Thursday, October 19, 2017

BC-Virginia preview

Last week I asked for something unexpected. We got it. Beyond shaking up the doldrums of the season, it also gave BC and Addazio new life. A much needed bowl berth is still on the table. But to get there, BC needs to finish 3-2 at the worst. Virginia is a favorite, but this is a winnable game. As we know, winning a winnable game doesn't come easy.

What's on my mind (not totally related to this game)
Virginia's hiring of Bronco Mendenhall is an interesting test case for BC. Although there are geographic and religious differences, I think BC and Virginia share a similar sports culture, leadership perspective and philosophy. Prior to Mendenhall, Virginia Football had made a lot of hires based on fit and ties to the school. Mendenhall was a true outsider. His first year was rough on and off the field. This year, there seems to be improvement. (I don't know how donors are reacting.) BC has made a lot of recent hires based on fit and ties. The last guy you might call an outsider was Dan Henning. Now as we potentially approach another search, maybe we look to UVA's example and hire someone totally new to BC. Perhaps the risk of the coach not fitting in is worth the upside of being something greater than you've been.

Three Simple Keys
1. Continue to exploit play action. After last week, Virginia will likely load up to stop the run. BC needs to hit the short play action passes to make them pay regardless of whether it is Brown or Wade.
2. Better tackling. I know it is silly and simple, but it has been an issue all season. Virginia lacks some of the game breakers we've seen in other games. No one they have is as elusive as Lamar Jackson, so everyone needs to wrap up.
3. Don't give the ball away. Virginia is not a bunch of ball hawks and don't generate many turnovers. We need to protect and be careful. Don't help them out.

Gambling Notes
-- BC won on it only previous trip to Charlottesville
-- Addazio is 10-12 on the road
-- BC leads the all-time series 5-0
The current line is BC+7

As has been mentioned by Blauds and will probably be worked into the broadcast, Spaz's son is a walk-on at UVA. I have no ill will toward the kid. I just wish his dad had never been our head coach.

Scoreboard Watching
Can one win get us back to watching scoreboards or should I focus on the coaching carousel? How about a little of both? The game I will pay attention to is Penn State vs Michigan. Beyond the interest in two Big Ten powers, I am also interested to see how Moorhead does against Don Brown's defense.

I hope to see...
BC stop the big plays. If we are going to truly be a bend but don't break, then let's start seeing some results.

BC is in trouble if...
We keep missing field goals. They won't all be chip shots like the end of last week. We need to convert some or else the offense will continue to sputter.

I know Virginia is 5-1. I know they have some respectable wins. I know it is on the road. Yet with even all those factors to consider, I think BC can match up well with them. I think it will be a close game where BC's Defense makes the difference. Maybe a late stop to kill a UVA drive. BC sneaks out with renewed vigor and two game win streak.
Final Score: BC 21, Virginia 20

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Re-examining the "lost season"

College Football and the College Football media love narratives. One of the narratives related to Steve Addazio is that 2015 was a "lost season" where he was snake bitten with injuries. The theory is that the season and its record should be graded on a curve. Bill Connelly worked in the idea when talking about "hot seats" in this article. What the media fails to realize with that season is that BC already gave Addazio a mulligan. It did not fire him after the embarrassment. He will be judged primarily on how he does this season. But if the media or BC decision makers do look at 2015, they will realize that history has not been kind to the narrative. Addazio's lost season looks more like a really bad coaching job.

1. The Darius Wade issue. Wade had a season ending leg break in the Florida State game. Losing your starting QB is always a tough blow. But Wade has done nothing since to validate Addazio's decision to build the season around him. Addazio admitted that he did not bring in a transfer and was ready to go with his homegrown QBs (Wade, Flutie and later surprisingly Jeff Smith and John Fadule). Even if Wade stays healthy, does the season become a success? I think Addazio doubts it because he has had numerous chances to put Wade back on the field and hasn't. In hindsight, it seems like Addazio entered the season without a good idea of what he had at QB. That's not good coaching or roster management.

2. BC only won three games despite having the best defense in the country. When one side of the ball is that good, you just have to be competent in other aspects of football to win even a few games. Addazio didn't. A good coach would have done some triage to the roster and offense to put together some sort of simple, winning game plan for a few of the games.

3. BC finished 1-5 in games decided by seven points or less. This speaks to Addazio being a poor game manager and not just unlucky (although luck is a factor in close games). The Wake Forest game was epic mismanagement. The Duke game was too as he kept Flutie in way too long. The Syracuse game also saw BC squander a late tie against a bad Syracuse team with a fired coach. If Addazio flips two of those games and closes out the near upsets of Notre Dame and Louisville, his job is safe now.

