2007 Football Game Preview: ACC Championship Game

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Saturday, December 1st, 2007, 1:00

TV: ABC

Forecast (from WeatherBug.com):
Click the “Jacksonville Weather” link to the right.
Game day forecast, as of noon Wednesday: Partly cloudy with a high of 72.


Click here for TechSideline.com’s VT/BC roster card


Game Preview: #6 Virginia Tech (10-2, 7-1 ACC) vs. #11 Boston College
(10-2, 6-2)


by Chris Coleman, TechSideline.com

Virginia Tech has a chance to accomplish two things this Saturday. First, and
most important, they get a chance to win the ACC Championship for the second
time since entering the conference in 2004. Secondly, they get a chance to
avenge their 14-10 home loss to Boston College back in October. The revenge
factor is overrated in college football, but playing for an ACC Championship is
not. This one should be a great game.

We all know what happened back on Thursday, October 25 in Blacksburg, so I’m
not going to rehash it here. It also doesn’t matter what happened before that
October 25 date. What the teams have been doing lately is what matters.

BC lost 27-17 to Florida State the week after beating Tech. They followed
that up with a 42-35 loss at Maryland that wasn’t as close as the score
indicated. They seemed to be a floundering team, but got it together in time to
beat Clemson in a huge game that decided the ACC Atlantic Division. They ended
the regular season with a 28-14 win over Miami last weekend.

Virginia Tech’s offense cost the Hokies the game against BC the first time
around, scoring just 10 points. However, some phases of the offense showed some
signs of life in that game, and Tech hasn’t looked back since. Here is how
Tech’s offense has fared in the last four games.


VT Offense, Last Four Games

Opponent

Rushing Yards

Passing Yards

Total

Georgia Tech

185

296

481

FSU

188

207

395

Miami

182

176

358

Virginia

131

299

430

Average

171.5

244.5

416

That’s as tough a four game stretch as the Hokies have had in quite awhile, yet
they still managed to put up very good numbers offensively. The last time Tech
faced the Eagles, they had no dual threat quarterback system, and their starting
center missed most of the game.

The Boston College Offense

Boston College has the top offense in the ACC. The Eagles start seniors at
key positions, such as quarterback, tailback, wide receiver and left tackle.


The BC Offense

Category

Stat

ACC
Rank

Nat.
Rank

Rushing

108.75 ypg

9

105

Passing

331.75 ypg

1

7

Total

440.5 ypg

1

25

Scoring

29.67 ppg

2

47

Pass Efficiency

130.3 ypg

4

50

Third Downs

44.30%

1

29

Sacks Allowed

1.5 spg

1

30

Not much has changed about the Boston College offense since the last meeting,
except Matt Ryan’s (6-5, 220, Sr.) tendency to throw interceptions. Heading into
the first meeting, Ryan had throw 17 touchdowns and just six interceptions. Now
his numbers stand at 28 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, which means in his last
five games, Ryan has thrown 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

As Ryan’s touchdown to interception ratio has dropped, so has BC’s winning
percentage. The Eagles were beaten soundly by FSU and Maryland, and arguably
should have lost to Virginia Tech and Clemson.

Despite the picks, Ryan’s passing yards are keeping the Eagles’ heads above
water, as well as a solid, feisty defense. Ryan is averaging 329.4 yards per
game, and is completing 60% of his passes.

Most fans outside the ACC have probably never heard of Andre Callender (5-11,
199, Sr.), but he has become the most versatile running back in the ACC. He
leads Boston College in rushing with 885 yards and nine touchdowns, and is
averaging 4.8 yards per carry. He is also Matt Ryan’s favorite target. He leads
BC in receptions with 59 catches for 613 yards and four touchdowns.

It will be interesting to see how the Hokies defend Callender this time
around. In the first meeting, they shaded him with a defensive end, and played
zone coverage behind him. This worked very well, until BC’s last play of the
game when Matt Ryan rolled left, drawing the zone coverage towards him, and then
threw back across his body to an open Callender in the end zone.

Overall, Ryan has a number of targets that he likes to use. Here is a list of
BC’s top receivers.


BC’s Top Receivers

Name

Pos

Catches

Yards

YPC

TD

Andre Callender

RB

59

613

10.4

4

Rich Gunnell

WR

54

749

13.9

5

Brandon Robinson

WR

50

720

14.4

5

Ryan Purvis

TE

50

521

10.4

4

Kevin Challenger

WR

40

500

12.5

5

Clarence Megwa

WR

26

309

11.9

2

Ryan and the receivers will likely go after Macho Harris, who was recently named
First Team All-ACC. Flowers didn’t play all that great against BC in the first
meeting, but he’ll get a chance to prove that he deserves First Team honors this
year.

