Thursday, August 31, 2006

Why do I do this to myself?

When we last saw BC football they were hanging on for dear life on the road against a team that they outclassed in talent and in a game that shouldn't have been as close as its score. A boneheaded play by the opponent's QB gave the game back to the Eagles late in the fourth. Boise. Mt. Pleasant. It is all the same. Terrible game. Just...I don't know...words fail me.

My initial thoughts: Matt Ryan is going to have to carry this team. Ryan Poles and Kevin Sheridan better improve quickly. We'll miss Ryan Glasper. For a team the media likes to call disciplined, we sure make dumb mistakes and draw stupid penalties. Cowardly play calling on both sides of the field.

I'll post my grades after I have begrudingly watched the game a second time (propably this weekend). There were some really good efforts and some really bad ones. This game never should have been this close.

Although it is only the second game of the year, Clemson is really going to make or break this season.

BC-CMU preview

I am breaking out a new format for my previews. Last year’s attempts at predicting what BC would do became trite (to me at least) by November. We’ll see how long this format lasts.

Theme that won’t be discussed on television. This could serve as Brian Kelly’s audition for the BC job. Yes it is the longest of long shots, since TOB is not leaving Chestnut Hill any time soon. But if CMU were to hang with us and go on to a winning season, people would take notice. We will search a conference like the MAC for our next coach. With a few winning seasons, a Mass native like Kelly would certainly be on the short list. And if (God forbid) CMU beats BC, look for some BC fans to try to hire Kelly on Friday.

Three simple keys:
1. BC needs to get to the Quarterback(s). CMU’s QB situation is a mess. BC can make it worse by putting all of their passers on their respective backs. Yet our defensive line is untested. This should be a good opportunity for them to prove that they can fill the void left by Kiwi.

2. Pass effectively. Ryan likes to sling it and CMU is undersized at Corner. He needs to stretch the field and get all the guys in the mix. This should also be a good opportunity to see which of the reserve WRs and Tight Ends want and can step up.

3. Ryan Ohlinger needs to impress. The guy is a headcase. He has the leg. Let’s see him get off to a good start and carry it through the season.

Gambling notes.
-- TOB is 6-3 in openers.
-- CMU hasn’t won an opener since 2002.
-- TOB is 11-11 against the spread as an Away Favorite.
-- BC is 3-1-1 against the spread vs. current MAC schools.
The current line is BC-13.5.

What would be a pleasant surprise? A controlled scrimmage where BC puts up 40+ points, plays the second team and hold the Chippewas to 14.

What would be a letdown? A narrow win.

What would be a shocker? A loss. This team and this schedule has so much upside. A loss…I don’t even want to think about it.

Bottom line
I think BC wins. It won’t be as pretty as I would like, but I think the defense plays well, I think Raji will have a big day and I think Ryan will throw for 200+ yards.

Final Score: BC 34, CMU16.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Good to Great

Anyone who has gone to Business School in the last five years probably had to read Good to Great. While it focuses on business leaders, there is a sports reference buried deep inside the book. The author Jim Collins mentions John Wooden’s tenure at UCLA. The Wizard of Westwood coached at the school for 15 seasons before finally winning a championship, which sparked one of the greatest runs in team sports history. Making the leap from good to great is extremely difficult…yet when reading the book I immediately started hoping that TOB had that leap in him. The leap has been a somewhat of a theme for this blog this summer (see below) and when a message board poster (HJS) suggested that someone send a copy of the book to TOB, I decided to conclude the last day before kickoff with an overview of Collins’ keys to greatness and if TOB is headed there.

Level 5 Leader: Level 5 is Collins’ highest level of leadership. However, he found the Level 5s are not exactly what you would expect. They are not exclusively the rah rah, big speech, big idea types. The Level 5s tend not to make a big splash on arrival. They are slower and more methodical in their approach and results. BC fans want a Coughlin-esque tough talker, but the former BC coach and current Giants coach would probably not qualify as a Level 5. TOB seems to have the personality for the Level 5. This is a good thing.

First Who, Then What: This idea is get the right people on board and then figure out who should do what. It also covers everyone buying in. TOB certainly has the people he wants in place -- the staff has been mostly intact for seven years. So that is covered. There are still major questions about whether or not they are the right people.

Confront the brutal Facts: TOB has certainly done this -- to the annoyance of many fans like me. He is constantly talking about the challenges building and winning at BC (academics, the region, weather, etc.). Great companies know their challenges and then work around or through them. I don’t think Collins would appreciate TOB using them as a crutch with the media like he does.

The Hedgehog Concept: Find out what you do and do it well. Under TOB we will never be a run and gun, 50 points a game team. It is not in him. So we need to build physical teams that play controlled, error-free football. I think TOB knows this. Now the question is can we improve our quality of play so that this style is more effective against the better teams in college football. This also means no more WTFs.

Culture of Discipline: Pretty straight forward. I would say TOB has this for the most part. However, there are the occasional cracks here and there.

Technology Accelerators: Not really applicable to football. (One could say adopting new techniques, but I haven’t seen anything that really fits the examples in the book.)

The Flywheel: This covers the forward momentum that greatness carries. Once you create something great, it can become so powerful that it moves forward on its own. We are clearly not there yet.

Conclusion: I bet TOB has read the book. Even if he hasn’t he clearly has established many of the keys to Collins’ guide. But that still means nothing. TOB needs results and soon. If he goes on a nice three or four year run and wins two ACC titles, we can look back on what he did and say “he built something great.” If we go 8-4 this year and 8-4 next year, he might as well retire. Seriously...because he’d be done with a lot of people. BC has never been in a better position regarding its conference, its facilities and the school itself. The powers of our conference are in a down cycle. Our non-conference schedule is hollow. Greatness is waiting to happen. Can TOB take us there? The answers to that question begin Thursday.

Good to Great Summer 2006

-- Outside Opinion: Bob Ryan, Burnt Orange, Dodgy at Best

-- Building a Staff

-- Improving after nine years

-- The best and worst of TOB Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Talent issues (here and here)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Bad hair days and other links

Last week a few of the guys shaved and died their hair into Mohawks. Now the first photos are leaking out. I kind of like the look.

Seperated at Birth: WWE's Viscera and BC's B.J. Raji

I've been critical of the Globe's lack of coverage. Tuesday they finally stepped up to the plate. Vega published three articles and two were listed as web exclusive. Creating unique content for is very encouraging. Here are the articles: a Sheridan feature, a story on the Freshman, and a write up on Whitworth.

While this push is exciting, it still showed one of my frustrations with BC coverage -- the papers covering the same story. Part of this is inevitable. On a sports beat only so many things happen. However, sometimes it feels like BC shapes the story by making certain players available. So you get a Freshman story in the Herald too. The Herald also featured this article on our big boys.

Jeff Smith continues to get attention locally.

Smith isn't the only one getting written up by his local paper. The Providence Journal published this article on Jamie Silva Tuesday.

Former BC star Antonio Garay is still hoping to make the Bears final roster.

Here is a little something on the Gionta brothers.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Guest Blogger: The CMU Weblog

It's game time (almost). It's game week anyway. So I enlisted the help of a CMU blogger to get some insight before our kickoff Thursday. Tony gamely answered my queries below. Go to The Central Michigan University Weblog before and after the game to read about CMU sports.

1. Is your QB picture as uncertain as it appears. Will the starter for the BC game be on a short leash?

As of right now the starter is Brian Brunner. This late into camp and with opening night just over a week away it seems as if he will start the BC game. However a few days ago Coach Brian Kelly said he has not closed the gap and locked up the starting job like he had hoped for. Dan LeFevour, a red shirt freshman seems to be the next closest QB competing for the starting job. Central overall has a nice talented crop of QB's, but Brunner is by far the most knowledgeable of the system. He has, however, only taken 3 snaps in his college career, and still hasn't really shown how to properly execute in the scrimmages CMU has had. LeFevour is much more athletic, and has shown a lot in practice/scrimmage. This all leads me to believe that Brunner will start against BC, but he will most certainly be on a short leash. If he falters early against BC...making interceptions, fumbling the ball, or just making plain bad throws, don't be surprised to see another QB quickly step in. Coach Kelly has also made this fact known...he is not ruling out using numerous QB's in this game. Sean Price is very athletic and fast, as well as Duane Brooks, both viable options. How the QB or QB's play in the BC game will determine whether Central can even keep it close.

