Thursday, November 23, 2023

BC-Miami preview

The most interesting reaction to last week's loss was from the neutral parties. We know how the diehards feel and even the casual BC fans. But due to playing during a national spotlight, you saw more of the regular football fans and football media paying attention to BC and Hafley for the first time this season. And while not a consensus, many were very critical. BC should have won that game and should be better than getting by with six wins. That is why I said that game was so important. This one is too. Hafley needs to get over the hump. Injuries, some of the inherent challenges at BC, bad luck...none of it matters. Every team has similar handicaps. It is up to him to overcome those. Lots of guys can win six games at BC. We've proven that over the past 30 years. We need someone who can do more. The Miami game is a chance to do more. 

What's on my mind (not totally related to this game)
Syracuse fires Dino Babers and many of Holy Cross' best players enter the portal. Seems more than coincidental. Perhaps the Chesney to the Orange thing is a done deal and the media are ignoring it to promote their preferred candidates. I would be disappointed if Chesney does end up at Syracuse because I think he will do well there. I think he would do well at BC. There is no foolproof path to football coaching success, but I do think winning at every stop is a great sign. While a promoted coordinator has to adjust to hiring, leading, game management, someone who has been a head coach at a lower level has done all those things before (presumably successfully). For a guy like Chesney the adjustment to a higher level is instead about finding the right players and I think in the portal era that is less about selling to high schoolers and more about piecing your roster together on an annual basis.

Three Simple Keys
1. Stopping the run.
We have been terrible against the run the past few games. Miami has a good oline. This is the key to the whole game. If they run at will, we will be toast.
2. No turnovers from Castellanos. I like TC and realize you take the good with the bad, but he has to get better with the ball. 
3. Get some INTs. If BC pulls down a few of those 50/50 balls last week, it is a different game. 

Gambling Notes
-- Miami leads the series 24-6
-- Four of BC's six wins in the series have come at Alumni
-- BC has won three of the last four in the series
The current line is BC+10

For those few remaining BC fans still longing for the Big East, I would like to point out that BC played six former Big East teams this year. Current Big East school UConn played two.

Scoreboard Watching
Michigan-Ohio State. For members of the Ryan Day Fan Club, this is sort of a big deal. 

BC is in trouble if...We are down late. I have zero confidence in pulling off a two minute drill late in the game. Last week killed my belief in being able to go the length of the field without pounding the ball.

I hope to see...a BC win. Forget about Chesney or Ryan Day or anyone else, I want Hafley to win and succeed at BC. He is safe for now, but I want hope. I want progress. We need to pull off a huge upset to get out of lame duck status heading into 2024.

Bottom Line
I hate to be the guy to ruin your Thanksgiving, but I don't see us winning this game. Miami is a bad matchup and I fear our team is checked out.
Final Score: Miami 35, BC 21

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

BC-Pitt preview

The Jeff Hafley bandwagon got a little less crowded after the Hokies kicked BC’s butt. At this point I am aware that Hafley is not a Tom Coughlin-like shooting star. And I still believe in patience. In my opinion, how he finishes the season matters. It matters to who he is and what he is capable of becoming. Hafley has shown he will make changes and bold moves (they won’t always work). But now he needs to stop the bleeding and get momentum back. Pitt is reeling coming into this game. A good coach and a good team goes on the road and puts this game away. Let’s hope we are that good, because the difference between six wins and seven is monumental.

What's on my mind (not totally related to this game)
I’ve hit on this theme a good deal on Twitter, but the Jimbo Fisher firing is a reminder that hiring is hard. When we make a change at BC, people always gripe about the small time nature of our process or that we don’t have the money to hire anyone good. I always disagree because of two aspects. First there are only so many of these head coaching jobs and a bottomless pool of guys looking for their shot. Second throwing money at the problem doesn’t guarantee anything. Texas, Nebraska, USC, etc. have churned through coaches despite having historically great jobs and blank checks. Alabama stumbled for two decades before the timing worked with Nick Saban. Clemson had no idea what they were getting in Dabo. There is a lot of luck involved in this. I don’t think BC’s process when hiring should be haphazard or thoughtless. They should have a vision of what they want and a professional approach. But thinking that hiring the hot name or the expensive guy will deliver us to the next level is foolish.

Three Simple Keys
1. Come out running.
For two weeks we’ve come out throwing and it has been a momentum killer. I know you want to work against tendency and show new wrinkles, but we are not built that way. We need to come out, hit them in the mouth and never look back.
2. Protect the ball. The VT loss is a different game without the turnovers. TC can’t force things and obviously needs to hold onto it when he takes off.
3. Stop the run. Pitt is going to try to win this on the ground. If we stuff the run, we win.

