Monday, October 23, 2017

Looking at BC's strength of schedule

Now that BC is winning, many are trying to figure out what happened during the losses. Even before the UVA win, Addazio was quick to point out how good the teams we lost to actually were. Notre Dame looks playoff bound. Clemson is the defending champion. Virginia Tech is ranked. Even Wake has a winning record. Also consider BC didn't play a FCS team. Does that justify the losing? In my opinion, no. Especially the ultra-conservative approach and the blowouts.  But I am biased. So is Addazio. The computer rankings are not.

Based on the most-popular strength of schedule formula, BC has had the 10th most difficult slate so far this season.  As a point of comparison, the very disappointing and injury-plagued Florida State has had the most difficult schedule this season.

As the season concludes, the SOS rating will take a bit of a hit (thanks to UConn), but this has been a challenging slate. I am sure that the SOS will be used to evaluate Addazio by Jarmond and others. Let's hope that BC wins enough that the schedule is not used as another reason to justify losing.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Second viewing thoughts and grades: Virginia

I mocked Addazio when he predicted beauty. I guess I should be mocking myself now. I don't know if we can sustain this, but for two straight weeks, the Offense has dominated. Watching it back, I was struck by the talent on the field. We can question if it is being used well or coached up, but the size and speed is tough to deny.

Offense: A

Brown did nearly everything right. His deep passes were more accurate. He made quick decisions. He ran when he had to. It was also his most productive day. I thought his most impressive throw was the first TD to Sweeney. Brown sold the fake hard and then took an extra pause to throw a catchable ball.

It was going to be nearly impossible for Dillon to top last week. UVA wasn't going to let him either. But even with their determination to stop him, he still had some good runs. I love that he is very careful with the ball in traffic, yet can still use his arm to toss kids. Hilliman had a really nice catch. I also liked Levy in the mix.

Sweeney seems like a new man. Great runs after the catch. Slipping through coverage. I think opponents will start keying on him more. Thadd Smith made some nice moves on his TD. White looked very strong on his TD. Glad to see Garrison get back into things.

One OL guy who I haven't mentioned much this year, but who did play well this week was Schmal. He rotates, but seemed to get more snaps this week. He had some solid blocks and opened some holes. Monteiro had some balance or footwork issues because I saw him fall a few times. Petrula was good. Lindstrom was good.

The Offense had numerous issues the past two years and I pointed much of it at Loeffler (and Addazio). He deserves credit for this game. BC had some great calls against what UVA was doing. Even as they kept loading the box, BC had answers to get the play off and into space. As for other adjustments, I am glad the are letting Brown throw deep and giving him the green light to run more.

Defense: A

Ray played very well and got a big sack. Merritt and Smith had one of their better games stuffing the middle. Allen was good, although not an impactful as he had been the past few weeks. Landry was limited with his ankle.

Lamot had another solid game. He is getting more aggressive and attacking each game. UVA did not target Bletzer in pass coverage as some teams have done. He made some nice plays. Schwab was very productive.

Harris had his best game in a few weeks. Many tackles, good coverage and getting a foot in on that weird INT. Glad Cheevers got another moment after last week's big play. Torres had some tough moments on their one TD drive. He missed a tackle on 3rd down and got called for Pass Interference in the endzone. Moore and Yiadom were fine.

Reid kept it simple. In fact it was only after they built up the lead that you started to see some unique fronts and blitzes. My one gripe is that there were a lot of open spaces in the middle. I don't know how much was by design or Lamot being a little too aggressive. I think we better adjust or else teams will kill us intermediate passes down the middle. Also, there are still some tackling issues.

Special Teams: A-

The only nitpicky thing was that Walker let too many punts bounce and roll. The punts and kicks he returned were fine.

Knoll thankfully didn't have as much to do and was fine.

Lichtenberg was fine.

Schulze-Geisthovel continued to boot the kickoffs.

Overall: A

During the game, I wrote that the first half was the best half of football BC had played under Addazio. Nearly everything worked. The second half wasn't as clean, but BC did the right things. I was most encouraged that BC kept playing aggressively during the first few possessions of the second half.

I know BC fans and just casual college football followers are all trying to figure out what happened. I don't know if there is a simple answer. In my opinion it started with the offensive line a few weeks ago. Then Dillon exploded. In turn UVA sold out to stop the run and ended up exposed to big plays.

Now it is up to Addazio to keep building on this.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

BC crushes UVA

For the second week in a row, BC's Offense exploded. The difference between last week and this week's win over UVA was that the D stepped up too. BC dominated from the start. The most promising and exciting aspect of the game was seeing other guys make huge plays. Thadd Smith and White both had huge game-changing TDs. UVA was determined to stop Dillon and that opened up so many other things.

Twitter, the message boards and my Periscope were filled with "Addazio safe" talk. This game certainly helps that cause. I don't know how the season will play out and don't take back what I wrote after the Virginia Tech loss, but he is starting to look safe. Win two more and he is coming back. But I am not going to focus on that. Instead I want to enjoy BC winning and playing exciting football.

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

The post-game Periscope is below.

In-game comments post: Virginia

Let's make it two in a row!

Leave your thoughts and comments below.

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Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday picks

No context. No spin. Just picks.

Pick in bold.

Air Force-7 at Nevada

Oklahoma State-7 at Texas

Temple+7 at Army

Iowa+1 at Northwestern

Tulsa-6 at UConn

Central Michigan-2.5 at Ball State

Syracuse+17.5 at Miami

Georgia Southern+7 at UMass

Oregon+7 at UCLA

LSU-7.5 at Ole Miss

Last week I went 3-6-1. For the season I am 31-36-2.

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.