2005 Game Preview: #3 Virginia Tech vs. #14 Boston College

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Thursday, October 27th, 2005, 7:45

TV: ESPN

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Game time forecast, as of 3:30 pm Tuesday: Partly cloudy, 41 degrees, chance of
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Preview: #3 Virginia Tech (7-0, 4-0 ACC) vs. #14 Boston College (6-1, 3-1)


by Chris Coleman

With only one victory over a current Top 25 team this season, #3 Virginia
Tech will have a chance to change that statistic, as well as gain some valuable
points in the BCS, when #14 Boston College comes to town for a Thursday night
game on ESPN. Many Tech fans are undoubtedly looking forward to the November 5
matchup with Miami, but don�t forget about BC. This is probably their best
team since the Glenn Foley era.

This season has gone as expected for Boston College. They have won every game
they were supposed to win and lost the only game they were supposed to lose,
against Florida State. They currently stand at 6-1 and sit just outside the Top
Ten in every poll. The Eagles are 3-1 in conference, tied in the loss column
atop the Atlantic Division with FSU (6-1, 4-1 ACC).

This is a typical Boston College team. They are big and strong up front, they
play good defense, and they are well-coached. The biggest difference between
this team and previous teams is athletic ability. BC has a few more athletes,
especially on the defensive side of the ball, than in past years.

Still, their athletic ability doesn�t match that of the Hokies. The Eagles
will try to win the game by playing disciplined football and by blowing Tech off
the line of scrimmage, both of which will be hard to accomplish on a Thursday
night in Blacksburg.

The Boston College Offense

If you looked up the word �balanced� in the dictionary, you would
probably find the Boston College offense somewhere in the definition. The Eagles
are capable of running the ball and passing the ball. For the season, BC has
passed the ball 269 times and run the ball 269 times (that includes five sacks
by opposing defenses). They do a nice job of keeping opposing defenses on their
heels.

The starting quarterback for BC is senior Quinton Porter. Porter has been
banged up for most of the season, but he is an efficient quarterback, completing
65.2% of his passes. His injury in the Florida State game is said by many to be
the reason the �Noles escaped Chestnut Hill with a 28-17 victory. Despite
Porter�s seniority, there may be a bit of a quarterback controversy brewing in
Beantown.

When the Eagles trailed Wake Forest late in the game on October 15, BC head
coach Tom O�Brien decided to pull Porter, who had thrown three interceptions,
and go with sophomore Matt Ryan. Ryan responded by going 7-9 with two touchdown
passes, including the game winner. Porter has already been named the starter
heading into the Virginia Tech game, but if he struggles don�t be surprised to
see him replaced with the younger Ryan.

The tailback position is manned by two solid sophomores, L.V. Whitworth and
Andre Callender. At 6-0, 220, Whitworth is the bigger back and receives the most
carries. For the season he has 473 yards rushing on 104 carries. Callender only
has 80 carries on the season, but has gained 422 yards, which is good for an
average of 5.3 yards per carry. That is nearly a yard better than Whitworth�s
average, which is 4.5.

Whitworth and Callender will run behind the biggest and strongest offensive
line the Hokies will see all season. They average over 315 pounds per man. Throw
in tight end Chris Miller, who is huge for a tight end at 6-5, 269, and the Tech
front seven will be in for quite a challenge.

The Eagles are likely to enjoy some success running the football. It would be
virtually impossible not to, given the size and strength of the offensive line.
Don�t expect BC to run to the outside very much. That would be playing right
into the hands of a speedy Tech defense. Expect them to run between the tackles
against VT. They will try to push the Hokies around, and Tech must match BC�s
physical play.

Boston College will move the ball on the ground somewhat, but they must be
balanced to beat the Hokies. There will be a tremendous challenge placed on the
wide receivers to beat the Virginia Tech defensive backs.

The Eagle passing game has been good this season, averaging 264 yards per
game through the air, which ranks 26th nationally and second in the ACC. However
they don�t appear to have the personnel to beat the Virginia Tech defensive
secondary, which ranks second in the nation by giving up only 136.6 passing
yards per game. The Hokie defensive backs are big and fast and present some
major matchup problems from a size standpoint for the BC wideouts.

BC�s biggest wideout is converted cornerback Will Blackmon, who is 6-1,
200. He is the leading receiver on the team, with 28 receptions for 288 yards on
the season. Blackmon is very athletic, and his relatively low yards per catch
average is a bit surprising. After Blackmon, the Eagle wide receivers are small.
Larry Lester, 5-8, 180, is the other starter. If the 6-3, 216 Jimmy Williams
played bump and run on Lester all game long, he might never get off the line of
scrimmage.

The other BC wideouts are Tony Gonzalez (5-11, 190), Brandon Robinson (5-11,
191) and Taylor Sele (6-0, 203). Sele has good size, but none of these receivers
appear to have the ability to consistently beat the Tech defensive backs.

Boston College will not be able to get their balanced offensive attack going
in this game, and that generally spells doom for visiting teams in a night game
at Lane Stadium.

The Boston College Defense

The Virginia Tech offense will have another tremendous challenge on their
hands when they face the BC defense, a unit that ranks seventh in the nation in
total defense, allowing just 272.1 yards per game. The Eagles are particularly
strong in rushing defense, allowing just 77.71 yards per game, which ranks
fourth in the nation.