2. Last season CMU struggled against passing attacks. Have any adjustments been made to improve things?

Well over half of Brian Kelly's recruiting class was DB's. He wants them faster, more athletic, and a little taller. That will pay off in the future, but most likely not early on this year. Both starting CB's are gone from last year, and the starting Strong Safety Marlin Maxwell can not play due to eligibility problems. Senior Pacino Horne was a safety last season but has moved to CB as a starter on one side. The other probable starter according to Kelly is redshirt freshman Josh Gordy (5-11, 189). 5-6, 181, Terrance Robinson is a veteran QB on the team, but he will compete with some freshman recruits for playing time. Junior Curtis Cutts (6-0, 210) is replacing Horne at Free Safety. The other Safety spot could go to one of the newly recruited freshman from Florida or to redshirt freshman Aaron Carr or Calvin Hissong, a former receiver. Basically you see the DB's are completely revamped from last year. The inexperience will no doubt cost CMU at times this season, but overall Coach Kelly is very excited about their athletic ability. It all comes down to how fast they can learn from their mistakes. It might be ugly in the beginning, but there is certainly upside. BC, I am sure, will be ready to exploit CMU through the passing game, and if I was coach, that would be my number one strategy. I would be shocked if BC's receiving core didn't hurt the inexperienced DB's in this highly pressurized game for them; it's tough to play a new position with that much pressure, and against a great team off the bat and be successful. I look for the pass defense to be the worst in the MAC most of the season, with good improvement down the home stretch.

3. Dan Bazuin will be the focus of our protection. Is there anyone else on the defensive side BC should key on?

I think Thomas Keith, who was a sophomore last year is absolutely awesome. He was named second team all MAC after leading CMU in tackles with 104, and interceptions, with four. He was top six in tackles in the entire Mid-American Conference. The rest of the linebacking group is very solid with Issac Brown and Doug Kress, very solid, physical players. I do believe Keith was very underrated nationally last year, and is a great player...he should prove that even more this season for CMU with all the expectations placed on this team locally. Bazuin is the best for sure, and you better plan your strategy around him, but the whole Defensive Line in general is very solid -- this wasn't the number one rated run defense in the MAC last year for nothing. If CMU can stop BC's running game, and not have to bring another man up to defend the run, and emphasize more on shutting down BCs passing game -- that's the scenario where CMU has a chance to pull the upset.

4. If BC shuts down your run game, I think we romp. However, if you guys can move the chains and control the clock, it could be interesting. What is your prediction and final score?

As much as it pains me to admit it, and make no mistake, I do believe CMU has a chance, I think BC will win. Lately a lot of the press around here has been concerning when it comes to the QB and RB positions. Kelly is not happy that Brunner "didn't take the job and run with it" and he also is not happy with starting RB Ontario Sneed, who had an unbelievable freshman season last year. Kelly has criticized him for being tentative when running during practices and scrimmages. He even went as far to imply that Ontario wasn't the for sure number one starter at this point. If he doesn't pick it up in practice and has a slow start in the BC game, look for CMU to turn to a 3 RB system, which isn't very deep with all freshman. My main concern however is the pass defense and our pass offense. I believe that will be the difference. Brunner is starting the first game of his college career against a perennial top 25 team on national tv -- that is the epitome of pressure. I think he will struggle and Kelly will go onto shuffling QB's, which in no way is good for the cohesion of an offense. The young/inexperienced DB's will give up some easy pass plays and points as well. I can't predict how rookies will play, or how inexperienced players will play so this is tough. If they play like they've played forever CMU no doubt can pull an upset in front of a fired up crowd. However, I will go off past experience and knowledge of football and say they have a tough time due to the lack of pressure situations. Final Score: BC 38 CMU 17

Thanks to Tony and be sure to check out his blog.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Another ATL QB? Another BC blogger and other links

With Simms going off to Louisville, BC is looking elsewhere for another QB and it looks like one of the places they are scouting is Metro-Atlanta. Local product Lee Chapple is getting interest from BC. Like Applegate, he is a late bloomer playing for a power program (GAC annually sends kids to DIA schools and has the state's top RB). He may not be as well-known as Simms, but I think he would be a solid signing.

There is another new BC blogger out there. TWood, who is well known to many message boards readers, started a BC Basketball blog earlier this summer. Welcome to the club, T. As always I wish him the best of luck and while BC basketball is not as emotionally draining as BC football, there will be times where TWood's new family will need our prayers for his sanity.

Jeff Smith cracked the two deep and got a little pub from his local paper.

Here is an update on CMU.

The USA Today published its ACC Overview.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer named recent recruit Nick Schepis the 3rd best player in their area.

Brian St. Pierre fights for a roster spot in Baltimore.

Questions about Depth

Here is the Depth Chart for Central Michigan.

It is BC and TOB, so there is clearly nothing shocking here. (We just don’t do shocking.)

However the release does raise some questions.

1. How often will Brandon Robinson be on the field? The star recruit of his class, BRob redshirted his first year and then barely saw the field last year. When he did play, he showed a spark that fans hoped for. Many thought he would be a starter by now. I still have faith. As the third option last year, Gonzo caught 28 passes and scored 5 TDs. I think BRob can at least match those numbers.

2. Who is the emergency QB? I think it has to be Billy Flutie. I know the staff wants to redshirt Ross Applegate. What happens if Ryan or Crane go down? Do they go with the best player? Do they waste Ross’ redshirt? Are the walk-ons even in the mix? TOB will never address these questions since it is speculation at this point. Hopefully Ryan stays healthy all year and it never becomes an issue.

3. Is Ty Hall the backup at more than one position? Hall is dinged up and it cost him a starting role at guard. He’s had time at both Tackles and even got a shot at Center. He is only listed as the backup Right Guard, but I bet he will be considered in other spots if needed.

4. Where is Pat Sheil? Another prized recruit who is missing from the list. He is still a Redshirt Freshman, so there is time for him. But given how fast past OLine prodigies were worked into the depth chart, I thought he’d be on the two deep by now.

5. When will the decision between Anderson and Bowman be made? Anderson looked great in limited time last year. It is encouraging that Bowman is playing well enough to challenge him. Since one of them will be replacing a three year starter, I think the guy needs to be named and given the time to prepare mentally for next week.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Season prediction Part III: what will happen

This is part III of my possible predictions. This will serve as my official prediction. The others were the extreme. This is what I think will actually happen. Last season, I came pretty close with this forecast. I am not as confident in my the predictions below. I really think this could be a fantastic season. The type many of us have been waiting for. Yet common sense and TOB lowering expectations forced me to add one more loss than my gut wanted. As much as I like being right, I would welcome this team out performing my expectations below.

What will happen

At Central Michigan. Win. BC is listless for most of the first half. However, they get their act together and kick ass in the second half.

Clemson. Win. This is the game I went back and forth on. I really think Clemson is overrated and we face them at the right time. However, the constant “this is Clemson’s year” talk left me questioning my instinct. So I went with history. Let me explain. After TOB, the second most predictable coach in the ACC is Tommy Bowden. Like clockwork, his teams stumble early only to save his job late in the season. I think we win this game and provide the Bowden haters with more ammo for the new year.

BYU. Win. Alumni is not College football's toughest venue, but I like our chances against a BYU team crossing the country.

At NC State. Win. NC State has talent. I think they lack good coaching.

Maine. Win. Not even interesting.

Virginia Tech. Loss. The longest win streak of TOB’s career is six games. Closing last season with three wins would mean BC would enter this game with an eight-win streak. Do you honestly think it will last past this game?

At Florida State. Win. Revenge from last year. Bouncing back after the Tech loss will be a real sign of this team’s heart.

Buffalo. Win. I hope people are starting to realize how light this schedule is.

At Wake Forest. Loss. Losing this game would be crushing. It would kill any good will TOB would have built up with the hot start and the FSU win. But until O’Brien proves that he can consistently avoid a WTF game, I need to pencil at least one in. As everyone knows, Wake has given us fits. Why should I expect anything different this season?

Duke. Win. A team that might be worse than Buffalo.

Maryland. Loss. I believe this is our year to knock off a few of the big boys. As sure as I am of that, I am unsure how we will do against our peer programs. TOB has historically split against his peers. I think we trip up over Maryland this year.

At Miami. Win. I think this is the end of the Coker era. I also think this will be a huge game for Matt Ryan.

9-3 after the regular season. I don’t think that will be good enough for the ACC Championship game. So I see us going to Orlando for the Champs Bowl against Nebraska. We crush them and TOB gets his first 10 win season in 10 years.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Season prediction Part II: worst-case scenario

This is part II of my possible predictions. I don't think the wheels will come off this season, but if things go bad it could play out like this.

Worst case scenario

At Central Michigan. Loss. The team comes out flat and never gets into the game. MAC teams continue their early season upsets (a la Ohio beating Pitt last season).

Clemson. Loss. Clemson is rolling and we are completely lost.

BYU. Win. BC finally bounces back and gives hope for the remainder of the season.

At NC State. Win. Even in a bad season, I think we will beat NC State.

Maine. Win. Three in a row raise spirits, even if one of the wins comes against Maine.

Virginia Tech. Loss. The mini-streak comes crashing back down to earth. Hokies romp.

