Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Lucky or good?

Wake Forest and Boston College both enter Saturday’s game with only one loss. Both are only a few plays from being undefeated. Yet both got very lucky and could just as easily have lost three or four different games. So I tried to see who was more lucky so far through the statistical and the subjective.

Strength of Schedule

You can run up a good record by playing nobodies (*cough, Rutgers, cough*). Of the two schools, BC has played the tougher schedule. Our current Colley Strength of Schedule ranking is 46 (it took a hit after playing Buffalo). Wake’s is an embarrassing 114th (worse than Rutgers).

Point Differential

A one-point win counts as much as a 40-point win. Over the course of a season though, the big wins tend to prove a team’s worth, while too many one-point wins shows a certain amount of luck. Luck runs out. While each game is a statistically independent event, I would expect a team with a record better than their point differential to come crashing down to earth eventually. So far based purely on point differential Wake’s record is slightly better than it should with a mark of +65. BC heads into the game with the same record but a point differential of +100. For a frame of reference, here are some other teams, their record and current point differential. Rutgers, 8-0, +161. Florida, 7-1, +114. USC, 6-1, +88. Oklahoma, 6-2, +126.

“We’re lucky we won that game” wins

This is purely subjective, but something that needs to be addressed. I define “we’re lucky…” wins as anything that turned late on a somewhat fluky play and handed BC or Wake the victory. But my count, Wake has had three of these, while BC has had two.

-- Wake held off Duke with a last second blocked field goal. This was after trailing most of the day and only going ahead with just over a minute to play.

-- Wake also needed a late INT returned for a TD to hold off UConn.

-- Finally, Wake needed a last minute INT to keep UNC from sending their game into OT.

-- On BC’s side. BC blocked a Clemson PAT in OT to hold off the Tigers at home.

-- BC also needed a second OT to beat BYU. The Cougars missed a FG in the first OT.

So both teams are lucky to be where they are. Of the two I would say that WF has been more lucky/overachieved. My hope is that their luck will end starting this Saturday.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Wake Week

Saturday night's game is shaping up to be huge -- the 2006 version of the most important game of TOB's career. In addition to news and AOL updates, this is what I have on tap for the week:

-- Guest Blogging from Wake grad, Chris Chase
-- A look back at each game of the Wake WTF Forest Series
-- Game Preview
-- Anything else that might come up.

Blogpoll ballot

More movement. Saw a good amount of football this weekend. What surprised me is how poor some teams looked while still winning (Florida, Ga Tech). It is a reminder that BC is not the only good team out there with ugly wins.

Games I Watched
Buffalo-BC 50% and listend to the other half
Clemson-Virginia Tech 75%
UConn-Rutgers 50%
Notre Dame-Navy 50%
Florida-UGA 25%
Miami-Ga Tech 50%
FSU-Maryland 75%
UT-South Carolina 25%

1 Ohio State --
2 Michigan --
3 West Virginia 1
4 Louisville 2
5 Auburn 2
6 Texas 3
7 Tennessee 1
8 Notre Dame 3
9 Southern Cal 6
10 Arkansas 4
11 Rutgers 1
12 Boston College 1
13 California 9
14 Wisconsin 2
15 Oklahoma 6
16 LSU 1
17 Texas A&M 6
18 Wake Forest 1
19 Brigham Young --
20 Clemson 15
21 Georgia Tech 3
22 Virginia Tech 4
23 Oregon 1
24 Missouri 4
25 Maryland 1

Dropped Out: Florida (#12), Georgia (#25).

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Grades and partial viewing thoughts

My grades for this game must be taken with a large grain of salt. I listened to Meterperal and Cronin for the first quarter. Then someone posted a bypass link to ESPN360. From there I was able to watch for nearly two quarters. But it started “buffering” in the fourth. Not sure if it was my ISP or the link. So I had to move back to the radio stream. With that said, this is what I thought.

Offense: B+

Chris Crane played well considering it was his first start and the conditions were horrendous. I liked his ability to run. I think he seems to understand the offense well. However, he was seemingly hesitant to throw downfield. Maybe it was the rain. Maybe it was the gameplan. But he clearly tucked and ran a few times. It was Porter-esque. I am hoping that with more snaps and better weather we’ll see him become more aggressive and the coaches will use more of the playbook with him.

