2006 Football Game Preview: Virginia Tech at Boston College

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Thursday, October 12th, 2006, 7:30

TV: ESPN

Forecast (from WeatherUnderground.com):

Click the “Chestnut Hill Weather” link to the right.
Game time forecast, as of 3:00 pm Tuesday: Light rain, 56 degrees. Chance of
rain 70%.


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


Game Preview: #17 VT (4-1, 2-1 ACC) vs. #25 BC (4-1, 1-1)


by Chris Coleman, TechSideline.com

In two days, you’ll find out a lot about the Virginia Tech football team.
It was tough to get much of a read through the first four games. And even last
week against Georgia Tech, the Hokies were probably capable of playing better
than they did. We’ll all have a better understanding of where this team is
after they play a solid team like Boston College on the road.

North Carolina was not a road challenge, though many of us thought they would
be. Boston College will be heading to a bowl game yet again this season, and
they won’t lay down for the Hokies. In fact, the Golden Eagles will see this
as their best chance to beat Virginia Tech in quite some time.

Boston College enters the game with a 4-1 overall record, and a 1-1 mark in
the ACC. The Eagles can legitimately say that they are just one play away from
being undefeated, as Daniel Evans’ heave to the corner of the end zone with
just eight seconds remaining propelled NC State past BC 17-15.

Despite the nice record, BC has been very close to having a poor season.
After jumping up on Central Michigan 31-10 in the season opener, they nearly
blew the game, coming away with a narrow 31-24 win. Their best win came in
double overtime 34-33 against Clemson, but they followed that up by barely
beating BYU in double overtime. After the loss to NC State, they had a lethargic
22-0 win over Division 1-AA Maine.

The Boston College Offense

Remember the days when BC was a power running team, behind future NFL linemen
such as Pete Kendall and Damien Woody? No longer. The Eagles are a team that
depends primarily on the passing game. They still have a big, physical offensive
line, but they aren’t quite as good as they used to be, and they don’t have
a game breaking tailback.

The
offense revolves around the arm of junior quarterback Matt Ryan. Ryan is a pure
pocket passer at 6-5, 218, and he is probably going to draw an NFL paycheck at
some point. He is averaging 244.4 yards per game through the air and has
completed 60% of his passes with seven touchdowns and just three interceptions
through five games.

In fact, Ryan and Virginia Tech’s Sean Glennon are the only two
quarterbacks in the ACC that are averaging over 200 passing yards per game. Both
teams are traditionally known for their running attacks, but the Hokies are 90th
in the nation on the ground this year, while BC is averaging just 3.8 yards per
carry as a team and just 126 yards per game on the ground, a low number for Tom
O’Brien’s squad.

BC’s ground game features the effective duo of juniors L.V. Whitworth and
Andre Callender. Whitworth is the starter, and he has rushed for 314 yards and
one touchdown on the season, while averaging 4.4 yards per carry. He is a
bruiser at 5-11, 216, and he’s a back that defenders get tired of tackling as
the game goes on.

As good as Whitworth is, BC’s backup might be better. Andre Callender has
266 yards and a touchdown this year, but is averaging 4.8 yards per carry, more
than Whitworth. At 5-11, 204, Callender isn’t as big as Whitworth, but he is
more elusive and shifty in the open field.

One would think that a bruiser like Whitworth would be most effective against
the fast Hokie defense, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Tashard Choice of
Georgia Tech ran all over the Hokies back on September 30, and he is known for
his agility and moves in the open field, rather than his power.

Blocking for the two experienced Boston College running backs is a big
offensive line that has most of its experience on the right side. Josh Beekman,
6-1, 331, is BC’s biggest offensive lineman, weight-wise. He starts at right
guard for the Eagles, and is very tough to move off the line of scrimmage. He
was a Second Team All-ACC player last season.

His partner on the right side is junior right tackle Gosder Cherilus.
Cherilus is a prototypical offensive tackle, measuring 6-7, 318. He has started
every game of his career and brings a wealth of experience to the table. The
other offensive tackle is 6-8, 307 senior James Marten. Marten was a starting
guard last season, despite his height. The presence of two tall offensive
tackles in Cherilus and Marten has belped BC to limit their opponents to just
five quarterback sacks on the season.

Ryan’s solid offensive line gives him time to throw the football to two
undersized but effective receivers. BC’s leading receiver is Kevin Challenger,
who has caught 21 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns on the season. The
junior has caught more passes this season than in his previous two seasons
combined (18 catches).

Challenger is a good player, but he is extremely undersized at 5-9, 178
(According to the BC depth chart. The BC roster actually lists him at 5-8.)
Virginia Tech has three physical and aggressive cornerbacks in Brandon Flowers,
Macho Harris and Roland Minor. Harris (6-0, 200) and Minor (6-0, 203) greatly
overshadow Challenger, and he’ll likely have a tough time in this game,
especially if the Hokies jam him at the line of scrimmage.

