Saturday, September 30, 2006

Quick AOL update

Here is a quick, mini-preview on AOL. I will be away from the PC today, so I am not sure when I'll have the post game thoughts. Sorry about this week. Monday will see a return to regular blogging.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

BC-Maine preview

Life interfering with blogging again. I spent most of my night in different airports on the East Coast. Sorry for the delay in the preview. Now onto Maine:

Theme that won’t be discussed on television radio. Maine’s giant killer potential will be discussed ad nauseum. BC needing to bounce back will also be a theme. What I don’t think you’ll hear on the official Eagles Radio Network is how despite the intention, these games don’t build interest in New England football. Let’s face it the Patriots’ success drove more kids to football programs than anything any of the colleges have done in the past 15 years. New England has some solid I-AA programs, but none of them particularly draw well or generate much coverage. If BC truly wanted to spark interest in regional football, they would resume a series with UConn. However, I can’t think of one person associated with BC who wants to play the Huskies in any sport.

Three Simple Keys.
1. Stop the big plays. The defensive stats have been somewhat misleading. Not every team has chipped away at us. We’ve had plenty of good series and stops. (For example limiting NC State on 3rd down conversions). But the team remains frustratingly vulnerable to big plays. Allowing them is dangerous. Allowing them against the Black Bears is twice as dangerous. Any encouragement and confidence Maine gets will make the game that much harder for us. This game could also serve as a chance to the defense to get its bearings.
2. Relentless offense. Going conservative against NC State allowed our rushing game to shine for the first time. However, it also kept the game close and allowed them to comeback. Don’t make this game interesting. Pass early and often and have 28 on the board by half.
3. Try a new kicker. This is the one game where it shouldn’t mean anything. Burn Flutie’s redshirt. Let the walk-ons try. Anything.

Gambling Notes
-- TOB is 21-14 off of a loss
-- Maine is 1-3 all-time against Division DIA opponents
-- BC hasn’t lost to a DIAA team since 1980
The game is not listed on the online gambling sites

What would be a pleasant surprise? An easy victory with Chris Crane getting all the snaps in the second half.

What would be a letdown? A win by anything less than 21. This team should be angry after last week and want to take it out on Maine.

What would be a shocker? A BC loss. And it would be real problems for TOB.

Bottom Line
This game should be fun. I think Maine will give it their all, but we’ll pull away. Let’s hope the team plays crisp. After last week they need to show what they are made of.
Final Score: BC 42, Maine 20

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

My annual NESN gripe

I almost went to the Maine game. Not because I have a burning desire to see us take on a DIAA team in person, but because it is not being televised. (I am also going to be in Westchester, New York for a wedding Friday. I wouldn’t have made the trip just for the Maine game. I am not that crazy.)

Now, plenty of schools don’t have all their games televised – especially against DIAA opponents. But how many schools have marketing agreements with companies that own regional sports networks? I would think that our relationship with the Red Sox and the Red Sox position at NESN, Fenway Sports Group could make this happen if they wanted.

NESN reaches homes in Maine. If the Red Sox wanted to build their partnership you’d think this would be a no brainer. Promote BC football. Promote regional sports. I know the costs are expensive but you can do it on the cheap and still get away with it. And if Gameplan picks it up, you recoup some of your costs before you sell a single ad.

So what is the New England Sports Network showing instead of Maine-BC?

NESN Schedule for Saturday, 9/30
1:00 PM On the Hook with David Sloan
1: 30 PM Divers Down (which is a rerun)
2:00 PM Northeast Journal (rerun)
2:30 PM Northeast Journal (rerun)
3:00 PM Northeast Journal (rerun)
3:30 PM Camo-country Television

Now I don’t have access to the ratings books in Boston, but I’d bet our game would out draw all of those quality episodes of Northeast Journal. Camo-Country is new broadcast and probably plays well in Maine, but I still think more people care about Black Bear football.

My advice: next time you see Gene ask him why NESN doesn’t come in and broadcast our home games not picked up by our national partners.

Displaced fans like me will just have to listen online.

Maine malaise

Sorry for the light posting this week. Saturday left a bitter taste in my mouth and I’ve also been feeling under the weather. Plus there is not much to report or comment on. This game is truly filler. The only way it will ever get discussed beyond this week is if Maine upsets us. If that happens -- look out. I think you would see the whole tone of the majority of fans change. BUT, I don’t expect us to lose this week.

Take a look at Maine’s last two games against DIA opponents. First their monumental upset of Mississippi State.

How did it happen? Maine played tough and caught a lot of breaks (box score | recap). First Mississippi State turned the ball over three times. The game really turned in the second quarter when the Black Bears stalled three Bulldog drives in Maine territory and the Bulldogs came away with no points. So down only 7-0 at the Half, they felt they had a chance. Maine’s punter also had a great day.

In Maine’s most recent game against DIA team, they gave Nebraska a scare.

How did it happen? Maine forced the Huskers into five turnovers (box score). That was the only thing that really kept the game close through three quarters (recap). Nebraska pulled away late.