Whitworth and Callender both had nice days. They haven’t had many breakaways or big runs this year, so it was nice to see them make a few big plays Saturday. Considering their troubles holding onto the ball this season, both did a good job of securing it in the rain. Ross is blossoming as a pass catcher. Let’s see more of that down the stretch. Solid day from Palmer. I was also glad to see the return of A.J. Brooks. Much has been speculated about his future. Hopefully little moments like this will keep him committed and in the program.

Who would have guessed that we would score 41 points, yet only complete 10 passes to Wide Receivers and Tight Ends. Gonzo got the day off and everyone else played pretty well considering the limited opportunities and the weather. I wasn’t so surprised that we didn’t go deep too often but I was surprised that none of the WRs broke a play for a long gain. The RBs and Return men were able to make things happen. Why couldn’t the WRs?

The offensive line had its best game of the season. Even on the choppy ESPN360 feed, I could see good push and good holes. Other than that, not much too add. I usually pick up the line play on the second viewing. Couldn’t really do that this weekend.

Bible went pretty conservative. There were plenty of screens and I assume limited reads where they told Crane to run if nothing looked good. I would hope things would have been more explosive if Ryan had played and if the weather was better.

Defense: A

The Defensive line played well. Very active good push. The second teamers getting plenty of snaps.

Herzlich is getting pub and it is well deserved. He is all over the place and plays smart which is so surprising from a true freshman. The other guys played well too. Once again, it was hard to get a great feel from the streams.

The DBs really clamped down on Buffalo. I was really happy with Anderson’s INT. Love the intensity of trying to preserve the touchdown.

Special Teams: B+

Very good place kicking. Sid Vicious had to kick in his worst conditions yet and still came through. Ohliger is having trouble getting the ball into the endzone on kickoffs.

Great kick returns. And it was nice to see Smith finally deliver another long run.

But this wouldn’t be a BC game without one disconcerting play. The bad punt in the fourth. Let’s hope that is out of our system.

Overall: A

Not much to complain about. The next game is really important so it is nice to have this out of the way and get some guys healthy.

Very nice

Sorry for the delay. Blogger wasn't working yesterday afternoon.

Here are my takeaways on AOL Fanhouse.

Even against Buffalo, 41-0 deserves a round of applause.

Congrats to Chris Crane for getting his first win.

I'll post my grades and thoughts later this weekend.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Friday links

Another short preview on the AOL Fanhouse.

Here's a nice article on Ryan Poles, who has been playing much better of late.

Here's a hockey preview of our rematch with Wisconsin.

The Boston papers had some good stuff today. A Crane update in the Globe, an Anam feature in the Globe, and a Davis feature in the Herald.

Evolution of a totally hetero man crush

Matt Ryan has already put out a restraining order against me.

I’m in love. My wife has nothing to worry about because this is not a romantic love. My baby has nothing to worry about because this is not a paternal love. It is a hero worshiping, makes me smile, devotion, belief, he can do no wrong type of love. The subject of my crush: Matt Ryan.

Like most loves, I never would have predicted it would turn out this way. Matt seemed plucky in his first extended appearance against Temple. But a week later he was part of one of the biggest disasters in BC history (the Syracuse game).

But like the strongest loves, it grew and blossomed over time. First the win at Death Valley. He was unfazed by the pressure. Then he pulled off a miracle against Wake Forest. We had a Quarterback controversy and I clearly knew which side I was on.

Things progressed and the crush blossomed. Undefeated as a starter in 2005. Downfield throws became part of our conservative offense. Composure in the pocket.

When your in love, the pain runs deeper. I felt anguish over his ankle injury. Yet watching him overcome the pain and continue winning made my one-way bond stronger.

He took it to a new level last week. As I mentioned the gimpy endzone scramble followed by a bomb that no one else could have made left me speechless. The pass was the equivalent of a dozen roses. I nearly skipped over the bleacher in front of me and let out about three “holy shits.” And with the win, Matt earned my totally devotion (I am singing Olivia Newton John’s Hopelessly Devoted as I type this).

When Paul Peterson graduated, I never thought I could love another BC QB. Little did I know I would get to see someone with Paul’s guts, heart and smarts combined with an NFL body and an Ironman toughness.

