Hokies and BC Look to Stay in Bowl Contention

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Virginia Tech and Boston College have always played close games in Chestnut Hill. Over the last six contests in BC’s Alumni Stadium, both teams have won three games, and both teams have scored exactly 130 points. It doesn’t get any closer than that.

This is a big game for both teams. The winner will improve to 4-5 and keep their bowl chances alive. The loser will drop to 3-6, which will virtually kill any chance at securing a bowl bid. One could argue that it’s a bigger game for the Hokies because of their nation’s-best bowl streak, but I’m sure that won’t stop Boston College from showing up and playing extremely hard.

The BC Offense vs. the VT Defense, Advanced Stats

The Boston College offense isn’t exactly setting the world on fire. Neither is the Tech defense, but the Hokies do hold a major statistical advantage in this game. Here’s a look at the advanced stats of the BC offense…

Overall: #121
Passing: #127
Rushing: #69
Success Rate: #126
Explosive Plays: #122

Here’s how that compares to the Tech defense…

Overall: #40
Passing: #54
Rushing: #36
Success Rate: #19
Explosive Plays: #125

The Hokies hold a huge statistical advantage over what could easily be the worst offense in the country. That being said, Tech held a big statistical advantage over the Duke offense as well and they still allowed 45 points in four overtimes and gave up several critical big plays.

The Offense vs. FBS Teams

BC played two FCS teams this year, and that includes a 76-0 win over Howard. Let’s see how their offense has done against FBS competition.

Florida State: 139 rushing, 56 passing, 195 total yards, 0 points
Northern Illinois: 234 rushing, 92 passing, 326 total, 17 points
Duke: 164 rushing, 141 passing, 305 total, 7 points
Wake Forest: 196 rushing, 74 passing, 270 total, 0 points
Clemson: 159 rushing, 87 passing, 246 total, 17 points
Louisville: -10 rushing, 93 passing, 83 total, 7 points
Average: 147 rushing, 90.5 passing, 237.5 total, 8 points

No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. Boston College really is that bad offensively. They’ve only thrown for over 100 yards against one FBS opponent this season, and their offense has produced less than 10 points in four of those six games.

The Passing Game

Starting quarterback Darius Wade was lost for the season against Florida State, and the Eagle offense has been hapless without him. We could see two quarterbacks on Saturday, and neither is a particularly good option.

Jeff Smith (6-1, 182, Fr.): 21-of-63 (33.3%), 220 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Troy Flutie (6-0, 182, r-Fr.): 24-of-47 (51.1%), 382 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT

Neither quarterback has good size, and though Flutie (nephew of Doug) is a bit more proficient than Smith through the air, neither quarterback is playing well right now for the Eagles. Both guys have done a good job of avoiding interceptions, but that’s about the only positive thing you can say about their passing ability at this point in their career.

Smith was knocked out of the game against Louisville last week, which killed any chance the Eagles had of establishing a running game. Flutie is not nearly as mobile, and the BC offense is limited in what they can do with him in the game. If Smith can’t play on Saturday against Virginia Tech, it would give the Hokie defense a huge advantage.

To be fair, they don’t have many options in the passing game. Only one Boston College receiver has more than nine catches on the season. Here are their leading receivers…

WR Thadd Smith (5-9, 175, So.): 10 catches, 198 yards, 1 TD
FB Bobby Wolford (6-2, 248, Sr.): 9 catches, 80 yards, 1 TD
WR Charlie Callinan (6-4, 220, So.): 6 catches, 105 yards, 1 TD
WR Sherman Alston (5-6, 163, So.): 6 catches, 76 yards
WR David Dudeck (5-11, 194, Sr.): 6 catches, 38 yards

A total of 18 different players have caught passes for BC this season, but obviously none have stood out. Part of that is because the Eagles lack skill position talent, and part of it is because they are playing a pair of freshmen at quarterback.

The Tech defense should have an advantage against the BC passing game, but we thought they matched up well against Duke, too.

The Running Game

Boston College will lean on the running game against Virginia Tech. They’ll do it not because their running game is great, but because their passing game is so limited. The Eagles are averaging just 4.0 yards per carry, and that includes that 76-0 smashing of Howard in which they averaged 8.7 yards per carry.

There is no standout back on this team. A number of players will carry the football, and quarterback Jeff Smith is one of the leading rushers.

RB Tyler Rouse (5-8, 194, Jr.): 60 carries, 250 yards, 4.2 ypc, 5 TDs
QB Jeff Smith (6-1, 182, Fr.): 53 carries, 233 yards, 4.4 ypc, 5 TDs
RB Marcus Outlow (5-10, 203, So.): 51 carries, 240 yards, 4.7 ypc, 1 TD
RB Myles Willis (5-9, 194, Jr.): 45 carries, 232 yards, 5.2 ypc, 0 TDs

Tailback John Hilliman is out with a broken foot, and his loss certainly hasn’t helped the BC offense.

If Jeff Smith is able to play, he’ll play a big role against the Tech defense with his feet. We could see the Eagles employ a similar strategy as Duke did last week. However, if Smith can’t play, the Eagles will be forced to go with a more traditional running game because Troy Flutie isn’t nearly as mobile. That type of strategy would play right into the hands of Virginia Tech, though Boston College might not have any choice.