I expect BC to win. I’ll have my preview Thursday.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Viewing thoughts and grade report: NC State

Who knew that moving would be the highlight of my weekend? This game really hurt. Not sure why as we’ve been beaten in this manner before. I think it was the tipping point for me. After keeping the tiniest sliver of hope that TOB had something special on his horizon, I am now convinced that he does not. For the remainder of his tenure we will win 8ish games and go to third rate bowls. And that just bores me.

I will keep blogging and certainly keep rooting, but I will not hold out hope for something more. It is just easier that way.

Now onto the grades. (Due to the move, I didn’t get a chance to watch the game twice.)

Offense: C-

The rough night started with Ryan. As I’ve been saying, he is having problems with the touch passes to the flats. He also threw an ugly floater on the INT. He seemed confused all night (running more than ever, throwing into traffic, etc). He even missed deep opportunities on his scrambles (which is unlike him). When he had time in the pocket and was throwing darts (like on the first TD drive) or when he was pumping to Challenger, he looked good. Everything else, not so much. I think the coaches need to look at this game film and start trying to tailor things to what he does well (pocket passing) and forget these touch passes and the friggin’ option.

We wasted the best performance of the season from the running backs. Both LV and AC played really well. They hit their holes, read their blocks and ran with more authority than I’ve seen all year. Unfortunately neither is a game breaker. Both had moments where they were one move away from breaking a long one but couldn’t take advantage. They just don’t have that raw speed or allusiveness to breakaway.

The receivers -- not much to talk about here. We only complete 13 passes and four of those were to the backs. Robinson looked quick until he was knocked out. He did run short of first down marker on a crucial 3rd down, but he’ll learn. Challenger and Ryan are clearly in tune with one another. Gonzo’s TD was very pretty. I think the problem with this game and with these two as our leads, is that neither is big or fast enough to cause mismatch problems against a team like NC State. Ryan was flustered by the coverage and hence, fewer passes and less guys involved. I don’t know why we haven’t gone to the Tight Ends more in crossing routes or in posts. I would think that is one area where we can create favorable matchups (as Ed Cunningham pointed out, the TE route opened up the path for Gonzo’s TD).

The line was inconsistent. Perhaps their best run blocking effort of the year, but they also had some brutal collapses periodically. Beekman struggled. Poles had some ole’s. Avenski played well. Marten and Cherilus both looked good. Most of our running success was off tackle.

The play calling was not very good. I can’t figure Bible out. The scoring drives were great. But he’d screw up these other drives with all sorts of random stuff (the option?) or with plays that Ryan has struggled with. Also, and this is where I sound like I am never happy, but what is with the bomb to Gonzo that turned into an INT? Yes it was a bad pass, but he doesn’t have the speed to breakaway on something like that. And I don’t know if that is the type of play we need right there. We are moving the ball. The offense is clicking, why go high risk right then? The return of the deep ball has been an added bonus this year, but I would still like to see it used wisely. The other thing that drove me nuts about TOB/Bible’s call – the two point conversion. One, how can you not have the right people out there? Don’t you practice that all year? Two, we are running the ball very well at that point, why not go First and Toal or maybe even a draw with AC. Obviously the miss attempted proved costly.

Defense: C-

Before I get into the units, let me say the tackling was atrocious. The usual culprits like Anam had plenty of misses, but guys like Razzie Smith, Brady Smith, Anderson, Albright, Pruitt, Dunbar and Morris all had their share of whiffs.

Defensive line was another letdown. I am so disappointed in B.J. Raji. NC State showed us the type of havoc a big, quick DT can do. Raji can play at the same level Tank Tyler. Tyler lost All-American teammates. Tyler is the focal point of blocking schemes, yet he still made a difference. Raji did not. The other guys played hard, but the only time Giles and Larkin made tackles were when Akins forced Evans in their direction. Willis was quiet.

Akins was the MVP. With him as the quasi-DE/rushing LB, we were able to generate a pass rush. Evans was flustered most of the night and didn’t convert a 3rd down until late in the game. Dunbar was solid. Pruitt was pretty good. Toal and Fracois were quiet. McLaughlin looked good in his time out there.

The secondary was a mixed bag. Some great plays – especially Davis breaking up a huge play, and Tribble made a great grab late (that should have won the game). Then there were some awful tackles: Smith, Anam, Morris, Anderson. And horrendous coverage. We let their guys get out of bounds. We let their guys out jump us. We let them break tackles. Breaking up anyone of those big plays would’ve won the game.

The poor tackling is on Spaz. It is a hallmark of his defense and there is no excuse for it at this point in his tenure. He called a pretty good game until the final drive. I thought we should have blitzed more throughout the game. Any time Evans had pressure he rushed his throws. So what do we do with the game on the line? Leave him alone and allow him to move the ball on our soft zone. Terrible. Cowardly.

Special Teams: D+

Ayers had a great game and is continuing a strong season. He also bailed out Geiser on two high snaps.

The punt coverage and kick coverage was pretty good, with the exception of Anam’s boneheaded play.

Smith had one nice return and wasn’t much of a factor beyond that.