Not only is Matt Ryan the best QB in the ACC, he is the best QB in college football. You can have your Quinns, Tebows and Smiths. With everything on the line, I am taking Matt Ryan. But what do I know, I am just a fool in love.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

BC-Buffalo Preview

After two tough games, BC gets a bit of a respite this week. Buffalo might be one of the worst teams in college football. They are 96th in Total Offense and 116th in Total Defense. Their lone victory came against an equally bad Temple team. If BC loses this game, it would be a monumental upset.

Theme that won’t be discussed on television radio. BC has only been on the periphery of the National Championship and BCS talk. If we win out, we will be right in the mix. And if BC is in the debate, expect a lot of talk about strength of schedule. Our current strength of schedule is strong, but it will start to fall soon with games against Duke and Buffalo. The talking heads will certainly question why BC played two MAC teams and the good seasons from CMU and BYU will be ignored so they can rail on BC for winning a weak ACC and padding their schedule with Buffalo and Maine.

Buffalo is a perfect example of a limited upside game. We get a win, but risk an embarrassing loss. We get a 2 for 1 in home games, but will not have a full stadium on Saturday. I will repeat something I’ve said before. Playing one MAC school per season is fine. Playing two is unacceptable.

Three Simple Keys
1. Get Ryan out of the game as early as possible. TOB is on record saying he prefers Ryan to start and doesn’t want to be the “upset of the week.” I agree with the idea. But the reality is that BC needs to establish control early and have a solid lead at Half. If BC gets up by 21, Chris Crane should come in. Ryan needs the rest.
2. Avoid Turnovers. Sounds simple, but unusual mishaps have been the source of our fluke losses in the past.
3. Focus on kick coverage. Buffalo’s return game is relatively solid with two guys (Roosevelt and Paterson) averaging over 20 yards a return. In a game like this a big return can make a difference. BC needs to stay on top of it.

Gambling Notes
-- BC leads the series 5-2
-- TOB has not lost to a MAC team
-- This is the second longest home win steak of TOB’s tenure.
The current line is BC-35 points

What would be a pleasant surprise? Seeing some bench riding second and third teamers get some time and play well. I would love to see Smith get some more carries. Or the buried A.J. Brooks.

What would be a letdown? If Buffalo keeps it close and Ryan is forced to play the whole game.

What would be a shocker? A BC loss. If we lose this game it would be beyond crushing.

Bottom Line
I think BC wins with ease. The team is playing well and has a clear talent advantage. I am worried that the team will falter before the season is out, but don’t think it will be this weekend.
Final Score: BC 48, Buffalo 17

Kiwi starts and AOL link

Kiwi is getting his first pro start. He should see plenty of time against his old high school and college teammate Jeremy Trueblood.

Here is a Q&A with Al Skinner.

The Buffalo News has some nice things to say about our move to the ACC.

Will Blackmon is going to get his shot in Green Bay.

My latest on the AOL Fanhouse.

Here is the AP’s game preview.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Grade Report and Second Viewing Thoughts: FSU

Here are my long delayed grades and thoughts after seeing the game again. Weird game (but I should expect that now). Watching the game, it felt like BC controlled and even dominated at times, yet the stats, final score and final play show how close it was. This is not to slight our guys but FSU still has more talent. The gap is not as wide as it would’ve been ten years ago, but they have some great players. BC’s win shows what team work, coaching and a great QB can do.

Offense: B

Matt Ryan is my hero. I plan on writing something dedicated to him later in the week, but for now, I will just have to say that his bomb to Gonzo might be the greatest pass a BC QB has made on a non scoring drive. Hobbled, he still had enough gitty up to buy time in the end zone and deliver a perfect pass to Gonzo. It is also one of those plays that TV dulled. In person, from high above the opposite endzone, the play came out more like a work of genius or of a prodigy…because no one even saw that play or opening. Matt rolled, and the play was breaking down, and threw it to spot 40 something yards downfield. I don’t even think Gonzo knew how the defenders would part they way it did. When Matt released it, I wondered “what the hell was that?” Yet as the ball moved downfield, I saw Gonzo run under while the five FSU defenders near the area all sort of stood nearly motionless. Like I said, the drive didn’t produce points, but it changed field position and killed more clock. Great play. The rest of his game was very good. The pick was not his fault. He moved well and I loved the little productive shovel passes when he scrambled. His passing was as sharp as it has been since his ankle injury. Very good game.

