ATLEagle: The offense still seems to live and die with Russell Wilson. VT decided to shut down the run and force Wilson to make mistakes. Do you think that is the template for stopping the Pack offense?
Riddick & Reynolds: I think that would be a risky strategy based off of just one game (and perhaps one play, the pick-six, in the Georgia Tech game the week before). Russell certainly was off his game in the Virginia Tech game, throwing three interceptions, but he still threw three touchdowns as well. A three-interception game may never happen again in Wilson's career given he holds the NCAA record for passes thrown without a pick. Expecting a multi-turnover game from Russell in back-to-back games seems highly, highly unlikely.
That begs the question: Well, how DO you stop State's offense? In my uneducated opinion, the short answer is "I don't know." If you take away the run by stacking the box, the multitude of State's large receivers and pro-quality tight end will eat up single, man coverage. If you drop into coverage with extra defensive backs, the running game is stout enough to gain yards and of course Russell can always take
off and gain yards on the ground himself. I'd roll the dice and bring as much pressure as possible cross your fingers that Russell has another game like the Virginia Tech game, however unlikely that might be.
ATLEagle: Much was made of adding Jon Tenuta to the defensive staff. Has the defense been more aggressive? Should BC expect a lot of blitzing?
Riddick & Reynolds: It sure has been more aggressive, though I openly wondered on Twitter where the pressure was in the latter stages of the VT game. The Hokies established the running game late and I think Archer/Tenuta became hesitant to bring the house as much as they had in prior games. I felt like that was a mistake, but then again I'm always going to be in favor of bringing as much pressure as possible, and late in the game that can be rather difficult unless you've got unlimited depth in the front seven.
I would expect a good deal of blitzing Saturday. Something tells me Tenuta will be eager to unleash his linebackers again like the defense did in the UCF and Cincinnati games.
ATLEagle: Does the strong start mean that TOB has finally turned the corner in Raleigh or did the VT game expose old problems? What is the upside of this team?
Riddick & Reynolds: Knock on wood, but I think we're seeing what a healthy State team would've accomplished last season. The loss of Nate Irving and multiple other defenders decimated the defense and forced State to outscore teams. We're still trying to win games by scoring 30+ a game, but the return of Irving, the addition of Tenuta, and good health across the roster has been a big help.
Now, having read up a lot on O'Brien when he came our way via Boston College, I remember many, many BC fans who were angered O'Brien never seemed able to win the "big" games that would've transformed a good season into a great one. I thought of those complaints when State lost the VT game last weekend. We'll see how the rest of this season transpires to see if that trend continues. I'm hopeful it won't, but we shall see.
The upside of this team obviously is its tremendous quarterback and offensive weapons. I think the running game is young but very talented, and the offensive line is starting to look like the ones we saw at BC under Don Horton. We'll see how the defense takes shape, but there are nice pieces in place. We'll see how easy it will be to hang on to Jon Tenuta at the end of the year if he's expected to remain simply the linebackers coach here. It might be tough to turn down a DC position elsewhere, and we know how easily he changes jobs.
ATLEagle: What is your prediction for the game?
Riddick & Reynolds: I think State wins, but I'm not willing to bet anything on it. Boston College is typically a thorn in our side since expansion, and O'Brien is 0-fer against his old employer since moving south. Until Tom gets that first W against the Eagles, I'm reluctant to write a "W" in pen. I think it'll be closer than perhaps expected, but I think the
Pack wins by a touchdown, 28-21ish.