Gambling Notes
-- Hafley is 1-0 vs Pitt
-- Narduzzi is 0-2 vs BC
-- BC is 1-2 at Acrisure Stadium
The current line is BC+3

BC last played Pitt on a Thursday night in 1996. It was Halloween. Some of BC’s play and reaction was so bad people assumed something was up and suddenly the gambling scandal exploded. It thankfully was the beginning of the end of the Henning Era.

Scoreboard Watching
Louisville-Miami. The Path is dead, but this game matters to us from a Miami perspective. It has been a rough year for the 'Canes. I am hoping they get stomped by Louisville and are demoralized and checked out coming into our game next week.

BC is in trouble if...Jurkovec plays. I don’t see Narduzzi using him at QB or TE unless Pitt is either up or Narduzzi feels like it will lead to a Pitt win. He is not going to embarrass the guy. So if Phil is on the field in a critical spot, I have a feeling things won’t be going BC’s way.

I hope to see…the defense step up without Jones. He has been the best defensive player and saved our butts multiple times. He won’t play this weekend or likely the rest of the season (undisclosed reasons). We need big games from everyone else.

Bottom line
Pitt is bad and seemingly checked out. Syracuse ran all over them. BC needs to keep is simple and do the same. If we try to get too cute or make mistakes, this could be a nail biter.
Final Score: BC 28, Pitt 10

Thursday, November 09, 2023

BC-Virginia Tech preview

This run has been fun. No debate. The games are back and forth. We have pulled off some upsets on the road. We have some exciting players. No complaints from me. But we should probably recognize that our record is probably better than it should be. BC enters this game with a +5 point differential total on the season. When your point differential is so small, you usually are a .500 team. Winning close games is better than losing, but you have to recognize that your luck will run out. If BC really wants to continue this win streak, they need to take their level of play to the next level and start winning these games decisively.

What's on my mind (not totally related to this game)
This will be our last Saturday game of the season and our last ACC Network game. But when you wonder why, just look at the TV ratings for Syracuse-BC. 1.1M people watched! The 15th most watched game of the weekend and the second highest rated ACC game of the weekend. If BC wants to stay in the good graces of the ACC and TV execs, they should be willing to play on Friday and Thursday nights as often as they will have us. (And for anyone who says that is a Syracuse number not a BC number, Cuse-VT on Thursday the week before only drew 700K and the Friday night game the week before of FAU-Charlotte only drew 300K).

Three Simple Keys
1. Don’t make TC do it all. I know we are thin and banged up, but we can’t have TC carry the ball 20+ times a game nor throwing it 35+ times a game. We need a steady run diet with whoever is healthy and leverage TC as a threat vs just a workhorse.
2. Get VT off the field. They are going to try to do what we do: shorten the game, long drives, etc. We need to get them behind schedule and be the ones controlling the clock.
3. Don’t lose the gambling mindset. We are going bowling. That’s the baseline. Now there really isn’t anything to lose. So Hafley should keep rolling the dice on 4th down. Keep calling fake punts and trick plays. Let it all hang out. We want to win.

Gambling notes
-- VT leads the series 20-11
-- Pry has yet to win an ACC road game
-- Hafley is 1-2 vs Virginia Tech
The Current line is BC+1.5

Factoid Since BC’s move from independence to Big East football, we’ve played Virginia Tech more than any other team (31 games). The only break was in our final year in the Big East, but that is somewhat offset by the two times we played them in the ACC Championship Game.

Scoreboard Watching
Louisville-Virginia. A lot needs to happen for BC to make the ACC Championship Game. But the biggest hurdle is Louisville. We don’t need Virginia to pull off an upset, but it would help our chances.

BC is in trouble if…If we are truly down to one RB. Hafley said things are improved, but we have no idea if anyone is up for 20 carries.

What I hope to see…Better run defense. The Orange had too many big run plays. We can’t let that happen this week.

Bottom Line These two teams are very alike. I expect a slow-paced, grind it out affair. I think we have the better Oline and players and control in the second half. Final Score: BC 23, Virginia Tech 10

Thursday, November 02, 2023

BC-Syracuse preview

I don't consider Syracuse a rivalry in the sense that I get overly emotional or take great pride in beating them. However, I do recognize that our games with the Orange -- especially in the Dome -- tend to be either huge trap games or huge boosts to various seasons. This game comes at a critical time. With a win, we become bowl eligible and keep the hot streak going. Lose and all the recent goodwill and momentum goes away. 

What's on my mind (not totally related to this game)
The basketball season starts next week and I am excited. I think there is a general optimism among many casual BC fans and a lot of optimism among the hoops diehards. The experts still predict BC to finish in the bottom half of the conference, but many have us sneaking into the Tournament. We are still in the honeymoon phase with Earl, so I think we can do it. I just like entering the season where people beyond BC have a little faith in what's ahead.