So why the low grade? Because it is unacceptable to have a kicker that can’t make an extra point. TOB has been sending Ohliger out there for three years. At what point does he learn or make some sort of change. He says things like “Jerry Petercuskie is working with him.” Well let me ask: “how’s that working for you?” This is beyond sad at this point. But the buck stops with TOB. What amazes me about his consistent special teams ineptness, is that for years he’s watched Frank Beamer change games with good special teams, yet never once thought to emulate that. Stubborn and stupid.

Overall: D

The team probably deserves a C, but the coaching brings it down. What a shame. We outplayed them but still lost. This is how Clemson and BYU must have felt.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

WTF? 2006

Terrible, terrible, tough loss. Bad QB play. Bad special teams. Questionable play calls. We just let a first-time starter drive the field with less than a minute left.

Well there goes our special year. Our chance at the conference title just took a huge blow. TOB doesn't extend his win streak to 7. BC doesn't get off to its best start under TOB.

As I've said all week, playing these close games will cost you. Good teams put a team like NC State away.

The Athletic Department and some of the "all is well" folks wonder why people dislike and even hate TOB so much. This type of game is the reason. I've spent all summer wondering if he could ever break through. He can't. We will not win 10 regular games. We will not get to the ACC Championship game. We will waste the easiest schedule in BC history. We are looking at another 9 win season and a December Bowl that no one cares about.

I won't have my grades up until Monday morning. Go to AOL to reread the live blog if you enjoy pain.

Live Blogging over at AOL

Check it out here.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Weekend plans

This weekend we are moving. We're staying in Atlanta, but upgraded to a bigger house with more space for Mrs. ATL_eagle and Baby ATL_eagle. Perfect weekend for a night game. However, Sunday will be really busy and I probably won't have time to watch the game twice before I post my Grade Report Sunday night/Monday morning. So to make it up to anyone interested, I've decided to live blog for the first time. I've avoided live blogging in the past because I like to watch the game as a fan first. But this weekend is as good a time to try it as any. Check it out over on AOL.

Now wish my laptop luck. If the game is anything like our first three, there is a very good chance the laptop could get thrown out a window.

Tackling tackling

Not a whole lot of news this week. This article from Thursday's Herald did get my attention. The article at one point says "The Eagles may be failing at some of the basics, like tackling, because they are young on the defensive side." I don't know if that is the writer, Steve Conroy's thoughts, or if he is listing a criticism he has heard from players and coaches. Regardless of the source of the analysis, tackling, unfortunately, is not the problem.

BC hasn't been a great tackling team for a few years. Henderson and Toal ole'd a bunch of tackles last year. If anything, aside from the numerous blown plays on Spiller's great run in the Clemson game, the tackling has been improved. Tribble is doing a much better job at bringing his men down. Pruitt and Francois are very good at wrapping people up. The only real bad form tacklers who regularly see the field are Anam and Silva. And Silva is brutal head hunter who doesn't let many guys get buy him. The real problem has been scheme and speed. Our schemes have played to the other team's strengths and we are not getting to the ball carriers and QB fast enough. We are just not getting to the guys or getting to the right zone/hole/assignment fast enough.

So good news: tackling has improved. Bad news: we aren't getting close enough to tackle.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

BC-NC State preview

A reeling team vs. one of the luckiest hottest in the country. No contest, right? C’mon. This is BC we are talking about. Even our scrimmages are close. Here are my thoughts on the Wolfpack.

Theme that won’t be discussed on television. Pressure on Amato will be discussed. TOB the great leader and winningest coach at BC will be discussed. What won’t be discussed is how similar their accomplishments are. Perception does not always equal reality. TOB wins more than he loses, wins bowls and is an unassuming guy at a program that is not flashy. Amato wins more than he loses, wins bowls but is an attention magnet with his stupid glasses, funny voice and even funnier quotes. Chuck announced his big time intentions for NC State long ago and every little misstep brings out the vultures. Now let me set the record straight -- I don’t think much of Amato as a coach. I would much rather have TOB than him, but their accomplishments are comparable and Chuck has done many things that TOB critics have been waiting for (won a Jan 1. Bowl, won 10 games and beaten a team like FSU three times).

TOB’s winning percentage .621
Amato’s winning percentage .610

Three simple keys
1. BC needs a big day from B.J. Raji. He has been inconsistent so far this season. The rest of the line is trying their best but he is the only true game changer up front. In order to keep pressure off their new QB and keep BC’s offense off the field, NC State will probably lean on the run. The key to slowing it down will be Raji. He was very good against the run last year. Not only did he collapse the line, but he was a good tackler and followed the action. We need to see the 2005 Raji on Saturday.
2. BC needs to establish the run early. In the last two games BC was able to use the run in the second half after sputtering in the first half. NC State just allowed 291 rushing yards to Southern Miss. There is no reason BC cannot at least get 180 on the ground against the Wolfpack’s young line.
3. BC needs to show Evans multiple looks. It is easy to say that Spaz uses the same defense and never blitzes. The reality is that he mixes in a fair amount of blitzes and pressure from the base defense. Now let’s mix in more or go more 3 down line man with Akins blitzing from the slot. Or have 3 down line man and drop Akins in to coverage. Whatever he can think of...the point is Evans should come up to the line and wonder “what they heck are they going to do to me now?”