BC’s offensive line looks the same as it did in the first meeting. From left
to right, they start Gosder Cherilus (6-7, 319, Sr.), Ty Hall (6-4, 290, Sr.),
Matt Tennant (6-4, 285, So.), Clif Ramsey (6-6, 302, Jr.) and Anthony Castonzo
(6-7, 262, Fr.). Virginia Tech dominated this offensive front in the first
meeting, recording three sacks and 17 quarterback hurries.

Gosder Cherilus, who has been projected by some to be a First Round draft
pick in April, couldn’t handle Chris Ellis, and Ellis on true freshman right
tackle Anthony Castonzo was an even bigger mismatch. It will be interesting to
see what BC does with their blocking schemes in this game. In the running game,
don’t look for the Eagles to have much success.

The Boston College Defense

BC’s defense held Virginia Tech to just 10 points in the first meeting, but
that was without Tyrod Taylor. The Hokies were also missing starting center Ryan
Shuman for most of the game.


The BC Defense

Category

Stat

ACC
Rank

Nat.
Rank

Rushing

65.58 ypg

1

2

Passing

268.42 ypg

12

106

Total

334 ypg

5

26

Scoring

19.5 ppg

5

19

Pass Efficiency

114.91

5

31

Third Downs

36.40%

7

38

Sacks

2.58 spg

5

28

BC’s defense has been good this season, however they have been giving up 369.5
yards per game over the last four contests.

The Eagles have a couple of potentially critical injuries on defense.
Defensive end Alex Albright is definitely out. He broke two bones in his arm
against Clemson, and had to be carted off the field. Albright is BC’s most
athletic defensive lineman. He is the most likely to make a play in the
backfield, and the most likely to chase a player down sideline to sideline. He
was second on the team with 10 tackles for loss, and first in sacks with 8.5.

Albright is a big loss because he brings athleticism to a defensive line that
lacks it for the most part. The Eagles are strong, physical, and do a pretty
good job of holding their gaps, but you aren’t going to catch Ron Brace (6-3,
325, Jr.) chasing down Branden Ore on the zone stretch.

With Albright out, defensive end Nick Larkin (6-4, 241, Sr.) becomes BC’s
best playmaker up front. He has eight tackles for loss and five sacks on the
year. However, Albright’s replacements have combined for just five tackles for
loss and two sacks on the year. The likely starter is Jim Ramella (6-4, 247,
So.), who has also seen some action at defensive tackle.

With the loss of Albright, BC doesn’t go nearly as deep on the defensive
line. Tech needs to control the clock and try to wear them down in the fourth
quarter with Branden Ore.

The secondary has also taken a big hit with the potential loss of 2nd Team
All-ACC cornerback DeJuan Tribble to a knee injury. Tribble is BC’s best cover
corner. He has four interceptions on the season, and leads the team with eight
passes defended. Tribble had started 36 consecutive games before the injury,
which occurred before the Miami game last week.

It’s likely that Tribble can’t go, and if that’s the case, then true
freshman DeLeon Gause (5-11, 179, Fr.) will get the start. He’ll be tested
repeatedly by Tech’s senior receivers. Gause will get plenty of safety help in
this one.

On many occasions, that help will come from Jamie Silva (5-11, 210, Sr.).
Silva is a 1st Team All-ACC safety who leads BC with five picks this season. He
is very good against the run. Silva leads the Eagles with 110 tackles, a full 31
tackles ahead of the #2 guy. Silva almost always finds a way to get himself
around the ball.

BC has some playmakers and depth at linebacker. Recently Jo-Lonn Dunbar (6-0,
226, Sr.) and Tyronne Pruitt (5-11, 226, Sr.) have missed some time with
injuries, but their backups have played very well. Mike McLaughlin (6-0, 250,
So.) filled in for Dunbar in the middle, while Kevin Akins (6-2, 220, Jr.)
manned up while Pruitt was out.

Akins and McLaughlin are listed as the starters heading into Saturday’s game,
but Dunbar and Pruitt will both play. They both played against Miami last week,
however Pruitt might not be quite 100%. Akins is a capable replacement, either
way.

Mark Herzlich (6-4, 238, So.) and Robert Francois (6-2, 240, Jr.) split time
at the other linebacker spot. Herzlich burst on the scene this year, and is the
second leading tackler on the team with 79. He also has 12 tackles for loss,
tops on the team, as well as 1.5 sacks, despite sharing time with Francois.
Francois has 31 tackles on the year.

Linebacker is BC’s best and deepest position. Expect to see all six guys get
playing time on Saturday.

Unlike the first meeting, BC will have to account for two quarterbacks.
Virginia Tech is using both Sean Glennon and Tyrod Taylor to maximum efficiency
right now. With their best pass rusher and best pass defender out, there should
be opportunities to pass the ball. However, Sean Glennon was effective running
the ball against BC in the first meeting (11 carries for 31 yards, when BC’s
three sacks are removed from the stats), so imagine what Tyrod Taylor could
potentially do.

