Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Syracuse is a must win

Steve Addazio is not on the hot seat, but he must win this weekend. Syracuse just fired their head coach and is a bad, bad team. They have no reason to play. We have the best defense in the country. There is no reason we cannot overcome their emotion and win. 

Winning just one game won't change the course of this season, but it will avoid a complete rock bottom. If Addazio loses, he will have led BC through its first winless conference season, and only one win over a FBS team. It would be arguably as bad as Spaz's worst season and arguably BC's worst year since the '70s.

Plus the inability to scrap together or even luck into a win would speak to a bigger problem. BC is young. BC is flawed. BC will be better next year. But if Addazio can't even do enough schematically to fall into a win -- with the best BC defense in decades -- then he has bigger issues than QB and Offensive line.

This season is lost. We all understand that. But give us some hope. Give the people (fans, recruits, current players) something to look forward to. Addazio must win this weekend or else the offseason will be that much longer.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Second viewing thoughts and grades: Notre Dame

That didn't feel like a three-point loss. Did any BC fan trust us to comeback once the Irish got up? Watching the game back just reinforced the point. The energy, the playcalling and even Notre Dame's reaction never turned. As frustrated as we are, I can only guess what some players are thinking.

Offense: C-

Fadule was ok. He's a fighter and looks good at times, but this was the first game where he seemed confused. There were clearly some runs (Williams was downfield blocking, as was Callinan) where Fadule dropped back to pass. He also had clock issues and timing the snap on the jet sweep. Addazio also got on him for some run pass/decisions. His passing wasn't particularly crisp and had trouble with blitzes. Smith looked good and ran with more purpose. His passing was good too. My only real issue was that he screwed up a snap again.

Rouse was fine but better receiving than rushing. Willis ran hard but did not break anything big. Same sort of feel from Wilson. What they all did though was help the play action and the Smith runs later.

This is a different game without the drop from Thadd Smith and less so with the Robinson drop. Those mistakes are killers, but also lead me to wonder why we didn't throw more. I know the QBs are not great passers, but there were open plays out there. Callinan had some really nice catches, including the TD. Sweeney's one grab was nice. Dudeck was fine as the emergency outlet, but when is he ever going to break a tackle? Addazio struggled blocking again.

Although Flutie got on them, the OLine wasn't their worst. Bowen did not play well and Williams struggled a bit, but I thought Baker looked good and moved well. Monteiro played well.

Put aside who is making the QB call for a moment and just look at some of the unintended byproducts. Snap issues. Wasted timeouts. General execution issues with regards to blocking and catching. Timing issues on timing plays (the sweep). This is happening in Week 11. I also don't understand why there wasn't more passing. Plenty of big plays were there. But Notre Dame knew if they stopped the run, they would stop BC. But even with a focus on stopping the run, BC got good run productivity from the QBs.

Defense: B

One of the reasons ND was able to move the ball was the Defensive Line. Each guy had some big plays, but in general they weren't at their best. Abdesmad made the most plays. Wujciak was contained for the most part. Landry missed big on an option. Kavalec was ok. Gutapel helped tip on of the INTs.

If the DLine was not their best, the LBs were. The most impressive play was Strachan and Milano blowing up ND's read option. Daniels also made some nice plays. He was very disruptive in the backfield. Strachan also did well when forced into coverage.

Simmons had a heck of a game. He made heads up plays all over the field. He tackled well too. McClary was tested the most and did ok -- despite the penalty. Johnson played well. Harris looked okay, but he missed a few tackles.

I thought we would blitz more against ND. But we didn't and that allowed them to pass a lot. We were fortunate that we turned the ball over so often. So Brown doesn't get a thumbs up for the scheme, but the players stripping the ball is all part of the package.

Special Teams: C

Lots of Special Teams mistakes to ruin the good stuff. Alston muffed a critical punt and we were lucky the D got the ball back. The penalty on the blocked kick was also bad. Sailing a kick off out of bounds was also bad.

Walker looked good. The punt coverage was good. And we made a field goal!!!

I didn't mind the fake punt. I just wish it had been executed better.

Overall: C+

Addazio said the plan was to play both Quarterbacks. That's fine, but the timing and the in and out still seemed so haphazard. As mentioned above, the rotation seemed to impact execution again. Addazio also deserves a little scorn for the unsportsmanlike penalty. This is a guy who preaches smart football and avoiding mistakes. Yet here he goes getting a 15-yard penalty when we are behind? If a player did that, he would be livid. Beyond the game, this is dumb because it was an ACC crew. Do you think Addazio is getting a reputation among officials? How is that going to pay off in the future?