Gambling Notes
-- TOB 12-11 as an away favorite
-- TOB is 8-4 as an away favorite against a conference opponent
-- Amato is 13-13 off a loss
The current line is BC -7

What would be a pleasant surprise? At this point any win in regulation! Actually I’ll be surprised if BC wins this with ease. NC State is a disaster right now but those types of teams have often sprung back to life against us.

What would be a letdown? Losing. BC controls its destiny. Losing a to struggling conference team in a season where the divisional title is within reach would be a major letdown.

What would be a shocker? Another OT win. First, half of our fan base won’t survive the stress. But I just don’t want to keep tempting fate. As I said Sunday, our luck will run out.

Bottom Line
BC needs a really good effort and win. Another narrow win will leave everyone wondering how good BC really is. NC State is bordering on full meltdown. BC needs to show killer instinct. Don’t give this opponent the glimmer of hope they are looking for.
Final Score: BC 35, NC State16

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

AOL update on Amato and the media

TOB has whiners. Chuck has an angry press core.

Guest Blogger: Section Six Returns

NC State blogger Steven from Section Six is back to explain their disastrous start and what BC can expect this weekend. Go to Section Six to read more about the Wolfpack.

1. Are things as bad as they seem?

Yeah, pretty much. The biggest concerns coming into the season--Marcus Stone and the defense--have been as bad as feared. It doesn't look like the game has slowed down for Stone, and the defense was exposed by Southern Mississippi, of all teams. The way things are going right now, I can't imagine this team winning enough games to become bowl eligible.

And then there is the off-field crap: the backlash from Amato's comments about Akron's partial qualifiers, all the job speculation, etc. I'm trying not to freak out...but it's ugly.

2. Do you expect the QB change to make a difference?

No, but I would never be mistaken for an optimist. Daniel Evans did look good in garbage time against USM, and I thought the interception he threw was more of a good play by the defender than a poor decision on his part. At one point, USM was blitzing and Evans's protection broke down quickly, forcing him to make a fast decision. He completed the throw, and I remember thinking there was no way Marcus Stone would've made that play. So although Evans was pretty much ignored coming out of high school, there are at least a few indications that he can be a starter at this level.

Even if he comes out and plays well against Boston College, I think NC State has too many problems in too many other places to beat the Eagles. I wouldn't be worried about the backup-QB-sparks-the-team factor if I were Boston College, but you never know...

3. What are the keys to beating NC State?

Don't let us run the ball. Were Marcus Stone starting, I would say that this is all there is to it. Daniel Evans probably will not be much more of a passing threat than Stone, but I do think Evans makes the BC defense's job a little more complicated--if
only because Evans is an unknown quantity.

We tend to make plenty of mistakes, be they penalties or turnovers, and if Boston College is sufficiently opportunistic, it will win the game.

4. What's your prediction?

After the Southern Miss game, I am dreading BC's offense. USM moved the ball at will; the running backs had big holes and receivers were open everywhere. I'm especially worried about the BC passing game because it has been so effective this
season. NC State may be without its best cornerback again, but even with him in the fold, I'm not sure the Pack has an answer for Matt Ryan.

I could see us hangin' in if we win the turnover battle and Danny Evans plays better than expected. But how likely is that? BC wins, 34-17.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

AOL update on the poll miscue

Click here to read it. I really don't think the polls mean much at this point.

Lucky Number Seven

When putting together my predictions for the season and thinking about strong starts, one little factoid kept gnawing at me -- TOB’s not streaky. After a few losses he usually rights the ship. And he never seems to string together a bunch of wins.

Saturday BC has the chance to notch its seven-straight win -- a new record under TOB. This is the second time he has won six in a row. How does his streak of 6 compare to his peers? Here are the best streaks of ACC coaches at their respective ACC schools:

TOB -- 6 wins

Chuck Amato -- 9 wins
Frank Beamer -- 13 wins
Bobby Bowden -- 17 wins
Tommy Bowden -- 8 wins
John Bunting -- 5 wins
Larry Coker -- 24 wins
Ralph Friedgen -- 8 wins
Chan Gailey -- 4 wins
Jim Grobe -- 3 wins
Al Groh -- 8 wins
Ted Roof -- no consecutive wins

With the way the season is playing out TOB should extend his streak beyond 7 to 8 wins. We will be favored in both games. But with the way things have started, I don't think I should take anything for granted.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Blogpoll Week 3

Below is my ballot. I moved up BC, but still think the team is costing by.

Games I watched
BYU-BC 100% (twice)
Michigan-Notre Dame 25%
Oklahoma-Oregon 25%
LSU-Auburn 20%
Miami-Louisville 20%
WVU-Maryland 20%
Florida-UT 20%
Clemson-FSU 50%
Army-Texas A&M 30%

1 Auburn 1
2 Ohio State 1
3 Southern Cal 1
4 Florida 1
5 West Virginia 3
6 Michigan 5
7 Virginia Tech --
8 Georgia 1
9 Louisville 4
10 Iowa 2
11 Louisiana State 5
12 Oregon 4
13 Texas 2
14 TCU 4
15 Boston College 2
16 Notre Dame 15
17 Clemson 9
18 Florida State 8
19 Arizona State 6
20 Oklahoma 1
21 Rutgers 3
22 UCLA 1
23 Michigan State 3
24 Wisconsin 2
25 Nebraska 5

Dropped Out: Tennessee (#14), Miami (Florida) (#21), Alabama (#22).

