Northwestern at Boston College: Offenses


Offense would seem to be the main issue for both teams, wouldn’t it?

I say that because the Eagles, who in all fairness should be better than last year, are missing their most productive offensive player and have other issues (more on those in a moment) and Northwestern may or may not have their most productive offensive player, either. You would think that during the first game of the season, you’d have both teams playing with a full deck, but both the Eagles and Wildcats may have to do without.

Boston College’s offense last season was amongst the most putrid we have seen on the Heights in some time. Ranking 109th out of 120 in both total offense and scoring offense, our erstwhile offensive coordinator’s “scheme” (I use the term loosely) was so utterly dysfunctional and predictable that it embarrassed our school on a regular basis. The Eagles could not score points if they tried, not even making it to an average of 20 points per game on the season.

Coming into this game, Boston College is on a 16-game streak of having scored under 30 points against FBS opposition. The last time they did that was on Halloween 2009 against Central Michigan; the last time they scored 30+ points at all was on opening day of last season against Weber State of the FCS. On top of that, BC is on an 11-game streak of having scored fewer than 25 points. If that doesn’t spell out how anemic they’ve been offensively, I don’t know what will.

Thankfully, it’s a new year, and BC has a new offensive coordinator named Kevin Rogers. It remains to be seen what his offense will look like over the course of a full season, but I do know he’s had some injuries. The most important one of those injuries is arguably Montel Harris, the preseason ACC Player of the Year and an all-ACC first-team rusher. If you listen to Harris himself on Twitter, he is optimistic about his recovery, but we know for absolute certain that he will not be available for this game. We’re hopeful that Andre Williams, his backup who did quite well in limited time last season, will be available, and as such, his name appears at the top of the depth chart this week at RB. Williams injured himself earlier in the month and while his prognosis was not bad, his official status was unknown until yesterday.

That’s not all. Offensive lineman Nate Richman has been dealing with a persistent back injury and, though he was able to practice last week and said he will be ready for this game, the depth chart does not have him on the top line, so he will likely be out. Richman is important to this new offensive line BC will feature in 2011, so he will be needed at 100%. If he can’t give that to the team, he can’t play, so the line will probably be reshuffled to move Mark Spinney back over to tackle while redshirt freshman Andy Gallik will make his first start.

Northwestern hasn’t evaded the injury bug, either. Their quarterback, Dan Persa (whom I hear is “strong”), has been out since late last season with a ruptured Achilles. Nobody knows at this point if he will play or not, but if he does not, the case could surely be made that the Wildcats will have a less potent offense. Northwestern pre-Persa injury and post-Persa injury were not the same team, though by looking at their schedule, you could fault their opponents and their defense for that. Still, the difference between Persa and his backup, Evan Watkins, was stark: Persa completed almost three-quarters of his passes last season, threw for over 2500 yards, and 15 touchdowns while only getting picked off four times. Watkins, on the other hand, got picked more times in three starts (5) than Persa did in ten.

If you ask me, I think it is relatively likely that Persa will play. How effective he will be is another question, and one of many questions I’ll answer in a new segment later this week. I think it’s safe to say, however, that with a healthy Persa, Northwestern is going to be a much tougher offense for BC to quell. It will then become an issue of whether or not the Eagles can keep up, if, in fact, Persa is in and he makes the defense’s day difficult.

I shouldn’t have said that offense is the main issue for both teams right now; it’s more like injuries are the big issue. The one difference, however, is it seems Northwestern is getting healthy at the right time, and BC isn’t.