When the Boston College Eagles take the field on Saturday, there is no question that they will face a tough test. That, of course, is the #17 Clemson Tigers, fresh off of a defeat to Top 5 Florida State. BC has had a week to rest, but will it help their offense take on the Tigers?
New offensive coordinator Doug Martin got off to a great start in Week 1 against Miami. His pupil, Chase Rettig, had his best game as an Eagle and BC managed well over 500 yards of offense. BC even scored 32 points, which was their most in an FBS game in three years. Since then, however, the offense has done a little less each week. Against Maine, a far-inferior FCS team, the Eagles offense was only responsible for 27, but dropped to under 400 yards in their victory. At Northwestern, BC had their most disappointing offensive performance yet, scoring just 13 points and being stuck in the low 300s in terms of total yards. Virtually all of them came through the air, as the run game only managed a paltry 25 yards on over 20 carries.
Chase Rettig remains the biggest bright spot on the offense and the team as a whole. Through three games, Rettig is 72-for-127 with six touchdowns and only one interception, a pick-six against Miami. That translates to a more than acceptable passer rating of 133.6, though his completion percentage (56.7%) has been harmed by two things: dropped passes and an increase in inaccuracy. If not for the drops against the Hurricanes, Rettig might have completed 40 passes, but he was just 16-for-32 against Maine and 24-for-44 against Northwestern, both of which were more or less the sorts of numbers he put together in games of years prior.
While Rettig has been good overall and remains sharp, he has been a bit less so than in the first game. What saves him is that he is not making as many mistakes with the football as in the past. Rettig has only thrown one interception because he is throwing to the right places for the most part, and he isn’t trying to force too many plays that aren’t there.
Boston College’s run game remains dreadful, having managed a little over two-dozen yards against the Wildcats on September 15. The Eagles are 11th in rushing offense in the ACC, a yard and a half ahead of last-place Maryland. What sticks out is that BC only has one rushing touchdown through three games; all the other conference teams have played four games, but all have at least four scores on the ground.
As for Clemson, the Tigers have allowed a few more points per game defensively than Boston College has, but if BC had already played Florida State, the Eagles’ numbers might be a little skewed as well. BC’s offense is nowhere near as dangerous as Florida State’s, so let’s assume that the Eagles won’t do the sort of damage to them that the Seminoles did. This isn’t a bad defense the Tigers own.
They no longer have a few of their familiar faces, like Andre Branch, who was one of the guys who chased Chase Rettig for his life in the game last season, but there’s talent here. One remaining face to watch is Stephone Anthony, a former 5-star recruit and starting middle linebacker for Clemson who currently leads the Tigers in tackles at 38.
The Tigers defense isn’t as good as their offense, but they are second in the conference with five interceptions on the season. Their turnover margin is the best in the ACC at +5. Clemson is also quite good at stopping their opponents on third down, only allowing conversions 31.5% of the time. (The Tigers are third-best in stopping the other team on 3rd down; BC is third-worst at converting them.) They do not, however, get to the quarterback often this year, as they’ve only recorded four sacks in four games.
It all depends on which BC team shows up on Saturday. If the Eagles play like they did against Miami, the matchup is closer to even. If it’s the Maine or Northwestern game offense, then Clemson has a respectable advantage.