4. 2015 was the first sign that Addazio had real issues managing his offensive staff. As I have said, when you are the worst at one aspect of something, it is a complete failure in how you plan, how you practice, how you teach, how you evaluate, and how you work together. We were a complete grab bag of styles and players and approaches. BC started four QBs that year who have little in common other than their uniforms. I don't know what Addazio was trying to be. I don't know if Todd Fitch did either because he was shown the door after the season. Now if that season was just a one-time issue, I would buy into the "lost" narrative. But Addazio has yet to stabilize that side of the ball. Was last week's outburst a turning point? We will see. Right now it looks like an aberration. 

5. Even Spaz didn't have a winless ACC season. And Addazio's only won three ACC games since. That is not lost. That is a pattern. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Takeout pace and how does the D look?

As I wrote, giving up 42 to Louisville was bad. You will not win many games when that happens. Now some -- including some coaches -- might say that when you score 45 and score many of those points quickly, you are bound to give up more points. Even before this scoring outburst, BC was playing faster i.e. uptempo. And there was the belief that the new pace would impact the D. The faster pace was part of the reason for resting players.

But just because BC is playing at a faster pace, doesn't mean that we can't make fair comparisons between different BC defenses. Instead of total D and points allowed -- which are impacted by pace, we can look at yards per play allowed. In this measure, it is about how good you are down to down. Here are the stats of BC's yards allowed per play under Addazio:

-- 2017 yards per play allowed: 74th -- 5.7 per play
-- 2016 yards per play allowed: 26th -- 5.0 per play
-- 2015 yards per play allowed: 5th -- 4.3 per play
-- 2014 yards per play allowed: 33rd -- 5.0 per play
-- 2013 yards per play allowed: 86th -- 5.8 per play

As you can see, the team was most stingy in 2015, when it was near the top of all defensive statistics. Now, I know that you could still claim that pace impacts yards allowed per play. If D has to face more plays, they might still wear down and allow more big plays that skew the numbers. But I think what this does speak to is that the current D is not as good as last year and clearly not even in the same ballpark as the 2015 D.

The remainder of the schedule is not filled with offensive juggernauts, so the stats do have a chance to improve. But by the time we shoot down this argument, we will just be hit with more excuses about injuries.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Regarding the TMZ-Jamall Anderson stuff

TMZ is reporting that former Eagle Jamall Anderson is peddling a video of BC players from the mid-90s drinking and grinding on strippers. Anderson is also promoting a book about his misadventures. I am going to try to keep my inconsistencies and hypocrisy in check for this, but then again this whole things is stupid.

1. BC is not above bad behavior or coloring outside the lines -- then or now. I sort of touched on this when writing about recent NCAA scandals. I am sure there are plenty of embarrassing things, illegal things (real laws and NCAA laws) and academically questionable things going on at BC right now. I have no proof, but I am also not naive. Do I think BC is bending the rules as much as other schools? Probably not. Does that matter? Not really. We like to say we do things the right way, but sometimes if you are arguing degrees of wrongness, you are probably missing the point. "Everyone's doing it" is not an excuse. My hope is that BC one day takes a real leadership position on all these issues, so that the underground nature of all this becomes unnecessary. Also, I want to point out that this doesn't mean athletes are bad apples. I was on campus during the era of this video and saw regular students break rules, cheat, break laws, and even have strippers in the Mods. That doesn't justify anyone's behavior. My point is these sorts of things are not exclusively driven by sports or jock culture.

2. BC's response was perfect. The school told TMZ, "This 22 year old video, which is alleged to have taken place at Boston College, depicts unauthorized and unacceptable behavior that does not reflect the culture of BC or the standards to which our student-athletes are held." 

The player involved was kicked out of school. His head coach was fired. The AD during the time was essentially fired. BC has nothing to explain. We had problems and dealt with them at the appropriate time in the appropriate way.

Now the school should use this as a reminder to make sure it knows what is going on now, but the Andeson stuff is a non-issue.

3. Jamall Anderson has been a problem and desperate for a long time. Anderson has been trying to sell and tell his story for a long time. He did it 20 years ago after BC kicked him out of school. He did it last year when he was trying to sell his memoir. And now he's doing it again as the Pitino scandal churns up salacious NCAA coverage. Most of the other players involved have moved on, are welcome in the BC Football family and are proud alums. Anderson -- who denied everything for years -- was one of only two players that the DA had proof bet against BC. The others were suspended for betting on sports. But the gambling scandal was not Anderson's first discipline issue at BC. He was kicked out of University housing prior to the betting and was a challenge to the coaching staff his entire time.