We lost a close game against a top team. That is not the end of the world. But he gets a C+ because he's ineffective at fixing our issues in-season and keeps making the same mistakes.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Delay in second viewing

Sorry for the delay, but the second viewing thoughts won't be available until Monday. The Harvard basketball game cut into my time (I'll write about the hoops team too). As always, thanks for the support.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

More frustration in Fenway

Let's run through the 2015 BC Football checklist. QB rotation? Check. Ineffective Offense for long stretches? Check. Clock management issues? Check. Special Teams' mistakes? Check. Wasting a great defensive performance? Check. So, this was a complete copy of most of our loses this year, yet Addazio has the gall to lose it with the refs? This loss was on Addazio and his staff. This season is almost over and they still are just throwing stuff out there hoping it works.

Fortunately for Addazio, he built up plenty of goodwill in his first two seasons, because this is using most of it.

I will have grades and second viewing thoughts late Sunday night.

In-game comments post: Notre Dame

Fenway Park. Notre Dame. This is supposed to be fun. Let's make it a good one and hope that something special happens.

Leave your thoughts and comments below.

You can also follow me on Twitter.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday Picks Week 12

I am looking to bounce back from another losing slate last week. I am still above .500 and hoping some of these Big Ten games will be the difference.

Illinois+5 at Minnesota

Michigan-3.5 at Penn State

Duke+2 at Virginia

Georgia Tech-2.5 at Miami

USC+4.5 at Oregon

Louisville+2 at Pitt

UCLA+3 at Utah

Buffalo+4 at Akron

Mississippi State+4.5 at Arkansas

Baylor+1 at Oklahoma State

Last week I was 4-6. I am 58-49-3 on the season.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

BC-Notre Dame preview

The bye week made this forgettable season that much more forgettable. There certainly hasn't been one game we will remember in a positive light, but I can't even think of one play that stood out. Fenway will provide a unique stage this weekend, but at this point I can't count on anything great happening.

What's on my mind (not totally related to this game) 

Doug Flutie's parents dying this week will get a mention or two during the broadcast. I think we all appreciate what the Fluties did for BC and Natick. In thinking about them, I also started thinking about all BC parents...even those parents whose children are not BC athletes. When people write how Boston College came together, they start with the Jesuits, they get into the parochial history in the Boston area with education and Catholics, most will mention the students and alumni, and the many great faculty. Flutie even gets plenty of credit. But BC parents don't get enough credit for the school's success. There wouldn't be so many good members of the BC community if there weren't so many good BC parents. Those parents instilled values and intelligence in many of our alumni that served them well before they arrived at the Heights. So thank you to the Fluties and all the BC parents out there.

Three Simple Keys
1. Use Fadule to open up the run. I'm glad Fadule could pass against NC State. But that's really not what we need. Balance would be ideal, but given our opponent and talent, I would rather run the ball. Let's see more read option and a few early passes. Then the Irish will stop stacking the box and we will get some longer runs.
2. No big pass interference penalties. I expect Notre Dame to copy Clemson and NC State's success and go deep. We need great play from all the DBs and we also need them to avoid dumb penalties.
3. Better blocking from the Tight Ends and WRs. It has been a mess all year. If we are ever pulling off an upset, we need these guys to sustain blocks all over the field. 

Gambling Notes
-- Notre Dame has won four straight over BC
-- Brian Kelly is 3-1 vs BC (one loss came when at Central Michigan)
-- Addazio is 1-4 against teams in the Top Ten
The current line is BC+16.5

This is only the third time BC has played Notre Dame on a neutral field.

Scoreboard Watching
We should all be on the Clemson bandwagon now. Just hope they steamroll everyone and win it all. We don't necessarily need a dominant power in our division, but winning championships helps the ACC's long term credibility.

I hope to see...
Fadule play the whole game. As touching as it might seem to play Troy Flutie this weekend, I don't want ceremonial snaps to take over a game. We are probably going to lose regardless of who plays at QB, but I still want to try to win. Rotating QBs just sets us back.

BC is in trouble if...
There is no pressure on Kizer. If he can just stand in the pocket, he will destroy our DBs.

