The Eagles’ offense is legitimately one of the worst in the nation, and they are tasked with beating an average to below-average defense that has had its fair share of bad games. The result will almost certainly be a disturbingly-bad football game.
For three years running, Boston College hasn’t done a thing when they control the ball. In 2009, the Eagles were 9th in the ACC in total offense; each of the last two seasons, they have been dead last. There is very little indication that this will change before the end of the year, as they have retained a certain level of consistency (consistently bad, that is). The Eagles manage only 310 yards per game, 18.4 points per game (also last in the ACC), are 8th in the conference in rush offense, even including the huge game against Maryland, and are the second-worst passing offense in the ACC. Very little else can be said about them that hasn’t already been said.
It is clear, though, that BC had a matchup advantage when they played Maryland, the other of the “winnable two” games. That, of course, was Maryland’s atrocious defense being pitted against a mediocre run offense — mediocre won the day by a mile. Do any of those sorts of advantages exist here for BC?
At first glance, no, though there are a number of things to point out with regards to the Wolfpack’s defensive performance. Whereas the Terps, for example, allow well over 200 rush yards per game and have the worst run defense in the conference, NC State is 6th (142.7 ypg). For purposes of comparison, the Eagles are 9th (164.8 ypg) in that department. It is important to note, however, that last week’s opponent, Florida State, only allow 2.2 yards per carry. Maryland allows 4.9. The Wolfpack allow 4.0. While NC State may be 6th and Maryland 12th, their run defense is probably more like Maryland’s that it is anything like the one BC saw last week, though that is by no means a guarantee that they will gash NC State on the ground. All it means is that it should be a little easier for BC to run.
Teams have rushed on the Wolfpack a little more than they’ve passed, and part of that probably has to do with their pass defense. One stand-out statistic about the NC State defense is that they have the most interceptions gained in the ACC (and the nation) with 19. Chase Rettig, assuming he isn’t temporarily ousted again by Josh Bordner, is going to have to be diligent about protecting the football, especially around David Amerson. Amerson, a sophomore CB for the Wolfpack, leads the country in picks with six, and has the only pick-six on his team this season to date. Junior DB Brandan Bishop is also up on the national list with four interceptions. Outside of that, however, NC State is down on the pass defense list at 8th in the conference, but are 4th in passer rating allowed.
Also worrisome for the BC offense here is that NC State is third in the conference with 25 quarterback sacks this season, while BC has gotten its quarterbacks sacked 19 times. BC’s offensive line has not protected Chase Rettig well this season, and if NC State gets any sort of pass rush going, it’s going to have to force BC to beat the Wolfpack on the ground with Finch.
The likely gameplan for BC going into this game — and they didn’t change it against a strong Florida State run defense, so I’m not sure why they would change it now — would call for running. BC is mistake-prone in their passing game and the Wolfpack are literally the best team in the country with regards to intercepting the football. Still, their pass defense is average, but is greatly helped by their ability to generate turnovers. Meanwhile, the Eagles have proven once before that they can beat a blah run defense, though to equate NC State’s rush defense to Maryland’s is not entirely correct (the Terps are far worse).
This battle will be won or lost for BC at the line of scrimmage with regards to run blocking. With their passing game being what it is, I find it unlikely that the Eagles will beat NC State through the air. They’re going to have to rely on Rolandan Finch to have a big day — not necessarily the kind of big day Montel Harris had against the Pack in 2009, but it wouldn’t be a bad thing — but if the offensive line that we saw last week shows up, it’s going to be very hard for BC to score points. I believe the potential is there for BC to get some appreciable yardage on the ground, but find NC State’s propensity to intercept the football troublesome for an Eagles offense that is tied for the worst turnover differential (-8) in the conference.
Because the Eagles’ offense is so bad, I might have to give a slight advantage to NC State’s defense, but it can be scored upon. This is a Wolfpack team, however, that just pitched a shutout, though as bad as BC usually is, they don’t normally get shut out. Their usual 14 or so points a game probably isn’t going to cut it here, though.