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Despite last week’s loss, all of Virginia Tech’s goals are still on the table. A win over BC will set up a Coastal Division showdown with Miami, albeit the game won’t be quite as big on a national level now. Heck, even a loss to BC will still set up a showdown with Miami that would likely decide the Coastal, assuming the Canes get trounced by FSU this weekend as expected.
However, that’s easier said than done. BC is an improved football team under Steve Addazio. They are tougher, their running game is better, and their passing game is more efficient. They still have a major lack in skill position talent on both sides of the ball, but I think Addazio is getting the most out of what he has.
For what it’s worth, Addazio and Scot Loeffler served on the same staff at Florida, and Loeffler later became Addazio’s offensive coordinator at Temple.
Trips to Boston
Even when Virginia Tech wins in Boston, it’s usually not too pretty. The losses have been downright ugly.
2012: 30-23 W (OT)
2010: 19-0 W
2008: 28-23 L
2006: 22-3 L
When I think about the Bryan Stinespring era as offensive coordinator, those 2006 and 2008 BC games are near the front of my mind. Nothing sums up that era better than those two Thursday night disasters on national TV. It certainly wasn’t all Stiney’s fault, but it was games like those two that eventually led to the staff changes.
Even when the Hokies have won in Boston, it took overtime against a 2-10 BC team to get it done last season, and the 19-0 win in 2010 was uninspiring and completely boring.
Guess what? Saturday’s game isn’t likely to be any prettier than those last four trips to Boston. The Eagles don’t have much of a passing game, the Hokies don’t have much of a running game, and Logan Thomas is inconsistent.
The BC offense
Andre Williams (6-0, 227, Sr.) has exploded on the scene in his fourth season at BC. He has 183 carries for 1010 yards (5.5 ypc) and eight touchdowns this season. Nobody saw it coming based on his first three seasons.
2010: 95 carries, 461 yards, 4.9 ypc, 2 TD
2011: 124 carries, 517 yards, 4.2 ypc, 4 TD
2012: 130 carries, 604 yards, 4.6 ypc, 4 TD
He’s been a solid back, but not the #1 workhorse. This year has been different, however. Check out his yardage on a week by week basis:
Wake Forest: 202
Only the Fighting Lane Kiffins and Clemson have been able to do anything with Williams, yet he did manage to do this to a Clemson defender:
As usual, BC has a big offensive line with experience.
LT Matt Patchan (6-6, 300, Sr.): Patchan is a transfer from Florida who started eight games for the Gators.
LG Bobby Vardaro (6-5, 310, Jr.): He has been starting at left guard since he was a r-freshman.
C Andy Gallik (6-3, 302, Jr.): Gallik is in his third season as a starter and he’s a very experienced player. He might be BC’s top offensive lineman.
RG Harris Williams (6-3, 298, Jr.): Williams is in his first season as a starter for the Eagles.
RT Ian White (6-5, 302, Sr.): White has been a major contributor to BC’s offensive line since his freshman season.
That offensive line has helped power a running game that has averaged 176.6 yards per game. They will be one of the most physical lines the Hokies face this season. Look for Virginia Tech to use a lot of eight-man fronts and wide tackle six type of schemes against BC’s power formations. We could very well see Dadi Nicolas playing the whip spot in this game, because the Eagles use so many power formations and they aren’t a huge threat through the air.
Chase Rettig (6-3, 206, Sr.) is BC’s quarterback. He is on his fourth offensive coordinator in five seasons at Boston College. He’s having a good senior season, completing 62% of his passes for 1,140 yards, with 10 touchdowns and just four interceptions.
In two games against Virginia Tech, Chase Rettig has put up nearly identical numbers.