Overall Offensive Thoughts

Not only is this BC offense the worst Virginia Tech will face in 2015, it’s one of the worst they’ve ever faced. The Eagles are simply too limited at too many positions to present any kind of a consistent offensive threat. They aren’t good enough to sustain drives, and they don’t have the athletes to make big plays.

Still, the Tech defense has had a tendency to allow big plays this year. If Jeff Smith plays, I’ll be worried because the Hokies have struggled against mobile quarterbacks recently, and I believe their ability to make big plays against Tech would therefore increase. If Smith doesn’t play, I’ll feel very good about Tech’s chances of completely shutting down the Boston College offense.

The BC Defense vs. the VT Offense

The Boston College defense is amongst the best in the entire country. Their numbers are excellent in every category…

Overall: #2
Passing: #14
Rushing: #3
Success Rate: #1
Explosive Plays: #57

Here’s how the Tech offense stacks up…

Overall: #70
Passing: #39
Rushing: #63
Success Rate: #70
Explosive Plays: #107

Tech’s offense is middle of the pack this season. That was good enough to have a solid game against Duke, but the more physical Eagle defense will be a much greater challenge.

A Brutally Physical Front Seven

I watched Boston College play Florida State, and I’ve seen bits and pieces of several other games. Their defense is brutally physical. That’s the best way I can describe it. They annihilated the Florida State offensive line, shut down start tailback Dalvin Cook, and even knocked Cook out of the game. The Seminoles scored just seven offensive points that night. That’s how good this BC defense is.

Four players already have double digit tackles for loss…

MLB Steven Daniels (6-0, 243, Sr.): Daniels is a former 4-star recruit. He has 56 tackles, 12.5 TFL, and five sacks on the season. He also has an interception, and overall he’s one of the best linebackers in the conference.

DE Harold Landry (6-3, 245, So.): Landry is another former 4-star recruit, from Fayetteville, NC. He has 10.5 TFL and three sacks.

SLB Matt Milano (6-1, 218, Jr.): Milano doesn’t have great size, but he has 10.5 TFL and 5.5 sacks on the season.

DE Mehdi Abdesmad (6-7, 286, Sr.): Abdesmad has 10.5 TFL and 3.5 sacks. He is BC’s biggest defender. His size and strength will present a great challenge on the edge. He was an under-the-radar prospect from Canada.

Overall, the Eagles have three 4-star recruits in their front seven, including defensive tackle Connor Wujciak (6-3, 304, Sr.). That front seven has helped lead the charge, and as a unit the entire defense has racked up 77 tackles for loss and 26 sacks. They are #2 in the country in tackles for loss per game, and #9 nationally in sacks per game.

The only team that has been able to handle the Boston College front seven this year is Clemson. The Hokies have played better up front since the Pitt game, but the Eagles are the most Pitt-like team they’ve faced since then. If the Hokies want a chance to move the ball successfully, they’ll have to play their most physical game of the season.

Eagles Can Be Beaten in the Secondary

Michael Brewer threw for 345 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions, against Boston College a year ago. The Hokies were completely shut down on the ground (69 yards, 32 of which came on a fake punt), and they had to rely on the passing game. Brewer nearly led the team back in the fourth quarter, but Tech lost 33-31.

If the Eagles have a weakness on defense this year, it’s their secondary. They haven’t given up many yards, but they are slightly less efficient in pass defense. A tough front seven that gets after the quarterback and puts the opposing offense in third and long situations is certainly a big boost.

CB Isaac Yladom (6-1, 184, So.)
CB Gabriel McClary (6-3, 204, So.)
FS Justin Simmons (6-3, 198, Sr.)
SS John Johnson (6-0, 198, Jr.)

Those guys have played well for the most part this year. Simmons leads the group with two interceptions.

I like Isaiah Ford and Bucky Hodges against this group of players, but the Tech offensive line must hold back that terrific Boston College front seven. If they can’t do that, it will be a long day for Michael Brewer and the entire offense.

Overall Defensive Thoughts

This matchup scares me. The Eagles are extremely physical, and I worry that Michael Brewer will take a beating in the pocket. I don’t see the Hokies moving the ball consistently. Points will likely be hard to come by.

That being said, if the Hokies can avoid turning the ball over, they should have a very good chance to win the game. The BC offense is anemic and is very unlikely to put up very many points.

Special Teams

Boston College has struggled on offense all year, but they’ve arguably struggled even more on special teams. Three kickers (Mike Knoll, Alex Howell and Colton Lichtenberg) have combined to go 3-of-7 on their field goal attempts. That makes an extremely unproductive offense even worse. Knoll has made his only attempt this year (21 yards), and it looks like he’ll be the guy against Tech.

Howell also serves as BC’s punter, and he’s averaging 42.5 yards per punt. 11 of his punts have gone for over 50 yards.

