“Much-maligned” does not even begin to describe the verbal and literal pummeling the Boston College Eagles defense has sustained throughout the first one-third of the 2012 season. Against everyone but Maine, the Eagles have been shredded to pieces. This week, they face an Army Black Knights offense that is about as one-dimensional as it gets — doubtlessly reminding them of their own offense — but the difference is in how Army is one-dimensional.
Army runs the football, and then they run the football some more. In fact, after that, they run the football again. The statistics tell the story of this triple-option team quite clearly: Army backs and others have 270 carries on the season, while the quarterback, Trent Steelman, has 28 pass attempts. All year. For purposes of comparison, Chase Rettig threw 25 completions against Clemson alone. For the mathematically-challenged, that is close to a 10:1 ratio of runs to passes. Army’s leading receiver has 70 yards on the season, while Alex Amidon had almost 200 just last week.
Of course, plan on them running a lot. If there is anything we have learned about Boston College’s pass defense, it’s that they will let other teams take certain amounts of yardage before contact, but when it comes to Army’s offense, it may be more “they can’t pass” as opposed to “they won’t pass.” There are likely elements of both, however. As Army runs it constantly, they try to grind down the other team and play some time of possession control. Has it worked? No, but they have had two good offensive performances against Northern Illinois and Wake Forest (as well as two bad ones against San Diego State and Stony Brook). They have at least controlled the clock with their strategy, as Army is 24th in the country in time of possession at 32:14.
Boston College’s task will be to stop their rushing attack, because the Black Knights are about as lopsided offensively as any team they’ll see, even beyond Georgia Tech. That has not proven easy. Click to enlarge this chart, but if you’re a BC fan, grab the Pepto as well:
In just two years, the Eagles defense appears to have completely fallen apart. BC has gone from literally the best team in the nation at stopping the run to the lowest quartile of FBS. The decline began last season, and has continued in 2012. Those numbers are absolutely shocking, but they haven’t been much better in terms of scoring or total defense, where the Eagles have also been carving out new lows.
Boston College has gone from a Top 20 defense to a bottom-third unit in a very short period of time. As such, beating any FBS team will be difficult when one realizes the defense will allow their fair share of points. Luckily for Boston College, the offense is improved and Army is probably the least skilled opponent they will face for the remainder of the season.
Army is going to keep pounding the run and they will not give up on it. They could try, and it would probably catch BC badly off-guard, but they are a triple-option, run-heavy team by nature and that’s really all there is to it. Meanwhile, Boston College has had a serious amount of trouble in stopping the run, which leads one to the logical conclusion that Army will probably have some success in racking up stats. Whether or not they score is another matter entirely, but they will probably move the football. BC’s defensive front seven has to be ready to step up their game, and the secondary will likely be needed much more in run support than pass coverage.
Boston College probably has the advantage based on talent, but this is a hard matchup to figure. The Eagles’ defense gives up yardage in buckets, but Army’s offense has been extremely inconsistent. The Black Knights could get shut out or score 40 on any given day, so the potential does exist that the Eagles will allow a fair number of points.