2011: 13-of-30 for 181 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
2012: 13-of-30 for 129, 1 TD and 1 INT
He’s doing a good job of managing the BC offense this year. He limits his mistakes, and he’s generally an efficient quarterback. That’s not easy to do, considering BC’s lack of playmakers on offense. Here’s a look at their leaders in receptions:
WR Alex Amidon (6-0, 182, Sr.): 46 catches, 585 yards, 3 TDs
FB Bobby Wolford (6-2, 233, r-Fr.): 8 catches, 90 yards, 1 TD
WR Dave Dudeck (5-11, 190, So.): 8 catches, 58 yards, 1 TD
TE C.J. Parsons (6-6, 253, Jr.): 5 catches, 65 yards, 2 TDs
WR Brian Miller (6-3, 241, So.): 5 catches, 60 yards, 0 TD
Yes, you read that correctly. BC’s second leading receiver is a fullback, and he’s actually the backup fullback. Alex Amidon has to stay healthy for the Eagles. If he doesn’t, then their passing game will completely disappear.
Because they are so limited at receiver, and also because they have a solid line and a good running back, the Eagles don’t spend a lot of time throwing the football around.
Rushing attempts: 275
Passing attempts: 152
Compare that to Virginia Tech’s ratio:
Rushing attempts: 299
Passing attempts: 252
The Eagles know what they are. They are a team that is very limited in skill position talent, so they try to run the football a lot to shorten the game. It’s the proper strategy. Expect to see them try and pound the Tech defense with Andre Williams all afternoon.
I like the matchup of the Virginia Tech defense against just about anyone. I really like the matchup against Boston College. The Eagles literally only have one passing threat, their quarterback is more of the “solid” variety than the “good” variety, and they don’t try to fool you. They will line up and run it right at defenses. This should be an offense that the Hokies handle with relative ease.
I think Tech will stack the box and trust that their corners can handle the BC receivers. I think we’ll see Dadi Nicolas at whip rushing the passer, and I think we’ll see a lot of blitzing. Tech sacked BC seven times last season, and the Eagles are only #82 nationally in sacks this season. If the Hokies are focused, which they’ve been all season defensively, they will completely shut down this BC offense.
The Boston College Defense
The Eagles are big and physical up front defensively, though they haven’t had a lot of success stopping teams. Here’s the total yardage they’ve given up each game:
Wake Forest: 246
As you can see, that defense hasn’t been very good recently. The Eagles allow 180.7 yards per game on the ground, and 236.4 yards per game through the air. Opposing quarterbacks have completed 66.8% of their passes, and have a 13-5 touchdown to interception ratio.
This is a physical group, and though they lack overall talent and athleticism, they can make up for it with experience and toughness. You can bet that they’ll provide trouble for the Tech offense.
DE Kaleb Ramsey (6-3, 285, Sr.): Ramsey is a sixth year senior. He has four tackles for loss and two sacks on the season. He has played both end and tackle in his career.
DT Jaryd Rudolph (6-3, 275, Sr.): Rudolph hardly played at all until this year, his senior season. He’s not a playmaking threat.
DT Dominic Appiah (6-5, 291, Jr.): Appiah has three tackles this year in a backup role. He is expected to get the start this week over Conner Wujciak (6-3, 300, So.), who was a 4-star DE recruit coming out of high school. Wujciak has two TFL this season.
DE Kasim Edebali (6-3, 246, Sr.): Edebali is BC’s most athletic defensive lineman. He leads the team in both TFL (8) and sacks (5.5).
SLB Kevin Pierre-Louis (6-1, 225, Sr.): It seems like Pierre-Louis has been around forever. He’s finally in his last season at BC. He leads the team with 65 tackles, and he also has 5.5 TFL and two sacks. He was a major recruit coming out of high school, and he’s expected to be taken in the mid rounds in the NFL Draft.
MLB Steele Divitto (6-2, 237, Sr.): This guy has the perfect middle linebacker name. Divitto isn’t going to wow anyone with his athletic ability, but he’s a solid player, and he can be tough against the run. He’ll be in an NFL camp next season, though it won’t be as a draftee.
WLB Steven Daniels (6-0, 249, So.): Daniels is in his first year as a starter, and he’s one of the defense’s better playmakers with 4.5 TFL and two sacks.