At Florida State. Loss. BC shows more spirit than they did against Va Tech. Still loses.

Buffalo. Win. Buffalo is terrible. We don't lose this game under any circumstance.

At Wake Forest. Win. With the CMU game filling our WTF quota, BC actually plays well and gets the win in Winston-Salem.

Duke. Win. Duke might not beat a DI-A team this season.

Maryland. Loss. Both teams need this game. Maryland pulls it out.

At Miami. Loss. Miami is back and ESPN regrets putting BC on primetime. No Flutie memories. Just relief that the regular season is over.

6-6. This might still get us into a bowl. Probably Boise again. Even in a terrible season, I think TOB could do enough to beat a WAC team in a Idaho. The final tally: 7-6. Bowl streak intact but the fanbase clearly unhappy.

It shows you how easy our schedule is that even in a terrible season, we still get to .500 and make a bowl.

Check in tomorrow for my actual predictions.

Southern commit and other news

The basketball recruiting class is really taking shape. The newest addition is Joshua Southern. His cousin and BC staff member Preston Murphy helped close the deal.

Here is an article on football commit Dan Mulrooney.

The New York Times profiled Buffalo's pay for play out of conference schedule. BC will pony up $320,000 for them to come to the Heights. (Thanks to Mark for sharing the link.)

ACC Blogger David Glenn has a recap of the recent recruits who didn't make it to campus. After a few years of academic washouts, we managed to avoid it this year.

Another Kiwi update. It looks like he is really turning heads.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Blogpoll Roundtable

The Blogpoll roundtables are back. This time Notre Dame blogger The House that Rock Built is asking questions about our preseason ballots. My answers are below. Check out his blog for links to what other bloggers had to say.

1. What's the biggest ripoff in this preseason poll? Either pick a team that's offensively over or underrated, or you can rag on a particular voter's bad pick (hey, we're all adults here, we can handle it).

Oklahoma. Unlike the Coaches, most blogpollers had time to adjust their ranking due to the Bomar mess. Yet, at 16, they are higher than I think they should be. I think they will struggle and probably are about five spots overranked.

2. What should a preseason poll measure? Specifically, should it be a predictor of end-of-season standing (meaning that a team's schedule should be taken into account when determining a ranking), or should it merely be a barometer of talent/hype/expectations?

I always look at it as a predictor of how the season will end. I think Notre Dame will win it all, hence their No. 1 ranking in my poll. I don’t think BC has the best talent and clearly doesn’t have the expectations, but I think that with our schedule we will finish in the Top 20. I learned right away that this poll stuff is clearly inexact.

3. What is your biggest stretch in your preseason ballot? That is to say, which team has the best chance of making you look like an idiot for overrating them?

Florida. I have them in the Top 5. Although the blogpollers placed them pretty high, there are many Gator fans who are worried about Urban Year 2. They clearly have question marks, and the Meyer-Leak combo didn’t look like a Top 5 team last year. If they lose to UGA, Tennessee, Florida State and South Carolina, I’ll be cleaning egg off my face and trying to get Orson and Stranko off the ledge.

4. What do you see as the biggest flaw in the polling system (both wire service and blogpolling)? Is polling an integral part of the great game of college football, or is it an outdated system that needs to be replaced? If you say the latter, enlighten us with your new plan.

The biggest flaw with any poll is that the voters cannot see all the games. It was a lesson I learned last season. I think Brian accounts for this bias with his poll better than the traditional polls, but the system is still flawed and outdated. My solution is not original: a 16-team playoff, Conference winners and a few at-large selected by a committee.

5. You're Scott Bakula, and you have the opportunity to "Quantum Leap" back in time and change any single moment in your team's history. It can be a play on the field, a hiring decision, or your school's founders deciding to build the campus in Northern Indiana, of all godforsaken places. What do you do?

I would go back to the 2004 Temple game and take Paul Peterson out before he broke his hand. I don’t know if he would have been enough to prevent the Syracuse debacle the next week, but I like to think he would have made a difference…

Rehashing the Syracuse game. Ugh. Thanks for ruining my day, House That Rock Built.

Season prediction Part I: best-case scenario

Last season I made three sets of predictions. One best-case, one worst-case and then one final, lock-solid, what will happen (which proved pretty accurate). With the season a little over a week away, I’ll reuse the gimmick again. The best-case scenario is a little tough since my real prediction is going to be pretty positive. If everything goes well the season could play out like this.

Best case scenario

At Central Michigan. Win. Despite some injuries and a flat summer, the team comes out strong in its opener.

Clemson. Win. Another classic between two evenly matched teams. Matt Ryan shows that he is the real deal and puts away fear of a second year starter slump.

BYU. Win. BC still proves too physical for the Cougars and controls the game throughout.

At NC State. Win. NC State cannot stop the most potent offense of the TOB era. BC runs at will behind Beekman and Cherilus.

Maine. Win. No giant killer moment for Maine this year. Crane gets his first extended time of the season and everyone goes home happy.

Virginia Tech. Win The Heights are electric as BC hosts a Thursday night game in a battle of Top 20 teams. BC wins and propels themselves to the Top 10 in both polls. Classes are lightly attended Friday.

At Florida State. Loss. Another close game, but like the year before, BC can’t hold on to beat the ‘Noles.

Buffalo. Win A nice bounce back game after the Florida State loss.

At Wake Forest. Loss Come on. Even in a dream season we lose this game.

Duke. Win. Duke is in for a long year. We don’t make things better for them.

Maryland. Win. A really tough game, but BC hangs on.

At Miami. Win. At this point BC is cruising and Miami is struggling in possibly Coker’s last season.

The two conference losses keep us out of the ACC Championship Game. However, our high ranking and appealing TV draw place us in the Chick-Fil-A/Peach Bowl against Georgia. TOB keeps his bowl win streak alive by beating the dogs and BC caps a really impressive year with an 11-2 record.

Check in tomorrow for the worst case scenario.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Andy Katz email exchange

Like most fan bases, BC followers often feel slighted by the national media. Even before we joined the ACC, it often felt like ESPN’s basketball coverage was based on Duke, North Carolina and then everyone else. The lone exception in Bristol has been Andy Katz. A Massachusetts native, Katz has often given BC more time than his peers. His news and analysis on the Eagles is usually more insightful than stuff available in the Globe or Herald. In addition to giving time to BC basketball, Andy is also willing to give time to a BC blogger. In this email interview, we talk about his connection to the school and his expectations for this year’s team.

ATL_eagle: BC basketball fans often feel overlooked by the national media, so your reporting and insight into the program is always appreciated. How have you built your relationship with Al Skinner and his staff?

Andy Katz: Essentially by being myself. I get along very well with people. Al is one of those people that doesn’t always let a lot of folks into his inner circle. But once you sit down and just talk to him you find that he has an engaging and infectious personality. It’s no secret that my father is a professor at Boston College Law School. He has been there for 38 years. So I grew up around the program. That helps with my familiarity with the place.

ATL_eagle: We know you have Boston roots and a BC connection (your father). Were you a fan growing up?

Andy Katz: I was a fan. I went to BC basketball camp for years through the Tom Davis and early Gary Williams years. I used to go to Roberts Center and the Complex all the time. I remember shagging rebounds at times for Jay Murphy and Martin Clark.

ATL_eagle: Skinner's assistants finally got the credit and opportunities they deserved. Are you surprised programs haven't expressed interest in Al? Is his style and demeanor the real reason he is overlooked by fans and the national media or is it something else?

Andy Katz: If Al wanted to I was certain he could have pursued Virginia. But Al is a man who is comfortable with his surroundings. He’s an East Coast guy, more so a southern New England/New York person. I’ve always thought he would be the perfect NBA coach if he ever wants to go that route.

ATL_eagle: While fans liked the new hires, many are concerned about the major turnover in assistants. Are we putting too much emphasis on the role Coen and Cooley played in BC's recent success?

Andy Katz: Probably. Be patient with Pat Duquette. He knows basketball. He has tremendous relationship skills. He’ll get it done. I wouldn’t fret.

ATL_eagle: After a decade of going after "diamond in the rough" types, it looks like the 2007 recruiting class will be filled with well-known, heavily-recruited players. Do you attribute the shift to the change in staff, the need for a higher level of talent in the ACC or is it just that BC's recent success is gaining traction with the blue chippers?

Andy Katz: It’s more of a case of the ACC and the recent success. But BC will still look for the hidden gems when it can get them.

ATL_eagle: I’m expecting a big year from Jared Dudley and think he'll thrive now that he doesn’t have to defer to anyone. Am I overestimating his ability or the role that Craig Smith played in Jared’s success?

Andy Katz: No, Dudley is the type of player who can score regardless of who is next to him. It might be tougher without Smith, but Dudley finds a way to get to the basket. I’m not sure there is a better player using the angles around the basket.

