In years past, the pride and strength of the Boston College Eagles has been their defense. Week in and week out, the eleven guys on the other side of the football kept their miserable offense in the game by stuffing the other team. Last year, that began to change, as a less-sharp BC defense started to let up a few more points, and the Eagle offense couldn’t keep up (result: 4-8). This year, Boston College’s defense is about as weak as Eagles fans have seen in a long while.
Between the two FBS opponents BC has faced, Miami and Northwestern, the Eagles have given up a total of 975 yards. There’s no planet in this great big universe in which that would be considered good. What makes it all very strange is that BC’s pass efficiency defense stat is okay at 6th in the ACC (132.6), but the rush defense can only be described as poor. The Eagles went from 1st in the nation there in 2010, to 59th in 2011, to 94th so far in 2012.
And I got news for you folks: Clemson will run on this team early and often. Running back Andre Ellington is a talented player, leading a run game that’s 3rd in the conference with nearly 200 yards per game, which is almost what BC gives up. Don’t forget quarterback Tajh Boyd, who is mobile enough to have rushed for 119 yards already.
The Tigers offense is led by Boyd, who is on his way to another tremendous season. He has thrown for 984 yards and is 83-for-122 (68.0%); Boyd has thrown nine touchdown passes and only two interceptions, giving him an outstanding quarterback rating of 156.9. Like he did last season, expect Boyd to be able to take advantage of the cushion in BC’s defensive secondary (he only went 16-for-26 against the Eagles in 2011, but amassed 283 yards with several big plays).
One of Boston College’s biggest problems is that they can’t get off the field. I’ve heard “bend but don’t break” a lot after the Northwestern game, but when your defense is on the field for 36 minutes, that definitely harms the offense’s ability to get something going. Unfortunately, Clemson’s offense usually only gets itself off the field when it’s time for the kicker to make the extra point. The Tigers’ offense doesn’t screw around, being tied for 22nd in FBS with 39 points per game — that mark is third in the ACC. Clemson is the sort of team that puts 500 yards on the stat sheet every week, and that’s not the kind of team BC needs to face.
What bodes particularly poorly for BC is that Clemson is third in 3rd-down conversions in the ACC with 47.7% success, while the Eagles are 10th in allowing them at 44.8%. This could definitely be another game where the Eagles can’t get off the field on third downs and Clemson will keep their drives alive, probably resulting in points more often than not.
There is no way to put it delicately, so here goes: on paper, this appears to be a massive advantage for Clemson. The Tigers will most likely be able to exploit BC’s weaknesses in scheme and poor run defense to shred it apart. Tajh Boyd is an accurate passer, Clemson has some dynamic receivers, and their rushing offense is much better than BC’s defensive equivalent. Even Florida State allowed 37 points to them, after only giving up three points in their first three games, which tells you just how good they are. It would take a significantly better effort by the Eagles defense to shut them down.