That’s a big defensive front, and an experienced defensive front. However, they aren’t the most talented front seven on the planet. Sounds like Duke, right? Actually, the Hokies ran the ball pretty well against this BC defense last season:
Tony Gregory: 14 carries, 69 yards
J.C. Coleman: 12 carries, 48 yards
Martin Scales: 7 carries, 27 yards
Can the Hokies get the running game going against BC again? Well, Nick Becton is currently playing for the San Diego Chargers. Vinston Painter is on Denver’s practice squad. Ryan Malleck, who was a key blocker for Tech last season, is out with an injury. Considering how the running game has gone almost all season, I don’t like Tech’s chances of establishing a ground game this weekend despite the fact that BC’s run defense hasn’t been sound.
LC Manuel Asprilla (5-11, 177, Jr.): Asprilla has been starting since his freshman season, and he’s BC’s best corner. He’s not afraid to come up and get involved in the running game, either. Asprilla is second on the team with seven TFL.
SS Dominique Williams (6-0, 212, Jr.): Williams is in his first season as a starter at BC. I think he can be a target of the Tech offense.
FS Sean Sylvia (6-0, 208, Jr.): Sylvia has started at cornerback and FS for BC, but this season he’s at his natural free safety position. Like most of BC’s secondary, he’s vulnerable.
RC Bryce Jones (6-1, 166, So.): Jones is the youngest member of the BC secondary. He leads the team with two interceptions on the season, and he also has two fumble recoveries.
Just going off recruiting rankings, BC has a lot more talent in the front seven, including three four-star recruits. I believe the BC linebacker corps is very underrated. There’s no Luke Kuechly or Mark Herzlich here, but they are solid across the board.
Kaleb Ramsey: 3-star
Jaryd Rudolph: 2-stars
Connor Wujciak: 4-stars
Kasim Edebali: 2-stars
Kevin Pierre-Louis: 4-stars
Steele Divitto: 3-stars
Steven Daniels: 4-stars
CB Manuel Asprilla: 2-stars
SS Dominique Williams: 2-stars
FS Sean Sylvia: 3-stars
CB Bryce Jones: 2-stars
However, the secondary should be considered weak. Manuel Asprilla’s only listed offer was BC. Same for Sean Sylvia. Same for Dominique Williams. Bryce Jones had a couple of offers from non-BCS schools. When all four of your starting defensive backs did not have one single offer from another BCS conference school, then that likely means there is a talent issue. That would explain their #115 national ranking in pass efficiency defense, and the fact that as a team they only have five interceptions this year.
However, will the Hokies be good enough to take advantage of it? Your guess is as good as mine.
The Eagles lost punt returner Spiffy Evans to an injury, and he had BC ranked #22 nationally in punt returns. His replacement, Dave Dudeck, isn’t as explosive, so BC’s biggest special teams threat has been taken away. They rank only #74 in kickoff returns, with Myles Willis (25.9 ypr) being the biggest threat.
Kicker Nate Freese (5-11, 192, Sr.) is yet another BC player who seems like he’s been around forever. He’s been starting since his freshman season, and he’s a very good kicker. He’s a perfect 7-of-7 on the season, with a long of 49 yards. If this game comes down to a battle of kickers, I do not like Virginia Tech’s chances.
Freese also serves as BC’s punter, and he’s averaging a respectable 41.9 yards per punt. The Eagles rank #46 nationally in net punting.
Logan Thomas is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.
Logan was nearly perfect against Georgia Tech, UNC and Pitt. He bookended those three games with these two performances:
Marshall: 18-of-34 for 181 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTS
Duke: 21-of-38 for 214 yards, 0 TD, 4 INT
And remember, that touchdown pass against Marshall was a pass than should have been intercepted by the Marshall safety. It hit him right in the hands. Logan easily could have had no touchdowns and seven interceptions in those two games.
At this point, how do you predict which Logan Thomas will show up? I don’t know. There really isn’t any rhyme or reason to it. Sometimes he’s good, and sometimes he’s bad. There’s not a lot of in between.
