Massachusetts at Boston College: UMass offense vs. BC defense


How do you go from one of the best defenses in the nation to one of the worst in just one offseason? Ask Boston College, who have managed, in the first three games of the season, to put together three abysmal defensive performances in a row in terms of yardage.

First, you take a few defections, mix in a couple graduations, and then finally take what’s left and tack on coaches who haven’t made an in-game adjustment in years and you have the 2011 BC defense. The news has been bad all around for this group, except for a few guys, especially those named Luke Kuechly. This bunch, through the Duke game, are 105th in the nation with 437 yards allowed per game. (Tomorrow, you’ll see that the offense isn’t much better.) This graph ought to sum things up quite nicely (click to enlarge):

To this point, they have given up over 120 more yards per game than last season, and most of that comes from the dramatic increase in rush yards allowed. While they held Duke to a more reasonable 81 yards (because they had no reason to run it, given how effortlessly they passed it), the first two teams they played gashed the Eagles for over 200 yards a piece.

In fact, the biggest irony of the first three games is that the team which handled BC the best in this area (in other words, put up the most yards) was the team generally believed to be the worst offensively: Duke. The Blue Devils torched the Eagles for 384 passing yards on the day, managed 26 first downs, and held onto the ball for a little over 35 and a half minutes. Now, you can blame the offense’s ineffectiveness for the defense being out on the field a little bit more often, but even though Duke was held to 20 points, the Blue Devils went on a number of deep drives and the defense couldn’t get themselves off the field. Sean Renfree completed forty (40) (!) passes on Saturday against this unit, which should tell you what you need to know about our pass defense.

About the only thing that’s good enough to be average defensively on this team is the scoring defense. BC comes in 66th in the nation with 24.67 points allowed per game. Even though they give up the big yardage, they don’t necessarily give up the big points, though to be blunt, I don’t think a team like Florida State would be as charitable to BC if this is how they play in November. Come to think of it, I can’t think of any ACC teams on the schedule that would be as forgiving to this defense as Duke. Even Wake Forest, next week’s opponent who were widely forecast to be a crappy team this year, have looked much better than expected and can score points.

As far as UMass’s offense, I don’t think we can read a whole lot into what they’ve done so far, given that they’re an FCS team and have played only FCS teams. The comparison really just can’t be made, unless you think BC has looked a lot like an FCS team in the first three weeks of the season. What we know about them is that they had to work hard to get past Holy Cross at Fitton Field in the season opener (and were slightly outgained by the Crusaders), but following a bye week, they came home and posted 460 yards — about 200 of them rushing — in a 36-27 win over Rhode Island.

The two main offensive players to watch for the Minutemen are quarterback Kellen Pagel, a sophomore who transferred from Bowling Green to Amherst, and senior running back Jonathan Hernandez. Of those two, Hernandez is the star, rushing for a net of 318 yards over a span of two games while scoring two touchdowns. He also has four catches for 61 yards on the young season.

Logic would suggest that no matter how unsightly the FBS team looks, it will always be better than the FCS team. I’m going to stick to that, but I don’t think we’re talking about a traditional lopsided FBS/FCS game. The Eagles should be able to handle UMass’s offense, which isn’t even amazing by FCS standards (40th in FCS in total offense so far), but don’t be surprised if they take what BC gives them and dents the scoreboard.