Last week we brought everyone a closer look at Maryland with a Q&A with the Maryland blog Turtle Droppings. This week we have a closer look at Notre Dame’s senior day opponent, Boston College, from the BC blog BC Interruption. Just like last week, I also answered some questions from them that will be on their site later this week.
1. Boston College is struggling through its worst season in over a decade. What has gone so wrong this year for the Eagles that they find themselves in this situation?
Can I say everything? Right now, BC is a pretty terrible football program and plenty has gone right almost from the get-go. Preseason ACC Player of the Year Montel Harris wasn’t able to fully recover from a knee injury suffered at the end of last season and has been shelved for the year. Similarly, WR Ifeanyi Momah, DT Kaleb Ramsey and CB C.J. Jones are all out for the year.
Two of our starting defensive backs were either kicked off the team or left right before the start of the season. Our first-year offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers — you may have heard of him — stepped down just two games into the season citing personal health reasons.
Our usually reliable offensive line has looked extremely vulnerable and hasn’t helped Rettig buy time in the pocket or help establish the Eagles run game. Our offense has regressed to the point it is now easily one of the worst in the nation. And BC, like Notre Dame, is losing the turnover battle (-8 through the first 10 games).
On top of all that, this year’s schedule was particularly unforgiving – just six home games, nine bowl teams and five of BC’s last seven on the road. Also, we lost to Duke … at home, on a missed FG late in the fourth quarter. Yes, that Duke.
2. Luke Kuechly is an absolute tackling machine for BC at the linebacker spot. Has anyone been able to neutralize him this season and what if anything can Notre Dame do this weekend to limit his impact?
Kuechly is going to get his tackles. No one has really been able to stop him this season. He has a remarkable ability of knowing where the play is going and being the first to the ball carrier. While Kuechly is going to get his stops, the Irish can limit his impact by throwing the ball on medium to deep routes. #40 is going to get to Wood and Gray, but if Rees keys in on exploiting the Eagles’ young secondary, it could be a long night for the Eagles defense.
3. This is BC’s 7th season in the ACC. 7 years later, how happy are Boston College fans with the move from the Big East and what your thoughts on the idea of Notre Dame potentially joining the ACC at some point as has been suggested by a few in the college football media.
Have you seen what’s been going on with the Big East lately? Boise State? Houston? BYU? SMU? Air Force? Central Florida? Yeah, no thank you.
BC fans are obviously thrilled with the move from the Big East to the ACC. Similarly, the additions of Syracuse and Pittsburgh were looked upon very favorably by Eagles fans as the ACC expands its northeastern footprint and brings two traditional rivals into the fold. The Syracuse and Pitt adds also allow the ACC to renegotiate its TV media rights deal with ESPN, which had fallen behind every other BCS conference with the exception of the Big East.
If the ACC is to expand further, having just added a pair of hoops schools (with due respect to Cuse and Pitt) it needs to enhance its football street cred above all else. Notre Dame obviously fits the mold but the Irish come with a lot of baggage in the form of a separate television media rights deal with NBC and football independence. I’d welcome Notre Dame to the ACC if they were willing to give up both of those things – both the separate TV deal and football independence. Ain’t happening.
Short of that, I just don’t see the upside in allowing the Irish to dump its hoops program and Olympic sports in the ACC while maintaining football independence. While there is obviously value in associating with ND football, revenue inequality and separate TV contracts aren’t a good look for a BCS conference. Ask the Big East and the Big 12.
If we ever get to the point where it becomes “join a BCS AQ conference” or get left behind, I’d like to see Notre Dame and Rutgers / Penn State join the ACC to lock up the New York City television market. Two of those three programs would help make the ACC very relevant in New York. But because I don’t see that happening, ACC expansion beyond 14 at this point is simply unnecessary.
4. It seems as though Boston College has gotten better against the run the last few weeks. Do you think Notre Dame’s running back tandem of Cierre Wood and Jonas Gray will have success on the ground or will Tommy Rees need to put the ball in the air to move the Irish offense?
BC’s D has been better against the run recently, but I think that has much more to do with the quality of the opponent’s rushing offense and less to do with finally putting things together. The Eagles’ defense turned in its best defensive performance against the run last weekend, holding the Wolfpack to 47 rushing yards on 24 carries. The thing is, N.C. State’s rushing offense ranks 111th nationally. Similar story for games against Florida State (127 yards allowed, rushing offense ranks 96th nationally) and Duke (81 yards allowed, run game ranked 113th).