Special Teams

Boston College has a solid kicking game, but they don’t return kicks
particularly well. Here is a look at their special teams stats.


BC Special Teams

Category

Stat

Nat. Rank

Net Punting

36.6 ypp

34

Kick Returns

19.78 ypr

90

Punt Returns

4.54 ypr

114

Kick Coverage

18.42 ypg

10

Punt Coverage

6.58 ypr

30

The Eagles do a great job covering kicks and punts, and their net punting is
very good. In the first meeting between these teams, BC punter Johnny Ayers
averaged 45.6 yards per punt, with a net of 40.3 yards. He was a big reason that
they were able to eventually win the game.

It’s unclear how much confidence BC has in kicker Steve Aponavicius. He is
10-of-15 on the season, but the Eagles turned down a good shot at a field goal
against Clemson two weeks back to go for a fairly difficult first down.

If this game comes down to a field goal kicking contest, Virginia Tech will
have the advantage with Jud Dunlevy. Dunlevy is 21-of-24 on the year, with a
long of 52. He is perfect from inside 40 yards, and 7-of-10 from beyond 40
yards. He is an excellent kicker, and may have a future at the next level.

If either team makes a huge play on special teams in this game, it is likely
to be the Hokies. They simply have more athletes to put on the field.

Conclusion

I liked Virginia Tech’s chances back in October, and for 54 minutes, I was
right. As I see it, Virginia Tech has a few advantages in this game, some that
they did not have in the first meeting.

  • Tyrod Taylor. The Hokies are a much more difficult offense to
    defense when using both Glennon and Taylor. They didn’t have this option in
    the first meeting.

  • Virginia Tech will have their entire starting offensive line.
    Ryan Shuman missed most of the last game with BC.

  • Vince Hall is back. ‘Nuff said.
  • Branden Ore is 100%.
  • BC is missing two of their best defenders.
  • VT has more team speed.
  • VT has more overall talent.
  • VT has more big game experience than BC.

For BC’s side, the only major advantage I can think of is Matt Ryan. Ryan is
a talented, 5th year quarterback. Many times, that’s enough to overcome the
numerous advantages of the opponent. He’s the great equalizer.

The weather in Jacksonville on Saturday is supposed to be warm and dry. That
helps Matt Ryan, but it also helps the Hokies, because they have more team speed
that the Eagles. Call that one a wash.

I don’t see this game being 14-10. Nowhere close, in fact. I don’t think it
will qualify as a shootout, but it will be a pretty high-scoring game, by
Virginia Tech standards. I think it will be a great game, as one of the nation’s
best quarterbacks goes head-to-head with one of the nation’s best defenses for
the second time this year.

In the end, I think the Hokies will pull out a close one. Everyone is playing
too well for Tech for me not to pick them. They are hitting on all cylinders,
especially at the quarterback position, where Sean Glennon has the highest
quarterback rating of any ACC passer in conference play, as well as the
fourth-lowest interception percentage (1.24%) of all time in the ACC. It will be
a great game, but I think VT gets the win and heads to the Orange Bowl for a
possible rematch with Georgia.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 31, Boston College 24

Will Stewart’s Take: For starters, I don’t think the revenge factor
will play much of a part in this Saturday’s festivities. It gets a lot of play
with fans and the media, but once the first five minutes of a game are over,
it’s all about executing the game plan.

Having said that, I’m running out of ways to say, “I think the Hokies
are going to win, and I don’t need stats or analysis to back it up, it’s just
going to happen.” So, I’ll just let that statement stand on its own. I
think the Hokies are going to win.

BC concerns me more than a little bit, because a quarterback of Matt Ryan’s
caliber is always something to be worried about, and the Eagles have somehow now
taken three out of the last four games against the Hokies, something I never
thought I would see. Nonetheless … I think the Hokies are going to win.

Boston College is a good team with a QB who is sometimes great. But in the
last month, since the first meeting, the Eagles have started to fray around the
edges, and they’ve lost some key players to injury, most notably on defense. The
Hokies, on the other hand, have tightened up, pulled together, started playing
their best football, and have regained two key players since the last matchup
(Vince Hall and Tyrod Taylor).

In my Monday Thoughts following the loss to BC, I flat-out blamed the loss on
the Hokie offense, which played fairly well — better than what we were used to
seeing at the time — but still only manufactured 265 yards and 10 points.

I don’t think VT is going to have the same problem this time around. With
Tech’s offensive momentum and BC’s player losses and gimpiness on defense, the
Hokie offense is going to be a much bigger factor in this game, in a positive
way. I think BC will have more offensive success than they had in the first
matchup, because of improved weather conditions and familiarity with Tech’s
defensive game plan against Matt Ryan, but the Tech offense is going to be the
separator in the Hokies’ second ACC championship in four years.

That’s all just talk, though. I just think the Hokies are going to win. No
real reason, they just are.

Will’s Prediction: Virginia Tech 27, Boston College 20

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