Second viewing thoughts and grade report: BYU

Luck will run out. This team is winning, but has to start playing better. For a 3-0 team I don’t feel confident about what lies ahead. Fortunately it is really down year in the ACC. If this team starts playing to its potential, the upside of this season is scary.

Offense: B

Matt Ryan’s numbers were big again and I like how he runs the offense, but this was his worst game of the season. He had two picks and at least three other near picks. With the bad leg it seems to take him a good three series to adjust and figure out his throws. Is he not throwing enough on the bad leg during the week? His fundamentals are slipping a little too. All that said, I have complete confidence in him and love the way he stands in the pocket. Love the way he goes through his progressions. The Robinson bomb was a classic example of his reads -- the first option was two the left. Gonzo was doubled. Then the TE on the left -- covered with a safety and linebacker. Ryan turned and threw it perfectly to BRob. He instinctively knew that Robinson would be in single coverage. Great play and may have saved the game (by giving us a confidence boost).

The offense line was not as strong. Early they had problems. Beekman has a rough day (for him). I expect perfection from him, so when he gets beat or does not get to a spot it is noticeable. Cherilus is having a great year. Marten looked better. I still have no idea who is playing and why. Poles looked good early but then gets pulled. Hall looked good in his place yet is yanked later. Sheridan was okay. But we still used Beekman at Center for a series (where Beek struggled). Make a choice and stick with it. Here was the most confusing series. First OT, the line is Marten, Poles, Sheridan, Beekman and Cherilus. Three straight run plays to Poles’ side. Five yards total.

Second OT, the line is Marten, Hall, Sheridan, Beekman and Cherilus. Ryan rolls on great protection and hits Gonzo for the TD. If you can’t trust Poles in OT or are punishing him for mixed blocking in the first OT, why keep yo yoing with Hall? This unit is confounding. Fortunately they’ve improved as the game wears on in each game. Now if they could just play one complete game I would be happy.

The receivers were good again. Loved seeing Robinson get some balls his way. The speed is exiting. Now we just need Gunnell to hold onto the ball. Gonzo is clutch but it doesn’t look like he is ever going to be a run after the catch type. Another strong game for Challenger.

The running backs both looked good. Finally given some protection they reacted well and showed some good explosiveness. LV’s run on 3rd and 2 before the half was a thing of beauty. Too bad he coughed up a ball later. AC looked back to his old form. Brooks remains MIA.

The Tight Ends played well, but I would like to see us get back to throwing to them over the middle.

The play calling was okay. I think we need to establish the run early until Ryan gets his sea legs each game. He adjusts as the game goes on, but we give him tough touch throws early. Why? Loved the deep ball attempts. Loved the running in the second half. The first OT was cowardly. Three straight runs after the day Ohliger had? Stupid. Then in the second OT when we need a score, we go downfield. I don’t get it.

Overall this offense is carrying the team. Bible has done a good job so far. However the running back situation and the line are still huge question marks and we are a quarter of the way into the season. What a weird year.

Defense: C

I am worried about the defense for this reason: we tried everything and nothing worked well. Four men rushes. Slow. Three men with a zone blitzer. Rarely worked. Dog blitzes. Picked up. Soft cover two. BYU picked us apart. Tight man. Saved by Tribble. It was a rough day.

The defensive line is the start of the problem. First the good. Nick Larkin is having a strong year. He hustles, applies good pressure and is a solid tackler. Giles is smart and hustles. He’s a little slow so far, but he is encouraging. Raji. Ugh. I thought this guy would be all ACC. Right now he is taking plays off and looks like half the player he was last year. Willis has been good this season, but struggled yesterday. Brady Smith was overmatched. Deska looked slow. The bright spots of the reserves were Albright and Willette. Both played smart and made some nice plays.

The linebackers were a mixed bag. Francois and Akins had unbelievable games. Good tackles. Great hustle. Dunbar is not playing to last year’s level. Pruitt had his first invisible game of the seaosn. Toal is a shell of himself and Speilman caught him avoiding contact. He still has great speed and instinct, but I think the shoulder is going to limit his ability to tackle. McLaughlin played okay but needs to get better in pass coverage. Herzlich looked pretty good for a true freshman.

The secondary. Despite giving up thousands of yards, this might have been their best day. Tribble played great. Silva saved the day and was doing a better job in coverage. Morris looked slow but hung in there. Anderson was really slow on the safety blitz, but he tries hard and is a solid tackler. The biggest problem is that they get no help from up front and by design our pass defense gives the opponent cushion. Against a team like BYU they will pick us apart all day.

Special teams: C-

Jesus. First the good. Ayers had a nice game. Our punt and kick coverage has improved.