ATL_eagle: Do you think Sean Williams can develop into a 30 minute a game player and contribute something on the offensive side of the court?

Andy Katz: Not sure. He is working on his offensive game. But he has to improve on his low-post moves. If he does then the Eagles have a real shot to get deep into March.

ATL_eagle: I know you have BC in your top 20? Do you think this team has enough talent to win the ACC or potentially make the Final Four?

Andy Katz: The Eagles won’t beat out North Carolina but I see no reason why they can’t fight for second with Duke, Georgia Tech and Maryland.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Outside opinion No. 2

Bob Ryan doesn’t think BC football will ever be more than it is. Some wonder if our Athletic Department and Coaching Staff feel the same way. On the opposite end are the diehards like me who are growing frustrated and just want one season where it all comes together. Obviously I think BC has the potential for a breakout season. But my perspective is clearly skewed. So in an effort to get an educated but unbiased opinion, I’ve asked Kanu for Dodgy at Best to give his thoughts on BC and college football in New England. I figure he has the perfect pedigree: raised in Boston, but went to school in SEC country, plus he is a really good writer (check out his blog for more on Arsenal, Horse Racing and Golf). Here is what he had to say:
Kanu is not a fan of the angry chicken hat

First off, thanks for lobbing these questions my way.

Full disclosure: I was born & bred in Natick, MA; also the hometown of Doug Flutie, which should give me some street cred here (for a paragraph or two anyways). Moved to Georgia during HS and then attended University of Georgia for undergrad & grad school. Bounced around ATL for a while then moved to SF in 2005. Went to most UGA home games and have seen them play all over the Southeast as well. In recent years I have gone to less games in person and watched more games from around the country at the house. The last 5-6 years I’m the guy with Gameplan and multiple TVs who watches all the games every Saturday for 12 hours. I probably see 6-8 BC games a year, although “watching” some of them sometimes involves watching 7 concurrent games on 2 or 3 TVs, so it is certainly a more casual viewing than what y’all do.

As far as BC is concerned, I consider myself pretty neutral. In a vacuum I neither pine for them to succeed or root for schadenfreude-inducing failure. I share your frustration about the losses to FSU last year and Miami at home in 2001 on the helmet deflected 100 yard fumble return, because I had bets on BC to cover those days, not to mention the inexplicable tank job against Syracuse 2 years ago that cost you a BCS bowl and cost me some money. On the other hand, they have got me some good covers in the past few years as well. I do respect the program that TOB has built up there. That being said, I think that white hat he wears with that absolutely ridiculous new-school redesign eagle logo is horrid.

Something you said in your intro caught my eye: “diehards like me who are growing frustrated and just want one season where it all comes together”. I know exactly what you mean, but understand that the diehards of every program that have not won a national championship in the last 10 years feel the same way. What I mean, is, as a BC fan, your statement may mean that you look at a school like Georgia and wish that you could get to that level – playing for & winning conf titles, BCS bowls, 4 top 10 finishes in a row, etc. The trick is that UGA people, while they appreciate the success that we have had, feel exactly the same way you described. We feel like we want the one season where it all comes together and we play for the whole ball of wax. As good as it has been, we are frustrated that it could easily have been even better (2005: 2 reg. season losses by 4 to UF without Shockley and by 1 to AUB on a 4th & 31 conversion with an 80% Shockley; 2002: 1 loss thanks to turnovers & 3 missed FGs in 7 pt loss to UF, finished year ranked #3). Even a team like Texas, who enjoyed way more success than UGA over the last 10 years, felt just like you did until this past January – for them conference championships, 10 wins, and BCS bowls were frustratingly not enough. I understand your comment because key injuries have left BC with feelings of “what if” and “so close” over the past few years. After thinking about it I think almost all teams at all levels feel this way. It’s kind of like golf: You shoot 100 and wish it would all come together over 18 holes so you could shoot 88 and break 90 for the first time. You wish you could be in your buddy’s shoes: he shoots 80-85. The trick is that he feels the exact same way you do, and is frustrated that he can’t shoot in the upper 70s consistently, and he envies your other buddy who is a 5 handicap, who himself is frustrated that he is not scratch. It’s here nor there, but know that you are not alone in the frustration that you describe – we all feel that way, except probably fans of Texas, USC, LSU, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Miami, FSU, and Nebraska. *

*I’m not being hubristic about UGA vis a vis BC, just trying to make a comparison. I readily acknowledge that UGA lost to BC in the Gaylord Bowl a few years back and that UGA also lost to Big East team WVU in the Sugar Bowl last year.

Now then, let’s do this.

1. Do you think Tom O’Brien would be under more fan and media pressure if he was producing these results in the SEC or Big XII?

Is he under media & fan pressure in Beantown? [Editor's Note: Not really] Obviously I don’t follow the program as closely as y’all, but I have never heard of him being heavily criticized or on the proverbial hot seat.

Depends on the school: In the SEC are you talking about a UGA or LSU or a Vandy or Kentucky? In the Big XII are you talking about A&M or Baylor? I think you mean in a comparable situation, a middle-to-upper tier conference team. As far as sociologically, the answer is yes, but that is more down to how much more important CFB is socially in SEC or Big XII country vs. a pro sports town like Boston (see question #2). As far as results, it’s hard to give the man too much grief or pressure given his track record. Six straight bowl wins, back to back 9 win seasons (1st time since 83-84 per Steele), no losing seasons, consistently developing NFL talent, running a clean program, staying out of trouble. He seems to have raised the level of the program but also made it consistently good, which is much more impressive than programs who have a great year and then slide back into obscurity for a while before having another great year (say, Maryland). And he seems an all around respectable and good guy who goes about it the right way, which is an underrated point of pride – if I had to choose, I’d rather be a BC fan than an Auburn fan, where they might be seen as better/more successful but they only seem to succeed when they cheat and are always on probation or under investigation. I think overall TOB is doing a great job given the resources and academic standards available to him at BC and shouldn’t really be under too much pressure if he were at BC or at a mid-level school in the SEC or Big XII. I think if y’all stick with him you are more likely to eventually have the breakout season you desire then if you ditch him for someone else. That being said, fans and media always tend to take for granted what they have and demand more.

2. Can you ever envision a scenario were BC’s fan base grew in Boston? And I don’t mean to the Red Sox level, but more than the occasional bandwagon group that tunes in for the Notre Dame game.

Every fan base fluctuates up and down with success or lack of it, thanks to the bandwagoners, but my honest answer to your question is no. You are in a professional sports town where college football clearly comes after the Sox, Pats, Celts, and Bruins. College sports just isn’t sewn as deep into the social fabric in the Northeast because the cities there have so many other things to follow, specifically professional sports teams. In the South you have a near or total lack of pro teams, and in many places there is literally nothing else to follow sports-wise, so entire regions and states follow college football, and not just hardcore football fans either. If you think about it, the only 2 college football programs in the Northeast that have developed a big following like those in the South or Midwest are Penn State and Syracuse. What do these two schools have in common? Both are away from big cities with professional sports teams and have little competition.

The only way I could see a huge BC breakthrough would be a perfect storm situation that involved 3 things happening concurrently: 1) Somehow landing a player who turned out to be so special that he becomes must see TV for all college football fans, that once in a decade player that people are compelled to watch to see him do unbelievable things that they have not seen before. I’m talking about a Deion Sanders, Michael Vick, Reggie Bush, or Vince Young type player that will generate a huge buzz and get everyone around the country tuning in to every BC game to watch him do his thing 2) The Patriots need to be in a down period or flat out suck, as they did in the early 80s, so that football fans in general in New England would be more likely to follow BC and ignore the Pats. It sure wouldn’t hurt if the Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins also sucked at the same time. 3) A season where they go undefeated, or at a minimum are ranked in the top 6 late into November with a chance to realistically play for the national title , and win their conference championship. Follow-up success the season after this would go along way as well. If these 3 things happened at the same time then I could see the fan base expand significantly, but even still it is tough to see them doing a full-on Va. Tech or K-State because of the big city thing I mentioned above – those two program buildups happened in rural areas as well.

3. A lot is made of the difficulty of building a winner in New England (weather, population, mediocre high school football). I think having the whole area to yourself (and UConn) outweighs the drawbacks. What is your take?