Boston College is improved, tough, and they are well-coached. However, they still aren’t that good. They suffer from a major lack of talent at the skilled positions. Assuming the Tech defense plays like its normal self, I’d have a very hard time seeing Tech losing this game if the offense doesn’t turn the ball over. If they do turn it over, all bets are off.
In the end, games are about matchups, and the matchups in this one favor the Hokies. The BC offense doesn’t have any business scoring on the Tech defense, which means it will come down to Logan Thomas and turnovers. That’s the unknown part. Which Logan Thomas will show up? I don’t know. I’m guessing that he’ll do better this week.
Chris’ Prediction: Virginia Tech 17, Boston College 7
Will Stewart’s Take: It’s been a long week (and it’s only Thursday), full of second-guessing, questioning players and coaches, and over-analyzing a four-turnover day by the starting quarterback. It erodes your confidence.
I’m strongly inclined to pick the Hokies to lose this one, but that’s probably because the last time I saw VT play, they were losing at home to Duke, and the last time I saw Boston College play, they were giving Florida State a hard time (which is more than Clemson and Maryland, and soon Miami, can say). Add in the “Chestnut Hill” factor, and it looks foreboding.
But I did not see Boston College get slapped around by UNC (34-10) last weekend. What if I had, and what if the last VT game I had watched was the Georgia Tech game?
Now I’m feeling a little better.
This game is half about the matchups, and half about playing in Chestnut Hill. I like the matchups, but I don’t like playing in Chestnut Hill.
Matchups: Boston College is a one-dimensional offensive team, and though that dimension is very good — Andre Williams running the football — I don’t think it’s going to be enough. The Hokies have the #5 rush defense in the nation, which means that there will be many times the Eagles will have to pass, and though Chase Rettig is much improved (#42 in the nation in pass efficiency), he’ll be going up against the #2 pass defense and #1 pass efficiency defense in the nation … with just one reliable receiver, Alex Amidon.
It’s just hard to imagine Boston College putting many yards on the Hokie defense. So as always, it comes down to a question of what the Hokie offense will do.
Here’s where things appear to get dicey, and not just for the usual reasons. Once again, the Hokie offense is going up against a defense with much more experience. The Eagles start five seniors, four juniors, and two sophomores on defense. (That’s more experience — or at least age — than the Duke defense that just carried out a strong game plan successfully last Saturday.) On offense, the Hokies start two seniors, three juniors, one sophomore, and five freshmen. This isn’t new ground we’re covering here.
But as Chris noted in his preview, although the BC defense is mature, it’s not very good, ranking #86 in the nation overall and #115 in pass efficiency defense. That plays into the hands of the Hokies, who relied on the passing game during their six-game winning streak that was finally broken last Saturday.
I like the matchups on both sides of the ball. I’m not saying VT’s going to hang 40 points on Boston College, because as Bill King puts it, that wouldn’t be responsible.
Playing in Chestnut Hill: Ah, this is where matchups go out the window. Ever since the 1996 blowout, the Hokies have gone 5-2 in Alumni Stadium, which sounds good, but the margin has only been 168-130, or an average score of 24-19 in favor of VT. That’s not exactly blowing them out, and the margin gets tighter the more recent you get. In the four games from 2006-2012, the scoring margin was 75-73, in favor of VT.
2006 and 2008 were particularly bad experiences, with Virginia Tech’s offense scoring zero touchdowns in those two games, and losing 22-3 and 28-23. What did 2006 and 2008 have in common with 2013? VT offenses ranked in the triple digits, that’s what. In ’06 and ’08, the Hokies took those offenses on the road to Boston, and they unbelievably got even worse. So there’s cause for concern that the offense could stink up Alumni Stadium on Saturday, in a big way.
This is going to be a grinder, a nail-biter, at times infuriating, and not pretty to watch. Most Hokie games in Chestnut Hill are that way. But I’m going with my optimistic side on this one, including the notion that Cody Journell can make two field goals.
Will’s Prediction: Virginia Tech 13, Boston College 10