The running backs numbers didn’t stand out, but both did a much better job reading their blocks and waiting for their moment. It gives me hope for the rest of the season and for next year. I also want to note that both are getting very good at picking up blitzers. Ross deserves mention for his sweet run and catch. He has speed that Palmer lacks, making that play much more interesting as the season progresses.

The receivers and Tight Ends were somewhat mixed bag. Gonzo had a great catch but clearly blew it on the INT. Challenger never broke anything. Robinson caught a nice deep ball and was good in space, but still runs his routes too short on 3rd down. The TEs blocking was mixed. Purvis made a nice catch but also coughed one up.

The line had its best game of the season. Yes, Florida State sacked Ryan twice, but overall they controlled the game, opened up good holes and gave Ryan enough time. We continued the mixed lineups, yet never missed a beat. There were a few trip ups here and there, but the pulling and run blocking was very crisp.

Bible’s calls bring down the O’s grade. He stalled out one drive keeping it on the ground too many times. Some of our Red zone stuff still looked scattered. We moved the ball yet couldn’t sustain many things. The 24 points is very deceptive as 14 really came from the D. After the great game against VT, I was hoping Dana would get on a roll. This game contained many nice plays, yet, like I said, only generated 10 points.

Defense: B+

The defensive line played well. They forced Weatherford to move and scramble more than a dozen times. FSU abandoned the run so quickly that it was hard to gauge the run stopping. One concern is that some of the new guys seem just a step too slow. There were at least six occasions when Giles, Larkin, Raji, Smith and Brace were each a step away from Weatherford and couldn’t close the gap. He didn’t beat us for big plays, but a more mobile QB could.

The linebackers were outstanding again. Dunbar might have had his best game of the season. Pruitt was also good. Francois was less of a factor, because Toal got so many snaps. Toal is clearly getting better each week. I don’t know if it was his health or his attitude, but he is playing with a focus and discipline that he didn’t have last year. Akins continued to cause havoc.

The secondary played well considering the situation – FSU passed all day and have real talent at the WR position. I was really impressed with Wes Davis. Tribble had an outstanding game. His INT was perfect. He saw the read, sucked in Weatherford and then was in the endzone before you knew it. Anam’s pick saved us. However, his day was mixed. His tackling was better, but he was a step too slow every time he blitzed from the corner (our blitzes are much more effective with Dunbar or Akins). Sanni played well until he got hurt. Silva made some important tackles. Overall a solid effort from the DBs.

I didn’t like Spaz’s plan all that much. The blitzs weren’t very effective. FSU gave up on the run and we did very little to exploit that. Instead we sat back in deep zones and allowed Weatherford to move the ball. Yes, we made some big plays and kept them out of the endzone, but overall I felt that gameplan was too conservative in the second half. I understand he is playing the percentages with a two touchdown lead, but it is painful to watch and you will lose one day playing that way.

Special teams: B+

Smith bobbled one of his first return chances in weeks. His lone return was solid.

Sid Vicious looked good. Ohliger did not. Where was his distance on the kick offs.

Ayers is having a really strong season and punted well again.

Overall: B+

Despite Florida State’s down trend, winning on the road in the division against a talented team still means something. The defense is getting better, which we need. We cannot run the table on Matt Ryan alone.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Blogpoll ballot

On the road, so I only saw bits and pieces of other games. Here is my latest ballot. The biggest change was where I placed some of the one loss teams.

Games I watched
BC-FSU 100%
Ga Tech-Clemson 50%

1 Ohio State --
2 Michigan --
3 Southern Cal --
4 West Virginia --
5 Clemson 5
6 Louisville
7 Auburn 1
8 Tennessee 1
9 Texas 3
10 Rutgers 5
11Notre Dame 2
12 Florida 1
13 Boston College 3
14 Arkansas --
15 LSU 10
16 Wisconsin
17 Wake Forest
18 Georgia Tech 7
19 Brigham Young 7
20 Missouri 1
21 Oklahoma
22 California
23 Texas A&M
24 Oregon
25 Georgia

Dropped Out: Nebraska (#23), Pittsburgh (#24).

FSU pics

Our seats were up about as far as you can go, so you can barely make out some of the stuff in the pics. I also don't take action shots during the game. It is just too distracting. But here are some shots from the pregame and post game. The Flaming Spear is very cool. I had a great time, but the Florida State game experience can't hold a candle to Clemson.