Well TOB technically has built a winner. I don’t buy the weather thing – the weather sucks ass in Ohio and Michigan, not to mention Syracuse (historically of course, they sure have been shite lately). I do buy the talent pool argument though: MA/CT/RI just produce so much less talent than bigger states, not to mention NH/VT/ME. The only way to overcome this is to become such a power that you can recruit nationally (like ND does), but you need the blue chip recruits to become the powerhouse, so it is a bit of a catch 22. Another thing that is extremely significant is the university’s commitment to athletics as well as academic standards. BC seems like a school that is not going to accept questionable kids that Clemson/FSU/Miami/VT are, just to name a few other ACC teams. That, more than what you mentioned, puts you at a competitive disadvantage. Lastly the fact that UConn is making a serious investment and effort to have a go at big time football can’t help any; every good football player they sign from New England is one that 10 years ago would probably end up in Chestnut Hill. So I think that the drawbacks definitely outweigh having the “whole area to yourself”, given that the area is not extremely talent rich to begin with.

4. I know this might not come for another five year, but what do you think BC should look for in their next coach when Tom O’Brien leaves?

I would look for two things: a proven winner, and most importantly, a coach who is one charismatic dude. So charismatic that he can go into living rooms and convince kids to go to BC instead of schools that are perceived as bigger & better programs. In short, you need a great recruiter and a great coach, one or the other won’t do (for example, Ray Goff at UGA in the early 90s was a great recruiter but didn’t develop the talent once he got it into the program – he wasn’t a good coach). Someone who can recruit nationally but also coach up a storm. Weis would be a good fit with is time in Boston, but we all know that is not going to happen. Jeff Tedford at Cal is the coach who I always mention in our theoretical “what if Richt takes the FSU job when Papa Bowden retires and UGA needs a new coach?”, but I think there are very, very few jobs that he would leave Cal for. “The next Urban Meyer” is what you want, a good coach with some results who also has a certain charisma and personality that makes people really believe that he can do big things.

A lot of this comes down to timing, to what is out there and available in the year when you change a coach. For example, if Florida had given Ron Zook one more year, then Urban Meyer would be somewhere else today, so the biggest aspect of coach replacement is timing and availability.

So there you go. I feel like I just rambled and didn’t say anything profound, but thanks for the opportunity to ramble. I hope for the BC fans that they next time I am in Boston and I dial up some sports talk radio to listen to the epic hardcore Boston accents, that “Maahk from Aahlington” calls up wanting to talk about how BC is kicking ass rather than how “Gabe Kaplah is a gamah and should definitely be on the playoff rostah.” Best of luck to BC in the upcoming season, and to you if you have to drive through the Ted Williams Tunnel. Oh, and please pass the hat and get TOB a proper hat for gameday.

Thanks to Kanu for taking the time. It is not what we all want to hear but that was the reason I asked his opinion. Sometimes we (or maybe just me) get so wrapped up in this that it is hard to see the big picture.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Basketball schedule and other news

BC released its basketball schedule. The non-conference highlight is playing at Kansas two days before Christmas. Very cool. You can look for me at the Clemson game and obviously at the Georgia Tech game. I would love to go to the Duke game but I have a 1 year-old birthday party to go to on that day. I'll have a deeper breakdown of the schedule in the next week.

Andy Katz has us in his Top 20. I'll have more from him in the coming week too.

Here is an article on Chris Fox's adjustment to College Football.

A nice article on Brian Toal.

Here is a short feature on recent commit Dominick Magazu

Blogger summer assessment: NC State

NC State was probably one of the bigger disappointments in the ACC last season. Obviously very talented, the team squeaked into a bowl and left a lot of people wondering about Chuck Amato. To get more information on what to expect this year, I’ve asked Steven from Section Six to give us his insight into the Wolfpack.

1. What is the one thing all the experts have wrong about this year's NC State team?

Section Six: I can't reiterate this enough: Chuck Amato is noton the hot seat. Every article written about poor Chuck has the same message: Amato needs to put together a good season or he may lose his job. Yes, there were times last season when fans booed. No, this does not automatically mean the coach is on the hot seat. There can't be too many coaches coming off of a bowl bid who have to deal with this from the media.

There are concerns, there are frustrations--no one is happy about two consecutive losses to North Carolina. But I've really seen nothing to suggest that Amato has fallen out of favor with a significant chunk of Wolfpack fans. The mood around the football program is nothing like the mood had been around Herb Sendek's basketball program.

That is not to say this season isn't important for Amato. If NC State stumbles to 4-8 or something like that, he will be on the hot seat in 2007--and rightfully so.

2. Everyone says that Amato has underachieved since Rivers left or that Rivers covered up Amato's weakness. Either way, there is more to it, right? For example how can an All-Star defense get pushed around like they did at times last year? What is your take on the post-Rivers era?

Section Six: We have gotten such terrible production from the quarterback spot since Rivers left that it is difficult for me to place too much blame on Amato's coaching. In addition, NC State has had all sorts of problems with its offensive line. Injuries destroyed the line in 2004, and for whatever reason the line never gelled in 2005 (NC State's now-departed OL coach deserves a lot of the blame, I think). Those issues have made for some laughably bad offense over the last two seasons. It's not playcalling, it's not scheme, it's not a lack of motivation.

We haven't found the right guy to replace Rivers, and that has done far more damage to our prospects than Chuck Amato ever could.

As you mention, though, there are some things that make everyone wonder whether or not Amato has managed his post-Rivers teams effectively. That the defensive line could be so mediocre in the first half of 2005 and so dominant in the second half is telling, and not in a good way. This is one problem that can safely be blamed on coaching. The lightbulb didn't just turn on halfway through the year; the players didn't just magically unlock some hidden ability. Amato has been accused of coddling his star players too much, of perhaps not fostering the most disciplined environment. Maybe he could have done more over the last two years to tighten the screws.

Still, I'm giving Amato the benefit of the doubt. Despite his shortcomings, he isn't a bad coach, no matter what Stewart Mandel says. His only losing team (2004) was much better than its record suggested, and its underachievement had a lot more to do with bad luck (like the bizarre ending to the UNC game) than bad coaching.

3. Of the first rounders, who will be the hardest to replace?

Section Six: Mario Williams. NC State is left with young and unproven talent at defensive end, and while I'm optimistic about how the new guys are going to play, it's completely unrealistic to expect anything close to what we got from Williams last season. I've seen a few red flags this summer (red flags in the offseason, yellow flags in the regular season...) which have me concerned about the defensive ends, as well as the line in general.

In the first scrimmage of the year, Toney Baker and Andre Brown combined to run for 269 yards on 19 carries. Chuck Amato has talked about playing DeMario Pressley, who is one of the team's starting defensive tackles, at defensive end. It's obvious the coaches aren't comfortable with what they've seen in practice to this point.

Manny Lawson is easier to replace simply because he wasn't as good as Williams. John McCargo was a great defensive tackle, but NC State has a couple of guys at that position who will minimize the loss.

4. I know it is early, but how do you see BC's first trip to NC State as a member of the ACC?

Section Six: I see it as a successful one. I expect a closer game than last year, but I like the Eagles because Matt Ryan is just way better than Marcus Stone. Plus, the last time we had a green defensive line(2003), our defense was made into swiss cheese by just about everybody; Ryan and BC's running back tandem are more than capable of doing the same.

Thanks to Steven and be sure to check out Section Six throughout the season.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

DeFilippo Chat debrief

Gene sat for the masses Tuesday afternoon. As readers know, I submitted three questions. Only one was used. Here is the exchange:

Bill (Atlanta): Can you clarify the ACC bowl arrangement? It seems that if the majority of teams are 5-3 and 4-4 in conference that BC will still fall to the least desirable bowls. Was there any discussion of not forcing a team to a certain bowl in consecutive years?

BC Director of Athletics Gene DeFilippo: In the new ACC bowl agreement, there is a strong desire on the part of the conference not to send teams to a particular bowl in consecutive years. This policy is prevalent in most other conferences as well.

I am thankful he took the question. Unfortunately the answer was not exactly what I hoped. It really didn’t address BC’s bowl appeal amongst the middle of the pack ACC teams. More importantly it doesn’t sound like the consecutive year issue is policy -- just a “strong desire.” So this could mean back-to-back trips to San Fran or Boise should we fall in the middle of the conference. But ultimately, the team can control its destiny by winning. Win the conference and you don't go to a crappy bowl.

As for the other chat topics, you had the usual favorites (tailgating rules, baseball field, reinstating lacrosse) and some off the wall ones (changing the helmets, AD staffing). The real focus turned out to be scheduling. Gene mentioned discussions with LSU, shed light on the Texas rumors, reinforced that we will not be playing UConn and then talked about our potential series with Syracuse.

I am all for an annual game with Syracuse. They are relatively close. We don’t have a heated rivalry, yet do have a history with them (they are our most frequent opponent still playing DIA football). They play in a BCS conference. This would be a good thing.

However, Gene clearly stated that we will not be playing powerhouse after powerhouse. I was at BC during the 1995 season and saw us take on Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio St. and Michigan State. That schedule was a death march and should never be repeated again. But there is a middle ground between those four and this year’s out of conference slate of CMU, Maine, Buffalo and BYU.

