Wake Forest at Boston College: WF offense vs. BC defense


Last year, offense was a problem for both Wake Forest and Boston College football. So far in 2011, it’s a lot less of one for the Demon Deacons.

In what can only be described as a small sample size (1/4 of the season, in fact), we have seen a resurgent Wake Forest offense being led by its sophomore quarterback, Tanner Price. While he looked very shaky in his freshman year, his sophomore year has been much stronger statistically and he’s led his team to two wins in three games (following a season where they won three out of twelve but, to be completely honest, also started their season 2-1). That 2010 team had a disastrous meeting with Stanford in California to help send them into a tailspin; so far, no such game has come to pass. In fact, based upon the reactions I’ve read from Wake Forest fans following the Syracuse game, the Deacs should probably be 3-0 right now.

Almost across the board, but not completely, their offensive numbers have been improving. Here’s a chart to help out with three of the big stat categories (click to enlarge):

Price’s personal numbers have improved as well, with him completing over 62% of his passes and averaging a passer rating of 154.7 over the first three games of this season. About the only other stat involving him which stands out is that he has gotten sacked seven times and is on pace to get sacked more than the 19 times he was in 2010. I haven’t seen a lot of Wake’s play to this point, and that can be attributed to several different things, so I won’t guess as to why he’s getting sacked so often.

Tanner Price is far from being Andrew Luck, but I can say with total assuredness that he is much better than Kellen Pagel, the UMass quarterback whom BC carved to pieces on Saturday. The Eagles defense cannot afford to go to sleep on him.

The Wake run game has not gotten much done at this point, while Price has been called upon and succeeded at carrying the offense of the team on his back. What’s anomalous about Wake Forest’s offensive stats so far is that they have run many more rushing plays than passing plays (120 to 73, to be exact), but have only 330 yards to show for their efforts on the ground but 968 through the air. Typically one would expect a team to have more passing yards than rushing yards, but this imbalance would suggest that the pass has been far more effective for the Deacs.

Boston College’s defense socked UMass in the gut on Saturday, but in the previous three games, they left much to be desired. Their running game was dreadful against Northwestern and Central Florida, but then against Duke, it was their passing game that got sliced up. Duke quarterback Sean Renfree did lots of unspeakable things to the Eagles secondary, taking advantage of a pillowy-soft cushion. I suspect that this game against Wake Forest will be much the same way, though not entirely. Wake runs the ball quite a bit, but their passing game by far provides the most successful avenue for gaining yardage.

Wake Forest may take a different tack than Duke, however. Whereas the Blue Devils’ strategy was to nickel-and-dime the Eagles defense, the Deacs seem like more of a big-play team. To this point in the season, they have had eight offensive plays in which they gained 30 yards or more. This is a good passing offense, however, so you’d think that if they adjust and take what the Eagles give them, if anything, then it’s likely they’ll have success again. This is the same quarterback who threw four interceptions to the Eagle defense last season, but so far, 2011 looks a lot more stable for Price than his on-the-job-training 2010 season.

On the other hand, knowing that Wake runs the ball a lot but doesn’t do much with it, the Eagles may treat stopping the pass as their top priority. The problem we’ve seen with that, however, is that they’ve already gotten torched twice on the ground. Wake RB Josh Harris (no relation to Montel that I’m aware of) only managed 67 yards against BC’s stingy run defense last season, but he too is now a sophomore, and BC’s defensive line is clearly not playing the way it was last season.

In short, I’m not expecting the same Wake Forest team that turned the ball over a number of times in last year’s contest. I am expecting to see a slightly improved offense, led by a more experienced quarterback, with a penchant for the big play. Boston College’s defense is coming off of a turnover-laden strong performance, albeit against UMass, but even though the Deacs aren’t the strongest offense they will face, this will not only be a big step up in competition from last week, but a sure test of where the Eagles are at this point in the season.