A little over one year ago, Boston College football hosted the Northwestern Wildcats in the first game of the 2011 season. The Eagles lost, but they ended up having one of their best offensive games of the year that day, at least if you consider total yardage. The Wildcats and Eagles have both played two games so far this season and BC has shown more effectiveness offensively than in years past, while Northwestern struggled defensively in one but played better in the other. Which team has the matchup edge?
First, a look at the Boston College offense. It came into the 2012 season much maligned for years of getting in its own way, but led by Chase Rettig and new offensive coordinator Doug Martin, they seem to be at least somewhat improved. Rettig has totaled 660 passing yards, five touchdowns, and just one interception that cost BC seven points. In the first game against Miami, Rettig had plenty of time to go through his reads and find his targets; if it hadn’t been for about ten drops, his stats would have been extraordinary, and the game’s outcome might have been different.
Against Maine, Rettig played fine, though not as crispy as in Week 1. In all honestly, Maine’s defensive line did a better job at the point of attack than Miami’s (which says more about Miami than Maine). Rettig did not have the same kind of time that he did against the Hurricanes and took a few shots along the way. Still, the Eagles were in no real danger of losing the game, despite being short several key pass-catchers such as WR Bobby Swigert and TE Chris Pantale. Expect Alex Amidon to be Rettig’s main target again.
As for the Northwestern defense, they began the year with a rough game against Syracuse. They squeaked out a 42-41 win on the road, in which they got gashed for 596 yards of Orange offense. Their second game was a far better defensive effort, and not against an FCS team: Northwestern beat a half-way decent SEC team in Vanderbilt (0-2, but played South Carolina close as well). The Commodores only ended up with 318 yards in that one, and Northwestern held them on third downs 11 of 15 times.
BC’s offense had a good game and an okay one, while Northwestern’s defense had a bad game and a good one. Clearly, none of us know which team(s) will show up on Saturday, but here’s what we can cobble together right now:
• It is possible for the Eagles’ offense to move the ball on Northwestern
• It is particularly possible for Chase Rettig to use the passing game to BC’s advantage
• If fumbles and run blocking don’t improve, the ground game might be a minor factor
• We don’t know what Northwestern’s defense is yet, but they are susceptible to the pass; Syracuse scored 41 with a heavy pass:run ratio; Vanderbilt scored 13 with a balanced attack
If BC comes out throwing on Saturday, which looks probable given the issues BC is having at running back right now, this game could potentially fall more along the lines of the Syracuse game than the Vandy contest. That would likely put this in the “shootout” category. A lot depends upon the play at the line of scrimmage as always, but if Rettig has the time to find his targets, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that they can have a respectable day on offense. BC might have a matchup edge here if they throw the ball enough.
The Eagles will probably score, but the real question is: How many will they give up? That’s a matter for tomorrow.