BC is not at the level where our fans will come out in droves to see us play anyone. Look at this season’s slow season tickets sales. There is very little interest in some of these opponents. Padding the schedule will only dull interest and hurt TOB and BC’s credibility with the media and, more importantly, with frustrated fans.

This is my suggestion for an acceptable out of conference schedule.

1. Limited DIAA opponents. Every school is adding them to their respective schedules and that is not a good thing. But BC would be crazy not to play one a year when everyone else is doing it. However, it should only be limited to New England schools and always played on Parents Weekend (which is nearly always a sellout). BC should never play a DIAA team from outside our region, because there is really no way to justify it. When we play Maine or New Hampshire, we can explain it as helping regional football and giving back to schools that support our summer camps.

2. One non-BCS school. Seeing two MAC schools on the schedule makes me cringe. You just can’t take it seriously. And there is so little upside to the games. We are expected to win and look ridiculous if we lose. And if we are going non-BCS, it doesn’t always have to be a MAC school. Why not play a Sun Belt team or team from Conference USA? The novelty of seeing say, Houston, would be more exciting than playing Ball State again. I would also love to see the service academies as a regular part of our schedule again. BC has a nice history with Army. They would be an acceptable opponent in any season.

3. Make Syracuse a permanent addition. I know this cannot happen until the Notre Dame series ends, but as stated above, this game just makes sense.

4. Schedule one traditional power annually. This team must be from a BCS conference and has to have the intangible “this team means something in college football” status. For example: Missouri is a BCS team. No one in Boston would care if they came to the Heights. On the other hand, Nebraska, even in down times, would get some attention. Now I know that these big names come with all sorts of catches and conditions (i.e. 2 for 1s, an uneven cut of the gate). It doesn’t have to be this way. BC is in a position of strength. We have an appealing enough name and conference TV contract to know that nearly any home game against a BCS school will be nationally televised. I would say there are at least 30 schools whose name alone would excite our fans. Finding enough for short term series should not be a problem.

Gene is a good AD, but I hope he realizes that after nine years some of the same old excuses and explanations are getting tired and hollow. And spinning our unreasonably soft schedule is one that has already worn thin.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Quick news roundup

Two takes on Kiwi's early going with the Giants: NY Post and the Bergen Record.

Kevin Armstrong's strong work continues. Now he just needs to let the editors know that BC is not the Golden Eagles. Just Eagles, folks.

A gambler's look at our division.

A great article on recent commit Will Thompson.

A local Mass hoops tourney includes a BC target.

Although we joined the ACC, Newsweek is calling us one of the "new Ivies."

Monday, August 14, 2006

Nightmare on Simms St., Part II put in turnaround. Sequel killed by Matt Simms decision to attend Louisville

Everybody loves a sequel. You know the story. You know the characters. Often, you even know the ending. Horror movies especially lend themselves to sequels. In Horror movies the original protagonist has often been killed off, leaving someone connected (i.e. a child, a sibling, a friend, a spouse) to pick up the pieces and face the same tormentor/curse again. The same mistakes are made. The audience screams: “Don’t go up the stairs! Don’t answer the phone! Don’t watch the tape!” (or whatever else sparks the evil).

For most of the summer it looked like Matt Simms was about to follow the same missteps that plagued his brother’s college career. Take a look:

The golden haired kid with the golden last name looks to make a name for himself separate from his family’s shadow. He is highly recruited by a school where the fan base is thirsting for that missing piece to take them to the next level.

The man Simms would play for is well regarded in the coaching fraternity, yet cannot win over his fan base, despite his accomplishments. He cannot seem to win the big one. Will Simms lead him to the Promised Land?

As the hero battles his demons, he is haunted by a lightly-regarded player in his shadow. The dimple-cheeked, baby-face doesn’t have the pedigree or the physical tools, but will be called the “answer” any time our hero falters.

Alas, Matt is going to Louisville. He’ll write his own story and be just the latest in a recent run of well-known quarterbacks. He’ll slip into a role without challenge and probably throw for a million yards under Bobby Petrino.

BC will move on and try to land another promising Quarterback and hope that Ross Applegate develops into half the gamer that Major Applewhite turned out to be.

What happens if BC cannot find another QB and Ross Applegate gets hurt?

In this story an undersized, local product who got a scholarship on somewhat of a lark gets his one shot at starting and changes history forever.

That is the sequel that every BC fan is secretly hoping for. But fearing a Phantom Menace like letdown, we are all keeping the Flutie thing to ourselves.

Outside opinion

Your coach wins every year, but can't seem to win the big games. He and his staff have done a good job recruiting but still make questionable decisions about who should start -- especially at Quarterback. It seems that every year the team has a "what the f--k" game to an opponent they have no business losing to. Despite a long record of success that is much better than his predecessor, the coach is not fully embraced and lives in the shadow of the school’s past glories and personalities. Having donated big $ for new state of the art facilities, the critics grow more vocal each year and are starting to wonder if the coach will ever take the team to the next level. Sounds like TOB, right? Well it also described Mack Brown before Vince Young’s Rose Bowl heroics. To get the perspective from someone who has been there before, I’ve asked Peter from BurntOrangeNation to tell us how he felt about Mack Brown and let us know how much more rope we should give TOB.

1. First, be honest, how do you feel about Mack Brown today?

BON: Honestly, I can't name another coach I'd rather have. Bob Stoops? Great coach, but he strikes me as a cold prick, and he's slipped on his recruiting. Pete Carroll? I think Hollywood probably ought to stay in California; his loosey-goosey attitude scares me. I could go on and on, but the list of coaches who can do well all the things coaches are asked to do these days -- recruit, manage the program, hire coordinators, win games -- is a thin one, and none are better than Mack. Texas, a school which cares about its reputation -- academic and otherwise -- demands a coach that keeps the school's bright reputation intact. I couldn't be more pleased with Mack Brown as my team's football coach. Honest to God.

2. When did your opinion change?

BON: October 8, 2005. The thrashing of Oklahoma was all I needed. The national title was just icing. Not only the way that we beat Oklahoma (thoroughly, in every aspect of the game), but the way Mack handled himself both before and after, made me proud.

3. How many times over the years did you wonder if he was THE guy? What was the low point?

BON: I always said that it was unfair to talk about firing Mack Brown while he was going 10-2, 11-1, and so on. What I did think was really problematic was the refusal to do anything about our offensive coordinator, Greg Davis, who was frustrating fans with his exceedingly conservative game plans. Something clicked in mid-2004, though – in Mack Brown, in Greg Davis, and in Vince Young. We haven't lost since, and the days of not trusting the players to win the game appear to be behind us. I honestly think that with the pressure off Mack's back, the days of playing not to lose are gone, and the days of playing to win have just begun.

4. Aside from getting one of the best players in the history of the sport, was there any other clear sign of change?

BON: It wasn't just getting Vince Young. It was learning to trust Vince Young. Outsiders don't know this quite as well as the Longhorn-obsessed, but after a lackluster win over a middling Missouri squad in 2004, Mack took the reins off of Vince. He told Vince to be loose and he told Greg Davis to fire on all cylinders. That trust had been lacking in Mack during the Chris Simms years, as well as the early part of Vince's career. Sometimes it takes a transcendent player to get a coach over the edge mentally.

I should also note: with a national title under his belt, the train has left the station and it is UNBELIEVABLE to watch what Mack Brown is doing recruiting, both in and out-of-state. With the Texas kids, everyone stands around, waits for Mack to pick his players, then fights for the rest. I've never seen anything remotely like it. Boston College is probably starting to get out offers to 2007 recruits. The Longhorns have only two '07 scholarships left, and are already prepping their '08 offers.

5. TOB is entering his 10th year at BC. As an unbiased observer do you think he'll ever get BC beyond the 7 to 9 wins and a crappy bowl stage?

BON: You're asking someone that's picked BC as their underrated team for this year, and my sleeper choice to win the ACC. If I were an Eagles fan, I'd invest quite a bit of my evaluative capital in this season. This is a year when TOB can, and maybe should, win the ACC. The conference is strong, but there isn't a dominant team. I think you can start to draw conclusions about a coach after a decade; that's more than enough time to establish a pattern, and TOB's at the point where he needs to bump the program up a notch, or the boosters that you've mentioned will ask for more bang for their buck. At this point, TOB's putting himself in a position where one slip (a 5-6 season, for example) may put him past the tipping point in a lot of minds. I'll be watching BC closely this year.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Shaky starts

Although TOB has a winning record in his season openers, they have seemed more like unorganized scrimmages. Hence no BC fan is taking the CMU game lightly. I always look forward to the start of the football season. Yet after these games, the dreads set in pretty quickly. Here's a look back on our starts.