The Boston College defensive line is very good, but they have been banged up
in recent weeks. Mathias Kiwanuka is an All-American defensive end who was named
the Preseason ACC Defensive Player of the Year by the media. He is tall and
rangy (6-7, 262). He is difficult to pass block against because of his arm
length and quickness. Kiwanuka missed the Wake Forest game on October 15 because
of an MCL sprain, and his status for Thursday�s game is still in question. He
is currently not listed on the depth chart on the BC website, which likely means
things are not looking good at this point. Defensive tackle Al Washington missed
the Wake Forest game with an injury, but he is back on the depth chart for
Thursday�s game.

If Kiwanuka is out, BC will be starting two sophomores, a r-freshman and a
senior along the defensive line. Defensive tackle B.J. Raji is huge at 6-1, 337,
and will take up a lot of space and likely two blockers. Raji has 3.5 tackles
for loss on the year. Al Washington is the other defensive tackle, and he is a
disruptor. He has 5 tackles for loss and three sacks this season.

The entire BC defensive line has done a good job of playing in the opponents’
backfield this season. Kiwanuka has 4.5 tackles for loss, r-freshman defensive
end Keith Willis has two, and sophomore defensive end Nick Larkin has four.

Ray Henderson and Brian Toal are BC�s best linebackers. Henderson is an
experienced senior who is rock solid at 6-3, 245. He is second on the team in
tackles with 41, and he has 4.5 tackles for loss. Toal is a true sophomore who
was once a Virginia Tech recruiting target. He is a playmaker with 5.5 tackles
for loss and two sacks on the season. Toal is also used as a fullback in goal
line situations. He has six rushing touchdowns this season on just 20 carries.

As you can see, the entire Boston College defense likes to play on the other
side of the line of scrimmage. The Eagle defense has made 52 tackles for loss on
the season. As a side note, the BC offensive line has allowed only 28 tackles
for loss, an outstanding ratio. To compare the two teams, VT has made 44 tackles
for loss and allowed 46, a bad ratio. The Tech offensive line better be ready to
play.

The Hokies should matchup very well with Boston College in the passing game.
The Eagles are undersized at cornerback, and VT will try and get their bigger
receivers involved in the game. DeJuan Tribble stands 5-9, 189 at one corner
spot. The other corner, Jazzmen Williams is just 5-8, 179.

David Clowney will be a big target for Marcus Vick, as usual. Perhaps the
most physically gifted Tech receiver is Josh Morgan, who is 6-1, 215. Tech
should try and get the ball to Morgan in man-to-man coverage against the smaller
Eagle cornerbacks. He should be able to use his size to his advantage. Justin
Harper, 6-3, 210, is another big option for the Hokies.

None of this is meant to discount Eddie Royal, who is capable of having a big
game as well. Royal is very strong for his size with a 380-pound bench press.
Tribble and Williams are about the same size as Royal, but he can outmuscle them
for the football.

And of course, the Hokies have Marcus Vick. His brother Michael always had
tremendous success running the ball against Boston College. BC has improved
their athleticism since Michael played, but how much? We will know the answer
when we see how Marcus does in the running game. He is coming off the best
rushing performance of his career against Maryland, and he could be in for a big
game against the Eagles as well. If BC is able to limit Vick on the ground, then
they have come a long way in improving the athleticism of their program.

Prediction

Before you finalize that prediction of a Virginia Tech blowout, consider
this. Boston College has covered the spread against the Hokies in the past five
meetings. VT is favored by 14 this year, so expecting a fairly close game, or
even a very close game, is not unreasonable. I don�t think the Hokies will be
looking ahead, but it�s possible. If you are going to overlook a top 15 team
for someone, that someone would be Miami.

But I don�t think the Hokies will be overlooking Boston College. The team
will be pumped up and ready go to. This will be the first night game at Lane
Stadium this year, with a brand new lighting system to enhance the experience.
Virginia Tech is ranked #3 in the country and is a legitimate national
championship contender. Tech fans have had to wait awhile for a home night game
this year, and Blacksburg will be ready to explode.

The Hokies will be too talented, too fast and too fired up for BC to win this
game. VT is 10-0 in Thursday night games since Boston College knocked them off
20-14 ten years ago in Blacksburg. Make it 11-0.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 31, Boston College 13

Will Stewart’s Take: I’ve made the statement many times that I will never
pick Boston College to beat Virginia Tech. Tom O’Brien has done an excellent job
rebuilding the BC program from its mid-90s gambling scandal, and slowly but
surely he has built the talent base and stepped the program up. The Eagles have
quietly gone to six straight bowl games, indicating a consistency that many
programs would love to have.

But I’ll never pick BC to beat Tech. Not while Frank Beamer is coaching the
Hokies, at least. The brand of football Tech plays is tough for BC to match up
with. I picture Boston College as workmanlike and disciplined, and that works
well against inferior teams and teams that lack the speed of VT. But when the
Eagles run up against a faster, more athletic team, they struggle, despite
having increased the general athleticism of their squad.

Add in the Thursday night Lane Stadium atmosphere, and it’s tough for the
Eagles to overcome all that.

I expect the Hokies to win, and what I’ll be looking for is how they
win. VT didn’t play a disciplined game against Maryland last Thursday, and I’ll
be looking to see if they put the turnovers and penalties behind them and get
back to the crisp, mistake-free play of the first six games.

The Hokies won’t run the Eagles off the field, but the margin of victory will
be more than one score.

Will’s Prediction: Virginia Tech 24, Boston College 10

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