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


If you’re interested in a team unit that has been in a clear nosedive since the 2009 season, then meet the Boston College Eagles offense. A good game against UMass notwithstanding (more on that shortly), it’s been downright ugly for the Eagles, who have seemed to need nothing short of divine intervention to score touchdowns. This week, they will be matched up against a Wake Forest Demon Deacons defense which has performed decently this season.

This past Saturday, the Eagles busted out for 45 points, the most they had scored in any game since October 17, 2009, when Montel Harris almost single-handedly crushed NC State, 52-20. It should be noted, however, that in BC’s last three seasons, of their four highest point totals, three were against FCS teams (and clearly, the fourth of those was against the Wolfpack). Outside of that, the Eagles’ offensive track record against teams in their own subdivision has not been pretty.

In chart format, we have a look at what BC has done offensively since that game (click to enlarge):

2009 was all over the place for Boston College, 2010 was consistently terrible, and 2011 is all over the place again. If it weren’t for those games against FCS teams, BC’s offensive stats over this stretch would certainly look worse than they currently are. Likewise, Wake Forest’s defensive stats from this season would take a hit if we were to eliminate the Gardner-Webb game; it’s just the nature of the beast.

Against FBS competition so far this year, the Eagles have been wildly inconsistent. In the Northwestern game, their total yardage spiked to almost 500 yards, but they only managed 17 points. (That works out to an average of 28 yards per point scored, which I’m sure would be atrocious if it were a real stat.) Not only have they had big highs with yardage, they’ve also had big lows, and it just so happens that a week after putting large gains on the Wildcats, they cratered against the Knights, but did better against Duke the following week.

Sorry to say, but in all of the FCS games, one can see a pattern of how BC maximized their yardage (and, as it were, defensive turnovers) and turned them into points. In many of the other contests, however, this wasn’t the case. One silver lining is that at least this 2011 team can GAIN yards, unlike the 2010 team. The problem is that a lot of those yards don’t lead them across the goal line.

Quarterback Chase Rettig is having an interesting 2011. We only have a sample size of four games (though I suppose in some sense, 1/3 of the season isn’t a tiny amount), but he’s seen marginal improvement in his passer rating, completion percentage, and yards per attempt average. I am sure he would be even better if he had an offensive line that could protect him, however, and he’s already been sacked ten times this season. BC’s 2.5 sacks allowed per game has tied them for 89th in FBS, and given the way this bunch has looked (even UMass put him on the deck twice on Saturday), I think things will get worse before they get better.

As far as this week goes, however, Wake Forest does not ostensibly pose much of a threat. In three games, they have recorded only two sacks, and one of them was on Gardner-Webb, which means they’ve only recorded one sack out of the two games that they’ve played which actually matter. Maybe their opposition had good offensive lines, or the quarterback was good at getting rid of the football, or Wake’s defensive front just isn’t any good. Whatever the case may be, the Deacs have not gotten to the quarterback nearly enough this season. (For what it’s worth, and it would have been more germane for yesterday’s article, the Eagles are only slightly better with four sacks in four games — it would appear both of these offenses are more likely to get sacked than their defenses are to do the sacking.) This will make for interesting matchups to watch on both sides: neither team is good at getting to the quarterback, but neither team seems to be able to stop the other team from doing it. Something’s gotta give, I suppose.

The Demon Deacons have been alright defensively; good in certain areas, but not across-the-board great. In terms of total defense (and I’m sure playing Gardner-Webb will improve this ranking), they are 19th with only 287.33 yards allowed per game. This is in part because their rush defense is 18th in FBS, but their pass efficiency defense is a much more unimpressive 74th. Furthermore, their red zone defense is tied for 76th, as the Deacs allow the other team to convert 88% of the time (5 TD, 2 FG on eight drives), but the stat is somewhat misleading because, as aforementioned, they’ve only been in eight red zone situations this year so far. Boston College, for example, has a lower percentage at 75% but have been in that situation twice as many times (16) as Wake. Finally, Wake’s scoring defense is a decent 49th (22.67 ppg), only one slot ahead of the Eagles who are a few hundredths of a point higher.

Looking at all the facts in front of me, this is not an easy matchup to call. I am not the kind of person who thinks that one good game against a lousy FCS team fixed all of Boston College’s problems, nor do I think they are completely incapable of driving the football on Wake’s defense. It is hard for me to envision the Eagles going up and down the field against Wake, just as it seems unlikely that the Deacs will stuff BC all day. Both the Boston College offense and Wake Forest defense have their pluses and minuses, and while I was prepared to say the Eagles’ are a little more exaggerated than the Deacs’, I am hesitant. This looks like a push, with a possible slight edge to Wake Forest.