-- September 6, 1997. BC 21, Temple 28. I’ve recounted this game before. Horrendous. It was only TOB’s first game, yet looking back, you can already see some of the problems that would come back to haunt us over the next decade (i.e. special teams miscues).

-- September 5, 1998. BC 41, Georgia Tech 31. This game was a shocker. BC beat Tech in a shootout here in Atlanta. I included this on my 10 Best list. Tech turned out to be a very good team. They just weren’t ready for BC. The 1998 season started off strong only to collapse later in the year.

-- September 4, 1999. BC 30, Baylor 29. BC needed overtime to defeat a really bad Baylor team at home. And the overtime win wasn’t because BC came out with some great defensive stop. Baylor’s kicker yanked an extra point, handing us the game.

-- September 2, 2000. BC 14, WVU 34. Season opener. National television audience. What happened? BC laid an egg. BC was down early, chipped away at the lead and then watched Tim Hasselbeck throw it away in the Fourth. I like Tim but this was not one of his better days.

-- September 1, 2001. BC 34, WVU 10. Very nice win. No complaints. This or the Georgia Tech win would have to be considered TOB’s best opener. While the 2001 team did not deliver TOB’s best record, they might have played some of his best football including a near upset of Miami, crushing Pitt, beating Notre Dame and knocking off Georgia in the bowl game.

-- August 31, 2002. BC 24, UConn 16. BC won comfortably but still had to overcome a 13-point deficit. This game was much closer than it had to be. The AP captured it best: “The Eagles struggled on offense most of the game. Boston College fumbled a punt, had two passes intercepted and rushed for just 78 yards through the opening three quarters.”

-- August 30, 2003. BC 28, Wake Forest 32. This was the start of the Wake Forest fiascos. If you have trouble remembering which one was which, refer to this one as the fumbleception game (the others would be the Ohliger yips game and the Ryan comeback game). This game turned when a concussed Quinton Porter threw a pass, saw it batted, caught the batted pass himself and then was sacked and fumbled. This let Wake back in and they ultimately went ahead late. Par for the course for the underachieving 2003 team.

-- September 2, 2004. BC 19, Ball St. 11. I didn’t even see this game, yet it still gives me nightmares. We opened our season on the road against a MAC team on a Thursday night. The game was not televised, so BC fans missed the opportunity to see Ball State's alleged high school-like facilities. Unfortunately we could hear the call online. Our starting Tailback Jeff Ross was benched after a few carries. LV played well but then got dinged. Peterson played sloppy. And the Ball State punter had the game of his life. They kept pinning us deep into our own territory. We could’ve lost this game and were lucky to escape. You shouldn’t feel that way against a cellar dwelling MAC team.

-- September 3, 2005. BC 20, BYU 3. One of the better ones. We went across the country and beat a respectable BYU team. The game wasn’t too pretty. Blackmon had some nice plays and the defense really carried the team (despite giving up yardage).

Give TOB a month of practice before a bowl game and his team's look sharp. Give him nine months of offseason and often his teams look like they forgot how to play. TOB is lucky to have a 6-3 record in first game when only three of these games were well played. This year our first game is the first game of the entire college football season. Let's make it a good one.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Preseason Blogpoll ballot

Last year, Brian created the Blogpoll. His concept, work and ambition were commendable. In a time where everyone questioned the validity of the BSC rankings, he created a guage for the outsiders. Ultimately, we, the participants, ended up with the same results as the coaches and AP writers. We didn't change the world, but it was a very enlightening process. The first early realization for me of the major flow in the traditional polling was when I realized how little I saw of all the participants. Prior to the season I could study up on every possible Top 25 candidate, but once the games began it was hard enough to catch a piece of all the ACC teams -- let alone all the other powers around the country. The refreshing thing about what Brian did is he forced us to be honest about our limited references and embrace our biases. So when he asked me to return for season 2, I gladly accepted. This poll might not be the most original, but it certainly the most honest and thought provoking. One other credit to Brian: through his work he connected me to a whole network of college bloggers. This group, a few of whom have contributed to this blog, are some of the best writers around and offer fresh perspective on college football.

Regarding my ballot: I really do think Notre Dame will win it all. I think they've got the right coach and the right schedule and are peaking at the right time. I cannot wait to knock them off next year. Teams 8 through 18 are pretty interchangeable. I didn't know where to put some of them. Others are calling Clemson and Miami sleepers, I see down years (relatively) for each. I placed BC, but not very high. With our schedule, we will waltz to a Bowl. With the right breaks we can be a Top 10 team this year.

Preseason Ballot
1. Notre Dame
2. Auburn
3. Ohio State
4. USC
5. Florida
6. Texas
7. Iowa
8. LSU
9. West Virginia
10. Virginia Tech
11. Georgia
12. Florida State
13. Michigan
14. Louisville
15. Tennessee
16. Miami, Fla
17. Oregon
18. Clemson
19. Boston College
20. TCU
21. Texas Tech
22. Oklahoma
23. California
24. Nebraska
25. Utah

Chat with Gene

Gene DeFilippo will hold an online chat next Tuesday.

I submitted the following questions. I think they are pretty fair. They are prescreening, but nothing I've asked crosses any line. Hopefully he will address at least one of these.

1. What are the chances that NESN will broadcast the Maine game? Given our partnership with the Red Sox and the local interest, it would seem like a natural fit. Can you explain what sort of influence Fenway Sports has with NESN programming?

2. Are you concerned about this year’s football season ticket sales? Do you think home schedule needs more marquee opponents? What impact will this season sales have on our policy of scheduling DIAA opponents and non-BCS schools?

3. Can you clarify the ACC bowl arrangement? It seems that if the majority of teams are 5-3 and 4-4 in conference that BC will still fall to the least desirable bowls. Was there any discussion of not forcing a team to a certain bowl in consecutive years?

Scrimmage recaps and Foley news

The Globe, The Herald, and all posted scrimmage recaps. Most accounts, including TOB's, called the effort "so so." I am not really concerned at this point. Glad to see Brooks play well and Flutie get a chance at QB. I already have a pit in my stomach that we are going to hear about "injuries" all year. I am just disappointed that it is only August and the excuses have started. It wasn't mentioned in the press but it was all over the message boards that star recruit Jordan McMichael tore a muscle in his leg and will be out for the year. He was a likely redshirt before the injury so this just forces the issue. Hopefully he will have a speedy recovery.

Former BC QB Glenn Foley is moving behind the mic. He will host a morning show in Philly.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Blogger summer assessment: Maryland

Another one of our new annual opponents is Maryland. It looks like they will traditionally fall in the later part of our schedule. But we want to know about the Terps now! So I’ve asked Esquire from Turtle Waxing to continue the Summer Assesment series by giving us the inside scoop on his Terps.

1. What is the one thing that all the experts have wrong about this year’s Maryland team?

Turtle Waxing: One thing that is wrong in most of preseason publications is that star recruit Melvin Aleaze won't be making any kind of impact this fall because Maryland has rescinded his scholarship offer after the most recent in a long line of character and academic issues. The other issue that the experts have missed is the relative inexperience of the current assistants. After losing offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe and Defensive coordinator Gary Blackney, who were assistant coaches at big I-A programs before most of the current staff were even born, the current staff is fairly inexperienced. I feel like the new staff is more likely to be a liability than an advantage for this season.

2. Much has been made of Fridge getting more involved in the offense. It seems like an overly simple solution to me. If that was all it took to get things straight, wouldn't he have done so sooner? What am I missing?

Turtle Waxing: It may seem that way because it is an overly simplistic solution. Friedgen feels that he wasn't as involved in the game planning as he should have been and the departure of Charlie Taaffe has given him a pretext to take over the playcalling. If he had spent as much time focused on recruiting and less on glad handing boosters and fund raising maybe there wouldn't be a need for him to take over the playcalling. The game planning hasn't really been the problem. He also has indicated that he is putting more into his famously bloated playbook. That may be another problem since the current group on offense is very inexperienced at receiver and has yet to demonstrate a strong grasp of the old playbook.

3. Following two rough seasons can you guys get back to winning football?

Turtle Waxing: The jury is still out. Friedgen is clearly feeling the pressure of two mediocre seasons. This should be the most talented group of players Maryland has had during Fridge's tenure according to the recruit rankings and his own assessment of his program's talent pool, however few of those recruits has shown the ability to be the foundations of a winning program. Those that have, such as TE Vernon Davis and MLB D'Qwell Jackson, have left. Some recruiting miscues have left the team thin at a number of positions and forced players to perform before they were ready. Predictably the results have been spotty. With a very difficult schedule consisting of five road games against bowl teams and home games against Miami and Florida State I don't think Fridge will be able to return the program to a bowl game. Another bad season will stall recruiting and increase the mummers of discontent around College Park.