Now the bad. Why are we playing this peakaboo nonsense with Smith and Tribble and then not letting Smith return the ball? Tribble’s fumblitis on punts scared me. (Survival Ross deserves a game ball for saving his ass.) Is it time to give Smith a chance to return punts?

The worst was Ohliger. Missing short field goals is one thing, but PATs!?! The more I learn the worse I feel. It is one thing to see a sports shrink, but getting weird about your freaking gum. Spit it out for Christ sakes! Pumping up the crowd and then missing looked clownish. This guy should have been done with us two years ago. Why is he still kicking? Let him handle kickoffs and nothing else.

Overall: C+

Winning ugly is better than losing ugly. But this is not a good football team right now. They have some really good players but the team is not putting it all together. And now that we are a quarter into the season it is safe to say the Defensive Line is going to be an ongoing problem. Unless Raji flips a switch and starts playing well again, Spaz is going to have to pull out every trick in the bag.

Now onto a very bad NC State team. Does anyone know what to expect from us?

What a strange season…

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Quick postgame thoughts on AOL

Here are my five takeways. My grade report will be on Sunday.

"I can't do this every Saturday!"

The above quote is from my Father In-law. My own poor dad had to step outside after the first OT. He didn't even see Silva's pick. I feel really guilty. These people are now sharing my suffering.

As for the game: a win is better than losing, but these types of wins are not good indicators for what's ahead. Yes, toughing it out shows the team has heart, but these close games are not going to break our way all season. The team needs to stop making huge mistakes. And the defense needs to bear down.

Everyone catch your breath and calm down. It won't get any easier next week. AOL update, second viewing thoughts and grade reports to follow later tonight or Sunday.

Friday, September 15, 2006

AOL on western teams coming to Boston

The stats are strongly in our favor. Read more here.

Should I take offense to this?

I know people in Sports Information, players and coaches read this blog. So when publishes a piece and says: '“Every team has its share of Web site whiners, and BC is no exception. "The fellowship of the miserable," as one coach likes to call them, will forever point to a loss here or there, playing the woulda', shoulda', coulda' game. That's their loss. The reasonable majority of Boston College fans point with pride to a program that doesn't bend the rules, that graduates its players, and that exhibits class. They have rejoiced in the big wins, and there have been many. The green jersey game at Notre Dame. The bowl game win over Georgia. The past two seasons against Clemson. The road upsets at Virginia Tech and West Virginia. The Tony Gonzalez catch at Notre Dame. Heck, all five of the wins over Notre Dame.”' I have to ask “are they talking about me?” I have vented, but I think I am pretty even handed. Maybe I am being too sensitive and the anonymous author of this piece is talking about the posters at Eagle Insider or the guys behind No matter who they are talking about, I think their defense of TOB is misguided.

Use to rehash his accomplishments. The piece was at its best when talking about the TOB people rarely see -- the family man, the humble guy. Don’t use the official school athletic site to criticize fans. Don’t act as if legitimate criticism of a public figure is whining. Who do these people at think the whiners are? I'll tell you. The majority are alumni. The majority are real diehard fans. Fans who support the team. Fans who buy tickets. Fans who tune in and make BC a desirable TV draw. If someone can recount the pain they felt after the Syracuse loss, they are not a whiner. They are emotionally involved with the team, the program and the school. Those whiners are the type of people who spend money in various forms so a guy like TOB can make a great living coaching football. Do the people at not realize this? Do they realize that a similar track record at a Big Ten school or an SEC school might have TOB on the hot seat?

TOB has accomplished a great deal in 10 years. But there is always more to do. Isn’t our school motto “Ever to Excel”?

The athletic department has a small problem -- the boredom of its fanbase. Ticket sales are down and the bowl situation gets worse every year. Instead of debating and rebutting the unhappiness, they should listen and respect opinions. TOB is well respected, but not beyond reproach. Instead of using the school site to shield him and tweak his critics, the school should listen and try to get these passionate fans back in the fold.

Does winningest = the best?

Last year I worked on a post calling TOB the best football coach in the history of Boston College. I never posted. After the UNC loss, I didn’t believe it. Coming less than a year after the Syracuse debacle, the UNC game reminded me of TOB’s limitations and was another missed opportunity at greatness.

Last week, TOB tied Joe Yukica to become the all-time winningest coach in school history. This season he will pass Yukica to become the school’s winningest coach. Does that make him the greatest? Not by itself. Unlike his predecessors, TOB’s time is not complete. How he finishes his tenure at BC will ultimately serve as his legacy. The big hole on his resume is big wins and championships. Here is how he measures up in the key categories of a college greatness.

Off the field accomplishments
BC established a good foundation for graduating its players long before TOB arrived. However, he does deserve credit for continuing the push. Here are some of the other things he’s done at BC. TOB’s personality will always keep him from becoming a beloved, cult figure at BC, like some legends are to their respective schools. But he deserves credit for what he’s done and the men he has produced.

This category is of longevity, consistency, and the time he coached. He’s padded it with plenty of Rutgers and Temple games, but Yukica’s resume includes plenty of games against Holy Cross. TOB also benefits from the expanded schedules of the modern era and the endless list of bowls. He’s won the most, because he’s had more games to coach. This is an accomplishment, but more of consistency, not of greatness.

