For years, the defense was the pride of the Boston College Eagles football team. That edge was decisively lost over the past few years while the unit plummeted from one of the nation’s best to one of the worst. New defensive coordinator Don Brown and his staff had their work cut out for them, but are we already seeing some results?
On paper, yes. The numbers say as much:
The Eagles were the worst team in FBS football last season with six sacks total, or 0.50 per game. Now, they are near the top of the nation so far with eight (the ACC’s official statistic actually says nine) after playing just a quarter of the season. Another piece of good news is in turnovers, where Boston College leads the ACC with a +5 margin. The Eagles have seven takeaways so far, which is tied for second-most in the conference. Finally, they have done alright in the red zone, stopping opponents on three of eight trips. That might be middle of the pack in the conference, but it is a high rank nationally.
Pass efficiency defense is the worst of them at 88th nationally, but even at that, it does not touch the bottom quarter of FBS. If you’re seeking slight moral victories, there’s one. Most of the ACC rankings are not good, but so far the Eagles can take solace in the fact that theirs is probably not the worst defense in the conference. It shouldn’t be, either, considering how they have done some things right.
Boston College’s defensive line is in the position of having to be rebuilt from scratch and the secondary is thin. The Eagles’ linebacking corps has stood out as the best unit on the team, though there have been struggles amongst a few individual players there as well. And yet, one might almost expect these stats to be worse than they are. In fairness, they are most likely going to get worse against a juggernaut offensive team in Florida State on September 28. The Seminoles have scored 103 points in two games and will do unspeakable things to another BC — Bethune-Cookman — this coming Saturday.
Is this defense ready to contend with the better ACC teams? No, and it would seem few people would argue as much. They hung in there admirably against USC, but they were on the field for 36 and a half minutes against a more talented team and eventually fell apart. The same thing might happen or worse against more potent offenses like Florida State or Clemson.
As for the lesser ACC teams, it is possible that the Eagles defense can keep games competitive based upon what we have seen so far. They are showing a willingness to blitz more and have in general been more opportunistic. The key problem to assess, however, is just how many “lesser” teams (inside and outside the ACC) might be left on the schedule. Army looks pesky but they have not won a road game in three years, while New Mexico State should be beatable and Syracuse is a team with which the Eagles can match up. Aside from that, Maryland, the most-likely candidate for a sixth win, looks improved this season. Further, winning North Carolina on the road or even NC State and Virginia Tech at home will be difficult.
Expect the Eagles defense to continue taking some hits as they move through conference play, but it will be interesting to monitor who steps up and if Boston College can keep up their better areas of play on defense.