled early against South Florida but dominated in the second half. Dalvin Cook rushed for 266 yards on 30 carries and scored three touchdowns. Everett Golson passed for 163 yards. The Seminoles are 31-1 in their last 32 games dating back to December 2012. They have 24 in a row against ACC opponents.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Eagles Take Season Opener

Much like last season, the Eagles started slow against the Maine Black Bears but dominated the final three quarters for an easy win. Yesterday Maine gained 44 yards of total offense on their first six plays of the game, but only 47 yards in their remaining 43 plays. The BC defense accumulated five sacks (two by Matt Milano) and had one interception (William Harris). The Boston College defense got their act together after the first drive. The Eagle offense sputtered for much of the first three quarters. They scored just ten points in the first seven drives of the game and led 10-3 at the end of three quarters before two TD drives to start the fourth quarter put the game away.

Darius Wade was 14 for 25 for 155 yards and a TD (no interceptions). That touchdown pass went to the often-injured sixth year senior Bobby Swigert who hadn't caught a pass since 2012. It was a great moment for a guy who has had 11 knee surgeries. Swigert had 106 catches for 1,242 yards and 8 TDs in his first 32 games as a BC Eagle before the knee problems took him out of action for nearly three years.

BC will host Howard University next week. The Bison will be coming off a 49-0 loss to Appalachian State. Howard gained just 136 total yards and eight first downs. This is another game where the BC defense should dominate a weaker opponent. It will be a good opportunity for the inexperienced BC offense to gain some confidence before having to face #10 Florida State the following week.

Fan Polls

Many of you have voted in my fan polls. I closed on the voting on the following polls:

Should last names be added to the back of the BC football jerseys?

56% of you said Yes vs 41% who said No (3% not sure). I prefer the names.

How do you feel about BC's move to the ACC?

A solid 73% of you said it was either a Great Move or a Good Move vs 22% who said it was a Bad Move or Terrible Move. This is not surprising given the shake-ups in college football. Most of the former Big East teams have found homes in BCS conferences and the ACC seems like the best fit for the Eagles.

What BC sports team do you care about the most?

It's not exactly a shock that BC football won with 62% of the vote (a very biased poll considering the name of this website). BC men's hockey came in second with 26% followed by men's basketball with 9%. Three people said "Other" so I'll have to wonder what sports they had in mind.

How do you feel about Notre Dame joining the ACC in all sports except football?

Nearly half of you (48%) agreed with my position that it would be okay for Notre Dame to join the ACC but only if they joined in all sports. If I were in charge of the ACC I would not have allowed anyone to join without football but 36% of you are in favor of the current arrangement. 17% do not want Notre Dame in the ACC at all.

Who is your favorite Boston College TV/Entertainment personality?

In a reasonably close race, Amy Poehler won with 37% of your votes. Again, you agreed with my pick. Chris O'Donnell finished second with 31% and Elizabeth Hasselbeck finished third with 24%. Luke Russert and Ayla Brown combined for 8%.

Full Poll Results

2014 BC Football Notes
2013 BC Football Notes
2012 BC Football Notes
2011 BC Football Notes
2010 BC Football Notes
2009 BC Football Notes
2008 BC Football Notes
2007 BC Football Notes
2006 BC Football Notes
2005 BC Football Notes