Winning Percentage
Winning percentage tells a different story from wins. TOB has coached more games, therefore is bound to win more than Yukica (or Couglin or Bicknell…).
TOB’s current winning percentage is .618.
Yukica’s is .648
Coughlin’s is .614
Leahy’s is .909

If he keeps winning there is a good chance TOB will pass Yukica here too. As of now, Yukica was more productive with his time than TOB.

One other note about winning percentage: BC historically won .580 of its games. So every time Sports Information or the media trot out all these historical accomplishments (most bowl wins, most "X" wins season) remember that historically BC has been a solid program. TOB is performing above the historical mark, but not by a huge margin. If Yukica and Bicknell coached today, they would have had plenty of San Francisco Bowl titles too.

Big wins, big moments and championships
This is the area where TOB comes up short. One win over Miami, Virginia Tech and Florida State. He just got his first home win over a ranked team last week. His only title is a four-way piece of the worst Big East in history. He has yet to play in a New Year’s Bowl. He whiffed on his best chance to get to a BCS Bowl. His saving grace is his Notre Dame record. He never coached a Heisman winner like Bicknell and doesn’t have that program defining moment like Flutie’s Hail Mary or Gordon’s kick. This is the hole on his resume

What does it all mean?
TOB is a very good coach, but not a great one. There is still time. If he wins one ACC title before he is done he will go down as the best football coach the school has ever had. But if we get five more years of 8 wins and a meaningless bowl, people will always question his accomplishments.

I am not the only one weighing in. The Globe, the Heights and have their opinions too.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Ohliger on AOL

Check it out here. Good news: our conference is filled with Ohliger-like kickers. Bad news: I still don't trust him in the clutch.

BC-BYU preview

After nail biters in the first two weeks, BC fans need a more comfortable win. Will it happen this week? Here is the preview.

Theme that won’t be discussed on television. BC and (to a lesser extent) the ACC need BC to win this game and then see BYU have a great season. BC needs a good Cougar team on its resume, because as the team moves up the polls, media and opposing fans will start to notice how light BC’s schedule is. Pointing to the BYU win won’t mute the critics but it will help. The ACC cares because there is a very good chance BC could win the conference. This looks to be a down year for the Conference to begin with. If the conference champion’s best non-ACC win is over a MWC team, it better be a Top 25 MWC team.

Three simple keys
1. Prevent the big play. On Saturday, BC allowed seven plays for more than 20 yards including an 82 yarder from Spiller. Against CMU BC allowed a QB scramble for 42 yards and a completion for 60. This has got to stop. BC has the athletes to play with these teams. Allowing them to run free and break poor tackling will cost BC a game at some point.

2. Get Andre Callender back in the mix. I feared that after the Clemson fumble, he would never see the field again. Fortunately TOB put him in later in the game. Andre clearly has issues holding onto the ball, but he deserves a chance to get over it. He is talented and has the ability to break a big play. Get him the ball.

3. Great play from the linebackers. BYU has added a ground attack to a team that threw for more than 300 yards against us last season. The defensive effort is going to rely on the Dunbar and company. Pruitt’s coverage work has looked very good, and Francois has looked solid against the run. Dunbar has made some great plays and also a few questionables. Saturday will need a complete game from all of them -- especially with Toal questionable.

Gambling notes.
-- TOB is 20-14-1 as a home favorite
-- BC is 5-3 against the spread against current MWC teams
-- Mendenhall is 1-1 as an away underdog
-- BYU is 5-1 against the spread in their last six games on artificial turf
The current line is BC -7

What would be a pleasant surprise? A BC romp. This is a much improved BYU team. If we come out and win by 28, I think it will say a lot about this BC team’s potential.

What would be a letdown? A loss. Last week’s game provided such a high, that following it with an L to a non-BCS team at home would be devistating.

What would be a shocker? Getting blown out by BYU. Let’s face it, no one knows how good the ACC is this year. NC State losing to Akron…FSU getting into a dog fight with Troy…Duke losing to Richmond. If BC gets beat up at home, Big East fans and the pundits will be out in force.

Bottom line
This game should not be a problem. BC has the edge in nearly every position. The early season mental lapses should be out of the way. The team is playing with a lot of confidence. I just don’t see how we could lose. I don’t even think it will be as close as our first two games.
Final Score: BC 35, BYU 21.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Clemson cash and AOL link

Here is an interesting article on Clemson fans spending money in Boston (thanks Meaghan). BC really needs to do something like the $2 stunt. No one wears the angry chicken garb, so we need one way to present a united front when we travel. Marking the money doesn't seem like a bad idea. (However, I used credit cards whenever I can. But I do stand out on road trips in my maroon pants.)

AOL link on Paul Peterson's return.

Heaven help us

The Pope loves BC's colors but hates the italics numbers

BC’s game against BYU is one of the rare matchups in college football -- a game between two religiously affiliated schools.

There are only five remaining universities with religious affliations and DIA Football teams (Baylor, Boston College, BYU, Notre Dame and SMU).