He claims he is doing this to help young athletes learn. I don't trust his motives and wonder if 22 years later, he has learned everything. I hope TMZ paid him for the video because that's about all that he's got to show for the wasted opportunities.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Second viewing thoughts and grades: Louisville

Watching the game back was weird. Watching live I got caught up in the excitement of it all. Watching it with hindsight, you realize that Dillon did most of that damage in the second half! If he had been the focal point from the start her might have rushed for 400 yards. It was a very unique performance. We don't know if this game was a turning point or will just be a footnote. We do know that it was fun to watch.

Offense: A

I don't think this game will cause a QB controversy since neither were perfect. Brown started running more. His passes were off throughout. Wade hit his passes early, but anything that wasn't a quick easy throw was a problem. I am not on the Wade bandwagon yet, but he does deserve credit for coming in and helping the team.

Dillon was really good. The numbers and the highlights tell most of the story, but even on more basic plays, he was pushing for an extra yard or two and he made good cuts. Out running DBs is a great sign. Hilliman's carries weren't that effective. He was good catching the ball. Levy got a few more touches but didn't break anything big.

The Tight Ends -- Sweeney, Martin, Garrison, -- all looked good on those short passes and cutting up field after the catch. Unfortunately the other guys didn't get nearly as many clean passes thrown their way. Brown missed Walker, Smith and White. Wade missed White too. Thadd Smith looked good on the sweeps.

Dillon doesn't have that sort of day without the OLine. Phillips looked good and opened up some holes. Montiero was also good. As a group, all five really got a good push on the Louisville DL.

I thought BC was going to have to pass to win. It turns out I was wrong. Even before Dillon's big runs, it was clear BC was going to try to overpower the Cards. Loeffler also deserves credit for going with the hot hand and for giving Wade some easy throws to get acclimated.

Defense: D

Of the different BC position groups, the DLine was the best. Wyatt Ray had a big INT as he dropped into coverage. Ray Smith helped clog the middle. Merritt was solid. Allen got beat a few times by Jackson and still struggles when he is the read point of the zone option. Landry was tentative and didn't look completely healthy.

The LBs missed a good bit of tackles and were really slow when trying to chase down Louisville's skill guys. Schwab was productive but didn't have his best game. Lamot was just ok.

The DBs got lost, fell or burned too many times. They also saved the game with the strip, fumble and fumble recovery. Moore was the best on Saturday, despite some issues. Denis was fine. Harris didn't look 100%. Yiadom was oky. Cheevers deserves credit for the fumble.

I like Jim Reid. I think he is a good guy and can be a good coordinator. But I am worried that we don't have a solution for the zone read. Jackson is a special player, but every team beats us with it. Allen might be too slow for it. I also am getting frustrated with the big plays. If you are going to blitz less, you better be sound behind it.

Special Teams: B

Walker was very aggressive again and it helped set the tone.

The kickoffs were fine. Knoll punted well.

The coverage was good.

Lichtenberg made the game winner. Congrats. He also missed a FG that could have given BC cushion late. I really hope the misses are temporary or Addazio might need to make a change.

Overall: B+

When you score 45 but only win by three, there are some problems. Our special teams issues and defensive issues mentioned above have been consistent and Addazio has not fixed them. We are more than halfway through the season and not finding real solutions. That is why I am far from confident that this will turn into a win streak.

But for one week, a special day from a special player carried BC to victory. Addazio deserves credit for finding a guy like Dillon and getting him to campus. Now he needs to turn Dillon into a reliable weapon who can perform like that every week.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Dillon runs over Louisville

That is why we watch. We watch to see a guy like AJ Dillon breakout on the scene and run over and through Louisville's D. We watch to see Wade come off the bench to make some critical plays. We watch to see BC win on a kick with seconds left. It was a nerve racking ending, but it was certainly worth it.

There were some issues, but I won't harp on that now.

I know some of you fear this type of win will save Addazio's job. Don't focus on that now. Be glad for the players and coaches that bust their asses representing BC. They deserve our support and that was a great win.

The post-game Periscope is below.

I will have second viewing thought and grades up late Sunday.

In-game comments post: Louisville

Clemson pulled off an upset Friday night. Iowa State pulled off a huge upset last week. Why not us? Why not now? Let's go BC!

Leave your thoughts and comments below.

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday picks

Last week I went 5-5. That should be a disappointment, but with the way I've been picking, it was an improvement. This week there were plenty of home underdogs, which makes things tricky.

Picks in bold

Clemson-23.5 at Syracuse

South Carolina+3.5 at Tennessee

NC State-10.5 at Pitt

Florida State-7.5 at Duke

Rutgers+2.5 at Illinois

Michigan-7 at Indiana

Auburn-7 at LSU

Vanderbilt+3.5 at Ole Miss

Northwestern-3 at Maryland

Virginia-3.5 at North Carolina

Last week I went 5-5. For the season I am 28-30-1.