Three Simple Keys
1. Protect the ball.
Hafley didn't throw TC under the bus, but you could tell when talking about the UConn win, he was frustrated. Statistically BC dominated, but the scoreboard didn't show it. We can't turn the ball over and kill our drives nor give the Orange good field position.
2. Stick with the run. I know we are going to run. Everyone knows. But the key, which has paid off in the last three games, is the steady diet of run that wears on the other team. Our OLine is very good. Syracuse is not great against the run. So stick with it and hope that in the second half it leads to BC controlling the game.
3. Stop the run. Like us, I think Syracuse will try to control tempo, establish the run and then open up the passing game. If we run stop on first downs, we win this game.

Gambling Notes
-- Hafley is 1-2 vs Babers
-- Hafley is 1-1 in Syracuse
-- Babers is 4-3 vs BC
The current line is BC+2.5

Neither team has won three in a row in the series since 1998.

Scoreboard Watching
Louisville-Virginia Tech. If you are reading this blog you probably know that the BC Twitterverse is hyper-focused on BC's path to the ACC Championship game. Aside from running the table ourselves, we need some help. It would be very helpful to the cause if Virginia Tech upset Louisville this weekend.

BC is in trouble if...TC is not 100%. Last week he made some mistakes and missed some time and BC still won. That sort of thing can happen against a UConn. It won't in ACC games.

I hope to see...the DLine step up. The rest of the D is looking pretty good, but the Dline is still not disrupting much or generating a lot of pressure. We could use a big game.

Bottom Line
Syracuse looks like a team that is mentally checked out. I think BC goes into the Dome, pushes them around on the Line and pulls away in the second half.
Final Score: BC 31, Syracuse 13

Friday, October 27, 2023

BC-UConn preview

Everyone -- myself included -- is drinking the Kool-aid and believing the hype. I don't know if it will last. I don't know if it is real. But it is fun. And in the end, I think that's what I want. There were moments of fun during the Spaz and Addazio days, but the flaws on the field and the flaws of those wearing the headsets felt so permanent, that it was hard to get too juiced up. Hafley lost to Northern Illinois this year, so I am not calling him the next Coughlin. But the way this win streak and season is coming together gives me hope he is figuring things out. In the meantime, let's keep rolling and enjoy it while we can. 

What's on my mind (not totally related to this game)
Earlier this year when it looked like the Hafley era might be coming to a close, the typical internet speculation kicked in. Inevitably there were plenty of "this guy would never take that job" comments. I usually retort with "you'd be surprised about who would take what as there are only so many jobs." A textbook case of guys looking for any job is Jim Mora at UConn. This is a long-time NFL coach and a guy who coached at UCLA. He had no connection to UConn or really the region. Yet here he was taking the UConn job. My point is these guys usually need to work for ego, financial and boredom reasons and there are only so many high-level jobs. Now would Nick Saban drop everything and take the UConn job? Of course not. But guys looking for their shot or a second chance or a salary north of $1 million will. And they will certainly listen to BC when our job opens up one day.

Three Simple Keys
1. Be conservative with new wrinkles and counters. I am not taking UConn for granted. But we shouldn't have to do much other than just plow forward and run them over. I don't want BC using any new looks or variations. Save those for the games where we are underdogs.
2. Be more aggressive with the punt returns. We've been letting too many punts roll and putting our Offense in bad starting field positions. We need to curtail that.
3. Continue to play aggressive man coverage. After we got burned against Louisville, I thought our DBs were terrible. They've looked better of late. I hope they continue to play more man this weekend as it helps the front and creates turnovers.

Gambling Notes
-- BC leads the series 12-1-2 
 -- UConn has never won or tied at Alumni
 -- UConn is 3-4 against the spread this year
The current line is BC-14

This is UConn's second visit to Alumni since their lawsuit against BC after the Big East split.

Scoreboard Watching
Duke-Louisville. On Sunday, some true believers started circulating a twitter post regarding what needs to happen for BC to make the ACC Championship Game. It's a lot, but the fact that we are even entertaining a run is nice. Needless to say, we need both Duke and Louisville to lose some games down the stretch. Someone is getting a loss in this game.

BC is in trouble if...we can't get the run going. I don't see us as one-dimensional, but I don't think this current roster lends itself to being pass heavy.

I hope to one get hurt. Too often in these cupcake games we see a brutal, season changing injury.

Bottom Line
Last year was a nightmare and won't happen again. I think BC plays smart and tough and UConn can't keep up.
Final Score: BC 35, UConn 14

Thursday, October 19, 2023

BC-Georgia Tech preview

From a fan perspective, these close games can be exhausting. Who wants to be sweating out a rainy game against Army? But beyond our emotions, lots of close games are not a good sign. Very good teams win by healthy margins. The problem with playing too many close games is it magnifies one or two plays and invites the opponent to steal the game from you. Unlike say TOB's penchant for close games, I don't think it is a product of playing too conservatively. In most of these cases it is because BC either starts slow or goes cold for long stretches. To truly turn the corner, Hafley needs the team to play at a high level for 60 minutes.

