With 2,073 rushing yards through eleven games, Williams has unquestionably set the bar this year with one of the best running back seasons in Division I history. What should scare opponents and excite Eagles fans is that it’s not over yet.
We know Andre Williams is good, but the next relevant thing to consider is Syracuse’s run defense and if it is equipped to handle him. Even Maryland looked like they were containing him early last week, but eventually, most opponents have crumbled as Boston College remains firmly committed to the run, even in situations when most teams would abandon it.
Syracuse’s run defense is officially ranked 27th in the nation, allowing just 133.5 rushing yards per game. Statistically, this could be one of Andre’s stiffest tests yet. Let’s itemize those rush defense performances by week from most yards to fewest (parenthesis: FBS rush offense rank):
• Georgia Tech: 394 yards (4th)
• Florida State: 225 yards (23rd)
• Northwestern: 206 yards (62nd)
• Clemson: 156 yards (61st)
• NC State: 129 yards (74th)
• Tulane: 121 yards (92nd)
• Maryland: 81 yards (87th)
• Penn State: 57 yards (58th)
• Wagner: 53 yards (FCS)
• Wake Forest: 25 yards (117th)
• Pittsburgh: 21 yards (112th)
Syracuse’s run defense has gone to both extremes this year: many teams have looked pitiful, but a few have scorched them. The case has not really been that they’ve shut down too many of the better rushing offenses that they’ve faced. If that were true, then it would be cause for concern, but Syracuse can be had and Boston College and Andre Williams are just the men to do it.
The most recent Syracuse depth chart shows some size up front for the Orange, with a 300-pounder in the middle named Eric Crume. So far this season, their defensive line has been formidable in spots, led by Jay Bromley and others, and that’s a trench battle the Eagles need to win if Andre is going to power the offense. The Eagles’ offensive line has played exceptionally well this year in run blocking, and their plan (just like every other week) will be to help wear down Syracuse’s front and tread water if necessary until Andre and Myles Willis can hurt them for big plays on the ground.
Boston College no longer has much of a passing offense of which to speak, in that the run is now the top priority and Chase Rettig is called upon only to manage the game and make the occasional play-action throw to keep the defense honest. It has not always gone well for him in 2013, but to his credit, he did make a huge throw to Alex Amidon to assist the Eagle comeback last week. Part of the problem has been drops and part has been, amongst other things, Rettig’s bad misses. When he’s on-target, Rettig still has value to this team but once more, his role has been limited by the coaches.
This is almost to the point where conventional wisdom gets thrown out the window. The numbers say Syracuse’s run defense is good, but they’ve said other teams are good there, too, and that didn’t stop Andre Williams. Only the fiercest defensive lines in the nation have slowed him down, and though the Orange have done well in this department overall, they have not yet faced what is coming at them. The Eagles keep clicking and Williams keeps running. Boston College favored.