The Eagles have allowed one kickoff return for a touchdown this year, but overall opponents gain just 20.29 yards per return. That’s a very good number considering one return went for 86 yards. Punt returners have been completely stopped, with opponents averaging just 1.43 yards on 21 returns. Thanks to Howell’s excellent punting and great coverage down the field, I don’t expect Tech to win the field position battle after BC punts.

Final Thoughts

Boston College is averaging just under 31,000 fans per game this year. It’s not clear to me if that’s paid attendance or actual attendance (probably paid). At any rate, the Hokies won’t be going into a loud, festive atmosphere on Saturday. At least it won’t be cold…the high on Saturday is 55 degrees.

Last year’s Tech-BC game surprised me. The Eagles won 33-31, and on paper that should have been a lower scoring game. I picked it 24-16 BC, while Will picked the Eagles 23-13. Could this year’s game be higher scoring than expected? It’s possible, but when you look at how bad the BC offense is, and how great their defense is, it doesn’t seem likely.

I don’t feel particularly confident about this game, but I’m not totally without confidence either. That BC offense is really, really bad. I think I’ll pick Tech to keep the bowl streak drama going for another week.

Chris’ Prediction: Virginia Tech 16, Boston College 10

Will Stewart’s Take: Since the 2006 game, an embarrassing 22-3 defeat for the 22nd-ranked Hokies that saw Tech players arguing on the sidelines and dancing during timeouts (leading to a Kirk Herbstreit “Where’s the blue-collar lunch pail attitude?” rant), the Hokies are 2-3 in Chestnut Hill.

Tech hasn’t played particularly well at any point at Boston College since blowing the Eagles out 45-7 in 1996, my bachelor party weekend in Beantown. Since then, the Hokies haven’t looked comfortable in Boston, even in the wins, and at times have been emasculated by the Eagles, with the 2006 game being the worst example.

So you can understand why I’m hesitant to pick a Hokie win, even in the face of that spectacularly bad Boston College offense. They’re so bad it’s almost unfathomable. I hope we get to see how bad, instead of seeing the Eagles play uncharacteristically well against the Hokies. I’d like to see 2009-bad, when BC came into Lane Stadium and picked up just 163 yards.

This analysis isn’t hard. Both teams will struggle to move the football consistently, so this game will come down to mistakes, turnovers, field position, and big plays. In other words, more of a crapshoot game-of-chance than normal in football.

If the Hokies are to stay on track to finish as a .500 football team this year and make it to a bowl, they’ll have to win this one to claw back to 4-5 going into November. I’m going to pick them to do just that, with an old-school score, none of this 34-27 stuff.

In other words, ugly.

Will’s Prediction: Virginia Tech 17, Boston College 9

Who will win the Virginia Tech-BC game?

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16 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Finally a team with a bad passing defense. We’ll throw the ball fifty plus times and most likely get Brewer beat up rally bad. Of course we could always play Lawson and run an option offense and really catch them off guard.

  2. Going back to ECU last year, this team has proven it does NOT know how/can’t win the close ones. They play down to their competition and lose. I hope this is the game that reverses that pattern, but….GO HOKIES!

  3. “The QB Jeff Smith is one of their leading rushers” and they have a 6’2′ 240 lb fullback. Do you not remember our defensive struggles against running QB’s and big running backs? How can you guys continue to look at this team through rose colored glasses. BC is going to run the ball down our throats all night long. I live in Boston now and will not be making the trek into Beantown so as to spare myself from the “agony of defeat”. BC wins big!!

    1. Yeah. Chickened out when it came time to pick.

      What made me hesitate was the BC offense. It is bad, bad, bad, BAD. That’s what gives me hope.

  4. BC will have their best Offensive game so far this year, Why ? Because VT will give them the chance. Sorry But I pick BC to win and win by over 10 points… As usual . by the way, Will, I was there in 2006 . Hokies where very Cocky acting and wasn’t ready for what they got. Sad night and that place was packed and cold ! I was there two years ago, in fact I have been to all the VT/BC series there but I can’t make it this year. Boston is a great City, They don’t know about the VT/BC game but everything else is covered .

  5. Besides their D destroying anyone’s remaining season, I have three fears:
    1. FB is 6’2″ and 240lbs vs 54
    2. WR is 6’4″ that usually spells freakish/lucky big plays against us.
    3. CB’s are actually pretty big and if they play press coverage, then Bucky better step up as he is the only who has a size advantage that could help us. We usually don’t play well against teams who play press coverage and block well enough to make them pay for it. I did vote VT for the win above in the 1-9 point range, but I’m hoping for a Defensive turn-over/score…the way FSU won against them.

  6. Is Troy Flutie really 6′ tall. It could be a battle of the 5’10” QBs if BC’s starter gets hurt. Despite BC’s lack of size on the O line, I expect the 248 lb FB to get an unusually high number of carries to run the ball right at the middle of the VT D and Motu. Expect narrow O-Line splits and road grater football.

  7. who will win or who should win. I no longer have any faith in Bud to put a good D out there for the entire game. We may need to score 20+ because our D will surely make this pathetic O look the best they have all year. The O needs to score and not play it safe. We no longer can rely on our D to hold the opposition or win games for us.

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