Bottom Line
I can't talk myself into this one. At this point we've played all the cards. The only ones left to play are the huge in-game risks and Addazio clearly won't do that. I think BC will play hard, make it interesting in the first half, but ultimately stall out on offense. I think Notre Dame will add two touchdowns in the second half and win comfortably.
Final Score: BC 17, Notre Dame 28

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Guest Blogger: Inside the Irish's Keith Arnold

Because we haven't played them in a few years, the Irish don't seem as familiar to BC fans these days. Throw in the injuries and roster changes and there are very few Notre Dame players who have faced BC. To get a feel for this talented team and perspective on Notre Dame's run for the playoff, I asked Keith Arnold of Inside the Irish a few questions. His answers are below.

1. Kizer hasn't really played like a back-up quarterback. What are his weak spots and do you think he is good enough to lead the Irish to a Championship.

Keith Arnold: If Notre Dame fans aren't surprised by the impressive performance of DeShone Kizer they're lying. He was outplayed in the spring game by walk-on quarterback Montgomery VanGorder, the defensive coordinator's son, and looked absolutely terrible—rock bottom as a quarterback, he admitted a few weeks ago.

But Kizer's most impressive trait has been his ability to be unflappable. Pair that with an elite physical skill-set—he's 6-foot-4 and nearly 240 pounds—and he's used his great football IQ, NFL-caliber arm and sneaky-good zone-read option skills to move the passing game and serve as the goal line and short yardage running option.

Is he good enough to lead Notre Dame to a championship? Good question. I think he's good enough to win out the regular season—and then my bigger question is about the Irish defense, not the play of the first-year quarterback, oddly enough.

2. I know that many Notre Dame fans dislike Kelly and think he cannot win the big one. Where do you stand on him?

Keith Arnold: A Notre Dame fan that can't appreciate what Brian Kelly's doing—and really, has already done—is never going to be happy. (A shock, right?) I tend to think (and I wrote it last week) that this is going to be the beginning of a really impressive run for the Irish, who have a loaded roster, some really talented young depth, and stability at quarterback that should lead them for three more seasons (at least).

Has Kelly been perfect? No. Did he rub people the wrong way early in his tenure? Some. But before he was immortalized and turned into the daffy and fun Dr. Lou, Notre Dame managed to run Lou Holtz out of South Bend, too. That didn't turn out too well. Athletic director Jack Swarbrick understands what he has in Kelly. The institutional arrogance that sometimes comes along with Notre Dame doesn't exist under the Golden Dome anymore—it's mostly relegated to certain subsets of alums and fans.

Can Kelly win the big one? Again—can't be sure until it happens. I don't think the Alabama game after the 2012 season was an indication of that. The Irish didn't have the horses then.

I thought Kelly's ability to out-maneuver LSU last year with a decimated defense was a great schematic victory. He also did some great things this season in wins over USC and the option teams, Navy (finally earning some respect) and Georgia Tech.

3. With Stanford looming, is there any chance Notre Dame overlooks this game?

Keith Arnold: I don't know if it's possible to overlook this game. The venue, the green jerseys, Boston College—an opponent that's pretty high on the Irish rivalry list, especially for fans. Add to that the leverage of the situation with a playoff berth on the cusp, and I'm more worried about the Irish being tight than looking ahead.

What really interests me about this game is figuring out how the Irish play offense against a really stingy and attacking defense. Notre Dame's offense line is hit-and-miss. They can key huge gains in the run game and then completely whiff and lose individual battles. And I'm curious if the Eagles can manufacture any big offensive plays against a defense that's really allowed everybody but Texas to make a handful of big-chunk plays. So far, they haven't been able to do that at all. Maybe Notre Dame will help open things up.

There are three-win teams. And then there's B.C. I tend to think this is the most dangerous version of this game—there's literally no reason for the Eagles NOT to pull out all the stops to try and steal a victory here.

4. What is your prediction for the game?

Keith Arnold: I don't name scores (would hate to let people confirm my stupidity), but essentially I just don't think Boston College can score enough points on offense to win this football game.

I'm not sure how well the Irish will move the ball, but I do think there'll be a big play or two in the passing game. But ultimately, it comes down to me seeing the Irish pulling away in the second half, more because the Eagles defense gets absolutely no support from the offense, not because of any great performance by the Irish.

I take all of this back if Notre Dame turns the football over early and more than once. Then it's chaos scenario and I actually think the Eagles will be a totally frightening team if they can get this game to the fourth quarter.

But I just don't see that happening in a stadium that should be mostly Notre Dame fans.