4. It is only August, but what is your take on the BC game?

Turtle Waxing: Maryland's road wins in the last two years have come against Temple, Wake Forest, Duke and an overtime win against UNC. Not overly impressive and Maryland hasn't beaten a bowl team on the road since 2003. A late November road game in New England is a tough place to pull out a win. The Terps of the last few seasons have not shown the mental or physical toughness to pull out a win against a quality opponent on the road. QB Matt Ryan gives BC an edge and the younger players for the Eagles should be seasoned by late November. I see an easy win for BC as Maryland's bowl hopes will likely be dashed by that point.

Go to Turtle Waxing for more on Maryland sports.

Flutie calling BC opener and other news

Doug Flutie will begin his professional broadcasting career with the BC-Central Michigan game.

Steve Conroy followed his nice feature on Matt Ryan with another good piece on new starting Safety Paul Anderson.

The Washington Post published a BC preview Wednesday. Similar to most of the themes, however, there is a great little nugget about Matt Ryan sinking free throws at a Notre Dame pep rally. He really is the Iceman.

Here is a TOB Q&A where he gets into the reasons behind giving a scholarship to a long snapper.

For stat heads out there, here is a new site. You can look at all of BC’s splits from last season.

In BC family news, B.J. Raji’s brother Corey recently committed to play basketball for Al.

In pro football news, here is an article on Chris Hovan’s redemption. And here is another on Dan Koppen’s return.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

BC Fan Reverend Mike unlocks TOB's DNA

Geniuses often see the world differently. They see shapes, patterns and connections where we mortals do not. BC message board poster and fan Reverend Mike is one of those geniuses. Look what he has unlocked below.

Photo courtesy Reverend Mike

Forever Young

“We're young to begin with, now we'll get younger because guys will play more quickly than we expected." -- Tom O’Brien in the Boston Globe referencing the Glasper and Ramella injuries.

I understand some coaches down play expectations. When it is your team and the media starts to buy into the excuse du jour, I start to get annoyed. Despite the injuries the “young” excuse is pretty hollow. Take a look:

Quarterback: Upperclass Junior who took a redshirt, so he has age and playing experience. Played as a Freshman. Took over as starter as a Sophmore. Verdict: Not Young.

Running Backs: The Fullback and starting Tailback will be upperclassmen. All have extensive playing experience and numerous starts. The youngest player in the mix (Brooks) is a redshirt Sophomore who started a game as a true freshman. Verdict: Not Young.

Offensive Line: Lost two starters. Replacing them with experienced Juniors. The remaining starters are all upper classmen. Verdict: Not Young.

Tight Ends: Four guys are in the mix. Three are Juniors. The one Sophomore played last season. (I am expected McMichael to redshirt.) Verdict: Not Young.

Wide Receiver: The expected starters are upperclassmen. Verdict: Not Young.

The Defensive side of the ball is a little younger, but even so there is still plenty of experience.

Defensive Line: Anchored by two Juniors. The rest of the group is very green. Verdict: Young.

Linebackers: Dunbar and Toal are two experienced Juniors. The third LB is also likely to be a Junior. Verdict: Not Young

Defensive Backs: Even with the loss of Glasper, three of the remaining four starters are upperclassmen. Verdict: Not Young

Special Teamers: Both Juniors. Verdict: Not Young.

In the end a good staff would rather have talent than experience. This team will have challenges. Depth will be an issue. Age and experience will not. Let us stop the excuses and raise the expectations.

Herald comes out strong, Globe barely covers Media Day

I was traveling Monday, so this is the first chance I’ve had to comment on Media Day. I’ll continue with previews this week and have a look back at past openers. Now onto the news.

After getting sandbagged with a story that featured Ramella and Glasper, the Herald came back strong with plenty of stories from Media Day. The Globe did not. Very disappointing. Mark Blaudschun filed the only story from the Globe and it was the usual “BC building respect” piece. Way to take a new angle, Mark. Also, in his notes section, Blaudschun adds his usual nonsensical speculation saying that Glasper is unlikely to be offered a fifth year after his injury. Is this guy paying attention? He claims it would be too risky. Clearly he didn’t run this by anyone on the staff. They have given plenty of less deserving guys fifth years. Glasper has been a long-time starter and stalwart. Sure he might be slow to recover from this, but if he can play, he will be back. Hell, I bet he would have been Captain this year. Where is Mike Vega when this nonsense is published?

Speaking of Captains, the offensive selections were not a surprise (Ryan and Beekman). However the Defense was a pleasant surprise -- Dunbar. With the most obvious candidate (Glasper) sidelined, the guys passed by more heralded players like Toal and Silva for Jolonn. Good for him. I think this is another sign that he is ready for a break out year.

The Herald included a feature on Beekman, a story on Giles shot at the big time, and the mind and body prep Ohlinger is going through.

One other note: really didn’t produce much content for this year’s Media Day. Let’s hope it was a temporary blip.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Media days

Friday is media day. Be sure to check out Eagle Insider for sound clips. usually does a very good job with this kickoff event. I am sure they will post multiple pictures as well as the transcript of TOB's first press conference. Hopefully someone will clear up Ramella and Glasper's status since the Herald overlooked it in this feature.

Sunday is Fan Day. If any of the readers go and want to share pics please send them my way.

The team is ready to start practice.

Here is a feature on future opponent Maine.

OT: my wife's perfect analogy

Rhett Bomar would have pocketed an Everlasting Gobstopper.

My wife is a very smart woman. Initially not a college football fan she has been sucked in and now knows more than 95% of the women out there…often just because she is my primary sounding board. With the Rhett Bomar thing, I was reminded of one of her great analogies regarding college football and keeping the vultures away from your “student athletes.”

“It’s like Slugworth,” she explained, referencing the creepy villain from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. “If you’re a coach you have to assume that there is some shady character around every corner waiting to get to your guy. Fair or not, the coach has to police his kids.”

While BC has had its share of gambling scandals, we’re fortunate that we’ve never run into a major booster corruption problem. I feel for the Oklahoma fans right now. It would suck to start your season this way.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Dealing with defensive injuries

Wednesday, the BC message boards fluttered with news that Ryan Glasper and Jim Ramella were both going to sit out the season with medical redshirts. The coaching staff is mum. The major papers had nothing. Even EagleChevy is having trouble getting firm confirmation. Regardless, it is not good news. Ramella and Glasper just went from starters to very serious questions. Glasper was a likely captain and I expected a big year from Ramella. All that said, this is not the end of the world. Our defensive backfield is very deep and the coaches have options on how to fill Glasper’s void. Ramella’s spot is a little more tricky. The defensive line is thin and inexperienced. We’ll see how they address the hole. Speculation is that they could move one of the Tight Ends to the defensive side or perhaps try one of the Linebackers as a DE.

Now on to the good news: BC’s defense has been pretty consistent under Spaz. Regardless of the personnel or injury, we play the same basic scheme over and over. There are up and down years, yet despite fan frustration the end results are very similar. Take a look below.

YearPts per game allowed Opponents total off. per game

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Blogger summer assessment: BYU

In the latest installment of the Summer Series, Chad from Cougar Corner gives us an early look at BYU. Check out his blog as the season approaches to get more information on the Cougars.

1. What is the one thing that all the experts have wrong about this year’s BYU team?

Cougar Corner: "Losing Todd Watkins to the NFL will hurt the Cougar's offense" -- Many analysts predict that John Beck will have a hard time without Watkins as a deep threat. This is actually a great thing for BYU to have in the press. It completely belies the fact that this years receiving corps is actually deeper and more talented this year.

2. The 3-3-5 Defense didn't seem to really stop anyone. What new wrinkles can we expect this year?

Cougar Corner: The 3-3-5 is actually a great scheme, with the right personnel. The Cougar's problem wasn't that the 3-3-5 couldn't stop anybody, it was the nearly dozen injuries the secondary suffered. With the lack of healthy personnel in the defensive backfield, the most important part of the scheme, the defense was incapable of stopping anyone. But, thats all a moot point. This year the Cougars are switching to a 3-4 to accentuate the depth at linebacker.

3. There seems to be a lot of "BYU is back" sentiment. Premature or not?

Cougar Corner: There is no question that BYU has suffered through a few down years. With Bronco Mendenhall at the helm there has been a an emphasis on a return to glory. Cougar fans realize that last year was not that return, however, most of us, myself included, feel like it was a step in the right direction and that if anyone is to lead us back to the forefront of College Football it will be Mendenhall that takes us there.

4. I am chalking up the BC-BYU game as a W. What do you expect?

Cougar Corner: Many fans feel that BC will be a tough game. I feel that it is a very winnable game, the hardest part of course will be the journey East. BYU doesn't have the best track record playing East of the Mississippi. However, the game last year at Lavell Edwards Stadium gives me confidence. I believe that BC will be disappointed in a close one at home.

Check out Cougar Corner for anything and everything BYU.