BC’s other receiver is Tony Gonzalez. He is bigger than Challenger at 5-10,
202. He has 19 catches for 214 yards and four touchdowns on the season, and he
could be considered BC’s best playmaker on the outside. Challenger is capable
of making some very athletic catches, and he isn’t afraid to make the catch in
traffic.

Boston College does not have a receiver taller than 5-10 in the two deep. The
Hokies have a big matchup advantage against the Eagles on the outside, and I
feel very comfortable with the Tech cornerbacks matched up against the BC
receivers in one-on-one coverage.

I believe Boston College will have to run the ball to beat Virginia Tech. It’s
imperative that the Hokie front seven come to play from the opening snap and set
the tempo of the game. They can’t allow Boston College to establish the
running game as Georgia Tech did.

The Boston College Defense

Boston College is big and strong on the defensive line, especially on the
interior. Their two defensive tackles are going to give the Virginia Tech
interior offensive line a lot of trouble.

Defensive
tackle B.J. Raji is the most experienced player up front. At 6-1, 340, he can
really plug his gap. He has 4.5 tackles for loss through the first five games of
the season, which is more than any player on Virginia Tech’s team.

His partner in crime on the inside is defensive tackle Ron Brace, who
measures in at 6-3, 335. Brace has been injured for part of the season. Although
he has missed just one game, he hasn’t been 100% healthy for most of the
season. Like Raji, he is obviously a huge player on the inside and will be very
difficult to move.

BC’s size extends to their defensive ends as well, where r-freshman Brady
Smith will start at left defensive end. Smith is 6-2, 285, which is a bit short
and heavy for a regular defensive end. He has also seen time at defensive tackle
this season, so look for him to play on the inside and outside against the
Hokies.

The other defensive end is Nick Larkin. Larkin is 6-4, 250, and is the
smallest starting lineman for Boston College. He has four tackles for loss and
1.5 sacks on the season.

BC has more athletic linebackers than usual. The leading tackler on the team
is middle linebacker Jolonn Dunbar. Dunbar has 39 tackles, including two tackles
for loss on the season. Tyrone Pruitt is the smallest BC linebacker at 5-11,
220, but he can get into the backfield. He has 3.5 tackles for loss on the
season.

The Eagles’ best linebacker, Brian Toal, has been bothered by injuries to
both shoulders since the Clemson game, which has limited his appearances to
mostly goal line situations on offense. At this point, the BC depth chart does
not list Toal as a starter, but he is expected to be back for the Virginia Tech
game. If he can’t go, or he is not 100%, that would benefit the Hokies quite a
bit in the running game.

If Toal can’t go, Robert Francois will get the start in his place. Francois
has made 26 tackles in five games, but only 1.5 have been for a loss.

The BC front seven is very solid, holding opponents to 112.6 yards per game
on the ground, which is 38th in the nation. From that standpoint, they have a
big advantage over Tech’s running offense, which features inexperience on the
interior. Center Danny McGrath, at just 290, will also have trouble with BC’s
huge defensive tackles.

As much as the BC defensive front matches up well with Tech, their secondary
does not. Boston College gives up 257.8 yards per game through the air, which
ranks 109th in the nation, and that’s after shutting out Maine. Opposing teams
have been shredding the Eagles through the air this season.

Boston College cornerback Larry Anam is second on the team in tackles this
season with 31. It’s not a good thing when your starting cornerback makes that
many tackles. Anam has zero interceptions and zero passes defended on the season
as well, showing that he is incapable of making big plays.

Anam does have solid size at 5-11, 196. On the other side of the field,
DeJuan Tribble checks in at 5-9, 190. His height makes him a bad matchup against
the likes of David Clowney, Josh Morgan and Justin Harper, particularly Harper.

Furthermore, Boston College only has eight sacks through five games. They don’t
put a lot of pressure on the quarterback, so Sean Glennon should have time to
work. The Eagles can’t risk blitzing a lot, because that puts their below
average cornerbacks on an island with Tech’s outstanding receivers.

The best BC defensive back is free safety Jamie Silva. Silva is a physical
player who is third on the team in tackles. He actually heads the team in
tackles for loss with five, which is very impressive for a free safety.

While the Eagles certainly have the size advantage on the inside, Virginia
Tech holds the speed advantage at wide receiver and running back. The Tech
receivers will have a chance for a lot of big plays, and Branden Ore can run
wild if he can find an opening somewhere in the defense. It should be a very
interesting matchup, considering both sides hold a big advantage at certain
spots when the Hokies have the ball.

Special Teams

The big news is that Boston College kicker Ryan Ohliger has been suspended
indefinitely for a violation of team rules. Ohliger was 7-of-11 on the year on
field goal attempts, but just 11-of-14 on extra points. He will be replaced by
walk-on Steve Aponavicius, who has never kicked in a college game.

