Boston College at Central Florida: Defenses


Defense was Boston College’s strong suit in 2010, as it also was for Central Florida. Last season’s Eagles were 13th in FBS in total defense, while the Knights were ranked 15th. An average of less than six yards per game separated the two teams. That’s a pretty tight spread, and that should make determining the better defense a difficult task, correct?

Yes and no. Obviously, this is a different Boston College team than last year, and the same can also be said of the Knights. One is usually expected to be an elite unit, however, and the other generally isn’t.

With the Eagles, you have a team that excelled in stopping the run last season — in fact, they were tops in the nation in that department. How did they do against Northwestern in a loss? Not very well at all: they allowed 227 yards on the ground against “Northwestern’s up-tempo offense” (if I hear that one more time, I’m going to scream) and are near the bottom of the country after Week 1. Most teams have at least one bad game, but this was worse than we probably expected. That’s the most rushing yards they’ve allowed in a game since getting slapped around by Virginia Tech, 48-14, on October 10, 2009. In fact, the 424 total yards the Eagles allowed was the most since allowing 438 to USC in the Emerald Bowl loss in 2009. Both games were ugly for Boston College.

The defense was not able to figure out Northwestern and backup QB Kain Colter, who made plays with his arm and his feet. The option offense they showed BC last Saturday confused them and ultimately contributed to the Eagles’ defeat. BC’s offense may have gained more yards, but Northwestern made theirs count. The ills of the defense can be boiled down to two general themes:

Weakness in the secondary. Star recruit Al Louis-Jean had a debut to forget, the standard Eagles “cushion” was a little too cushy, and tackles were missed. Aside from throwing a pass to Luke Kuechly, Colter had a good day at QB and the secondary couldn’t do much about it. The only big standout from this game was Sean Sylvia, who ought to be starting against Central Florida, but remains second on the depth chart. The return of Donnie Fletcher should help.

Weakness on the defensive line. If you’re allowing a team to rush for over 200 yards against you, you’ve got some problems up front. Three different Northwestern players rushed for 50 or more yards on Saturday, so clearly both those rushers and Northwestern’s offensive line were doing something right. On the other side, BC’s defensive line was getting burned.

Though you can’t read too much into Central Florida beating a low-end FCS team by 62 points, the Knights do certainly have the ability to score points and test BC’s defense with their quarterback, Jeff Godfrey. UCF’s offensive coordinator must have really gotten a kick out of watching the tape of BC’s defense last week, because even though they allowed only 24 points, and certainly there were players who performed admirably, they got broken one too many times and allowed big yardage.

Quickly, on to Central Florida’s defense: clearly, there was not much in the way of competition coming from Charleston Southern. The only thing of note that I can say about them is that the Knights are returning only four starters from their 2010 defense which finished 15th in FBS, but also that UCF beat writers appear to be very high on the athleticism and talent which remains this season. They were the 8th-best rush defense in college football last year, and with the state of the Eagles’ offensive line (assuming it does not improve markedly between last Saturday and this Saturday), this could be another tough afternoon pounding the ball on the ground and protecting Chase Rettig.

This is typically an area where the Eagles excel, but last week showed that the 2011 group has some work left to do before they can get back to that status. Whether or not this decent UCF team will let them is another question entirely.