Conversely, the BC run defense has been gashed by Virginia Tech (40 carries, 214 yards), Central Florida (45 carries, 235 yards), Northwestern (54 carries, 227 yards) and Clemson (41 rushes, 180 yards). [Note: Maryland also rushed for 197 yards on 36 carries, but that game was played in terrible weather conditions and all anyone did in that game was run the ball]. A far cry from a rushing D that was best in the nation just a season ago.
Though if the Irish are to have success moving the ball, your best bet is to ask Tommy Rees to beat the Eagles through the air. As un-BC-like as the Eagles rush defense has been, the pass defense has been worse. BC is giving up 241.8 yards in the air this season. The secondary is extremely young and inexperienced, as evidenced by the fact that six of the eight DBs on the Eagles’ two deep are either freshmen or redshirt freshmen. As a unit, they played fairly well last week against N.C. State, but I’d imagine they’ll have a much tougher go of it against a much more balanced Irish offense.
5. Even though Boston College is experiencing a down season, I fully expect to see them throw their best punch at Notre Dame this weekend. Given the fact that BC can’t reach bowl eligibility this season, is it safe to say this weekend is being treated like one?
Back in December, when Spaziani was arbitrarily given a “must maintain appearances on the recruiting trail” contract extension through 2015, I wrote:
“Spaz is 16-10 through two seasons as BC’s head coach, though ultimately he’ll be judged on how his teams fare in ACC play, against Notre Dame and in our bowl games. Though two seasons, Spaz is 9-7 in ACC play, 0-2 against Notre Dame and 1-1 in bowl games (though his one win came as interim head coach in 2006).”
Fast-forward to present, where Spaz is now:
– – 18-18 overall
– – One game under .500 in ACC play (11-12)
– – Still 0-2 (soon to be 0-3) against Notre Dame, and
– – 1-2 in bowl games, with the one win of the “interim” variety
A lot of casual Boston College fans will be tuning in for the first time this Saturday to watch the Notre Dame game. If Spaz again gets embarrassed as we did during the first half of the Florida State Thursday night game, there will be a lot of angry alum come Sunday.
So while BC isn’t playing for bowl eligibility, this week and next (against Miami) are the closest things to bowl games for the Eagles. Add to this the mounting pressure on Spaz, one of two final games for the few seniors on the roster (and Luke Kuechly?) and the whole Holy War aspect of this game and I think it’s a safe assumption that motivation won’t be a factor for the Eagles this weekend.
6. Both schools having coaching staffs in the early stages of their tenures at their respective schools. What is the general consensus among Boston College fans about the job Frank Spaziani is doing and do they feel he is the long term answer on the sidelines for the Eagles?
“Do they feel he is the long term answer on the sidelines for the Eagles?” No, definitely not.
I suppose there is a small minority of fans who are willing to give Spaz another year to try to turn things around with another year with his recruits in the system. This group of fans is quick to point the recruiting failures, the lack of depth and relative inexperience on the current roster, the need for stability at the top and continuity in the coaching staff or simply bad luck in the form of injuries to key players and/or a poo turnover margin.
Each of these rationalizations is easily shot down when you dig a bit deeper.
On recruiting, Spaz was part of the recruiting process in the previous regime, so he can’t just wipe his hands and chalk up the Eagles lack of depth to Jagodzinski and the previous staff. Jags’ recruiting classes also weren’t appreciably worse than Spaz’s. And finally, Spaz retained the services of the Recruiting Coordinator that served under Jags, so clearly he didn’t see anything wrong with how recruiting was going when he took over.
As for the lack of depth / inexperience on the roster, while it’s true BC has been hit hard by the injury bug, it’s not like the Eagles are the only program in the country to have to deal with injuries. It would be one thing if Spaz was playing the injury / inexperience card in year 1. Maybe even year 2. But year 3? C’mon.
7. How do you see Saturday’s game turning out?
Not well for BC. The Eagles may turn in another solid defensive performance this weekend and will clearly be motivated to give Notre Dame its best shot. But I don’t think that will be enough. I think BC will hang with the Irish for 3+ quarters. The BC offense is really only good for 14/game, but I think the Eagles’ D will be opportunistic and capitalize on the turnover-happy Irish offense. They might even get into the end zone.
Still, I don’t think that will be enough to take down the Irish. I see a low-scoring first half – something like 14-7 Notre Dame – before Rees and the Irish passing game score a couple TDs in the third quarter to blow this game open. Final score: Notre Dame 38, Boston College 21.