The Hokies hold a big advantage in that area, especially if they can block a
field goal, or even an extra point, somewhere during the game and get in the
young kicker’s head. Brandon Pace should be able to win this matchup for the
Hokies.

Johnny Ayers, who doubles as the shortstop for the BC baseball team, handles
the punting for the Eagles. He is very good, averaging 42.8 yards per punt on
the season. He has pinned opponents inside their 20 on eight occasions.

Boston College is very dangerous on kickoff returns. Jeff Smith already has
one 96 yard return for a touchdown, and DeJuan Tribble is also averaging 23.1
yards per return, with a long return of 50 yards. Jared Develli will be very
important in this game. If he can continue to boot his kickoffs through the end
zone, he can negate BC’s advantage in the return game.

Conclusion

This game is huge for the Hokies. If they win, they’re 3-1 in the ACC and
still have a chance to win the Coastal Division. If they lose, they drop to 2-2
in conference play and find themselves in a bad situation with Southern Miss,
Clemson and Miami on the horizon. I don’t like to add pressure to an already
pressure-filled situation, but I think a lot of Tech fans need to realize that
this is a must-win game.

If the Hokies win, they’ll go on as normal. They’ll have a good, or maybe
a great season, depending on how they progress (the rest of the ACC is bad
enough that this team could conceivably still find itself in a BCS bowl), and
find themselves in yet another bowl game. But if they lose, questions will start
to pop up. They’ll start to question themselves, and that’s never good for a
young team.

I like the Hokies’ superior athleticism and play making ability in this
game. Only one thing worries me. Forecasts call for a 70% chance of rain on
Thursday night in Chestnut Hill. Although the forecasts says “light rain”, I
would much prefer optimum game conditions (clear, no wind) for Sean Glennon and
his receivers to operate. They have a huge advantage over the BC defensive
backs, and rain could negate some of that.

That being said, as long as the rain stays “light”, I still like Virginia
Tech. I think they’ll make enough plays to stay at arm’s length for most of
the night, and they’ll pull away at the end with a big play from either the
offense or the defense.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 30, Boston College 17

Will Stewart’s Take: One thing you need to know right off the bat is that I
will never pick Boston College to beat Virginia Tech, not unless something
changes drastically among the two teams. After struggling with BC early in their
Big East days, the Hokies have had the Eagles’ number since 1996, going 8-1 over
the last ten years. (The two teams took 2004 off as BC was one year late
following the Hokies to the ACC.)

VT matches up well with BC year in and year out, mostly with regards to
speed. Tech’s got it, while Boston College generally doesn’t, and it makes the
difference in this series. That’s why I will never pick BC to beat the Hokies.

Does that mean the Eagles can’t pull off a win? Of course not. They managed
it in 2003, beating VT 34-27 in Blacksburg. If they get those big uglies going,
and Matt Ryan gets in a groove, it could spell trouble for Tech.

But I’m about to predict a win, so I’ll tell you how Tech’s going to win, not
how they could lose. I think the Hokies will rebound nicely from the Georgia
Tech game. The defense is steamed over their performance against the Jackets, so
they’ll come back strong. Offensively, I think Tech will continue to struggle in
the running game, but Sean Glennon is developing rapidly, and he and the Hokie
receivers are hitting their stride. I like Tech’s matchup there. On the special
teams front, Tech could leverage a big advantage, with Ohliger out. I like the
way things are lining up.

I think BC is going to score some points, one way or another, mainly because
I don’t trust Tech’s defensive tackles to get a consistent push, and that gums
up the whole works on defense. So the Eagles will have some success running and
passing, I think. It’s also likely that the Hokies will turn the ball over,
because Glennon has been getting away with some risky passes, and that’s going
to catch up to him sooner or later. Sure, BC’s pass defense isn’t strong, but
weak or not, they’ll benefit from Glennon’s inexperience, setting up 1-2 easy
scores.

VT will be dependent upon the passing game to move and score, though, barring
an unforeseen step forward for Tech’s rushing offense. Even if it is raining,
I’m going to lay my money on Glennon and company getting it done.

Without any inside knowledge of where VT’s collective head is, I just think
that the Hokies are going to come together and play one of their better games of
the season Thursday night. I freely admit that my prediction is based more on
gut feel than analysis, and the rest of the season could be rocky at times, but
I like the Hokies in this one. Tech will get ahead and stay ahead, and BC will
score late to make a not-so-close game look closer.

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

2006 TSL Football Game Predictions
(Through Cincinnati; Closest Prediction Highlighted)

Game
Chris’
Prediction
(2 wins)
Will’s
Prediction
(2 wins)
Phil’s
Projection
(2 wins)

Result
N’Eastern 65-0 63-7 49-3 38-0
UNC 23-10 27-10 24-9 35-10
Duke 34-0 30-3 37-0 36-0
Cincinnati 34-6 31-3 38-3 29-13
GT 13-16 10-17 24-9 27-38

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