What's on my mind (not totally related to this game)
Georgia Tech is playing Florida State in Ireland next year. We haven't been back since we played the Yellow Jackets in 2016 and I don't know when will potentially play there again. I know we didn't max out on our tickets and packages last time (enthusiasm wasn't great coming off Addazio's worst season). But Addazio also pissed off a lot of the Irish organizers. He did his typical bully, yell at innocent people who are just trying to do their jobs routine throughout the trip. Despite our problems now, putting up with seven years of his behavior for .500 football was an incredible waste of time and good will.

Three Simple Keys
1. Avoid Castellanos turnovers. I will give him a break for the Army game. It was a wet, wet mess. But the truth is he does force some bad throws. He can't keep doing that because GT and all remaining opponents are going to stack the box and dare him to throw.
2. Put the game on the offensive line again. They get better each week, so it should remain an advantage. In Tech's bad losses this year, it was because the other team controlled the Line and put up big numbers on the ground.
3. Reset after taking on a gimmick offense. BC looked good against Army's new look until they lost focus and started biting on plays in the second half. Tech is more conventional but play action will still be a factor. BC needs to stay focused.

Gambling Notes
-- Hafley is 2-0 vs Georgia Tech
-- GT leads the series 7-4
-- BC is 1-1 against the spread this year on the road
The current line is BC+5

BC has never won three in a row vs Georgia Tech.

Scoreboard Watching
Pitt-Wake Forest. I thought Pitt's season was over, but a QB change sparked a huge upset last week. Can they keep it up this week? 

BC is in trouble if...we don't score 30 or more. These close games are not going to always go our way. We need to be a little more aggressive and efficient on offense.

I hope to see...BC increase their pace a bit this week. As much as I appreciate a good, methodical and dominant run performance, I think a slower game helps Tech. We can keep it on the ground, but let's use tempo a good bit. 

Bottom Line
My confidence level isn't as high for this game as others, but Georgia Tech is beatable. I think Castellanos puts up some big numbers in his home state and our D does enough to win without it coming down to the last minute.
Final Score:
BC 35, Georgia Tech 24

Thursday, October 05, 2023

BC-Army preview

The short season nature of college football always has you looking ahead to the rest of the schedule. After BC beat Virginia last week, I revisited the remaining opponents and felt better. As UConn, Pitt and Georgia Tech’s terrible days progressed, BC’s chance at a winning season and Hafley saving his job became much more viable. All of that presumes we beat Army this week. The Cadets are favored and our last trip to West Point was a disaster. But we can win this week. We have to win this week.

What's on my mind (not totally related to this game)
BC doesn’t schedule the service academies enough. It has been ten years since we played Army, 20 since we played Navy and 43 years since we’ve played Air Force. The East Coast academies used to be a regular part of our schedule. I know their offenses are hard to play and there is very little upside. But you have to play someone out of conference. Isn’t playing Army or Navy more respectable than trying to drum up a series with a random mid-major? With the conferences in flux, I know we can’t predict much regarding future schedules, but I hope BC calls Army and Navy first when they are trying to fill out their calendars.

Three Simple Keys
1. Disciplined play on the Defensive line.
Army’s new offense is more like Wake’s than the Triple Option, but it still starts with an option style read in the backfield. Our DLine needs to win their battles up front and keep Army from establishing tempo or space in the pocket.
2. Get Bond more touches. It is natural when things are gloomy to latch on to the first sign of life. I know Bond won’t be Zay tomorrow (or maybe ever), but he has some key attributes – finding space, making people miss, etc – that are in short supply. We need to get him seven or eight touches this week.
3. Win the turnover battle. We got lucky last week. Very lucky. This week we need to protect the ball more and hopefully force a few turnovers.

Gambling Notes
-- BC leads the series 25-13
-- BC is 12-11 in Michie Stadium
-- Hafley is 7-4 in non-conference games
The current line is BC+3

We had a five game win streak vs Army prior to Spaz’s loss in 2012 and a nine game win streak prior to Henning’s loss in 1995.

Scoreboard Watching
Syracuse-UNC. The Orange lost last week (which gave me some hope). Immediately people online mentioned this year might be another season where Baber’s starts hot and ends the season in a free fall. I hope so. It will be telling if they bounce back this week vs Carolina.

BC is in trouble if… Army eats up the clock. They are not triple option, but they are still slow and methodical. We can’t let them have seven and eight minute drives.

I hope to see… Castellanos be more careful with the ball. He looked good on the ground, but the passing game was a hit or miss. Castellanos can’t force things and needs to be careful throwing into coverage.

Bottom Line
I think this is another close game. BC wins by making fewer mistakes and Hafley gets us back to .500
Final Score: BC 28, Army 20