We have a 7-9 record against Notre Dame. We have four more games scheduled against the other Catholic school. Unfortunately there are no discussions to continue the series beyond 2010.

BC has a 3-0 record against the Baptist Baylor Bears. We owe them a return game. Other than that, I’ve heard nothing about continuing the series.

BC has a 0-1 record against SMU. There are no current plans to create a series.

BC is 1-1 against TCU. Once again, no discussion of creating a series.

BC is 1-1 in the series heading into its game this weekend with BYU.

Religion is one of those topics you are not suppose to talk about. College football can bridge those uncomfortable gaps. A Southern, born-again might not trust the Pope, but he can relate to wanting to see the backup quarterback get his shot.

BC’s current out of conference slate is proving very unappealing to our fans. Perhaps adding a little twist will be good for a little buzz. Regardless, these other affiliated schools share many of the same principals BC touts when building its program (winning the right way).

So my advice to Gene D -- stop searching the MAC for games and start searching the Bible Belt.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

One blogger, two blogs

AOL recently launched a series of new NFL and college football blogs and hired me to be their BC blogger.

You can check it out here ( and it will also be linked off of the BC resources on the right.

What does this mean for Nothing. I will continue blogging here too. Without getting too much into the details of AOL policies, you can imagine that some of the stuff I might write, post or publish is too parochial, too inside and too potentially libelous for the good folks at AOL.

My suggestion to regular readers -- keep coming here first. I will always post when I have updated AOL. I cannot post the same reminders there about this blog.

It should be an exciting process. AOL has done some cool things and hired some really great bloggers. Ultimately the big winners are fans of schools that don’t get regular coverage from the national media. Now for the first time, a major sports site is creating content for the teams that have been overlooked. Enjoy and keep reading.

Avoiding the OT hangover

The Clemson game provided a huge boost of confidence. Yet a going through the physical and emotional ringer like that can also lead to a letdown the following game. With the win Saturday, TOB is now 3-3 in OT games. Here is how his teams did following his five previous OT games.

YearOT GameFollowing game
1997 L to MiamiL to Notre Dame
1999 W over BaylorW over Navy
2002 L to PittW over Notre Dame
2004 L to PittW over Notre Dame
2005 W over ClemsonW over Ball State

TOB followed the first Miami loss by getting crushed the next week in South Bend.

The Navy team BC faced following the Baylor win was not good and the game was much closer than it should have been.

The two losses to Pitt were both crushing. Yet the team did rally both times to defeat two good Notre Dame teams the following week.

Last season, the team followed the Clemson loss with a sound victory over a undermanned Ball State team.

So what does this short history tell us? Not much. The quality of opponents varied so much that there isn’t much to conclude. But to TOB's credit a 4-1 record post OT is encouraging.

This year might be the toughest test. The Clemson game has the team thinking big things. There is a chance the team could over look an improving BYU. If this is going to be a special season there can't be any letdowns.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Blogpoll Week 2

I didn't get to see as much football as I normally do this weekend, but here are my rankings. I really gave BC a boost and kept most of the rest as is. My polls don't start to shake out until teams start losing.

Games I saw
Clemson-BC 100%
OSU-Texas 50%
Akron-NCSU 50%

1 Notre Dame --
2 Auburn --
3 Ohio State --
4 Southern Cal --
5 Florida --
6 Louisiana State 2
7 Virginia Tech 3
8 West Virginia 1
9 Georgia 2
10 Florida State 2
11 Michigan 2
12 Iowa 5
13 Louisville 1
14 Tennessee 1
15 Texas 9
16 Oregon --
17 Boston College 3
18 TCU --
19 Oklahoma 2
20 Nebraska 3
21 Miami (Florida) 5
22 Alabama 2
23 UCLA 2
24 Rutgers 2
25 Arizona State 1

Dropped Out: Clemson (#17), Texas Tech (#19), Utah (#22).

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Viewing thoughts and grade reports

I am on the road, so I won’t be able to rewatch this game again until later in the week. So here are my thoughts and grades based on the live viewing.

Offense: B+

Matt Ryan didn’t have his best game. Clearly his left leg impacted his throwing. He floated a few passes and missed some deep opportunities. Despite his limitations, I thought he moved really well…especially in the pocket. The biggest intangible is his confidence. I know I never felt out of it with him. If I feel that way, I am sure his teammates did as well. I think the rah, rah firey leader stuff is overrated. Yelling at guys is fine if you make plays. However, I think confidence is very underrated. Ryan believes in himself and his team and it shows.

Rough day for Andre Callender. He ran well until the fumble. At this point I am starting to lose sympathy for him. He lost a near touchdown against Maryland last season. Regardless if the coaches tell him to stretch for the final yard, not protecting the ball is on him. Whitworth played well. He finally seems to be adjusting to plays as opposed to running where the play was supposed to be.

The wide receivers were fantastic. They found the soft spots in the zones. They fought hard for first downs. They stretched the field. Solid game from everyone. Gonzo and Challenger should get most of the credit. Both are so sure handed I expect them to catch everything. Neither will ever break loose, but they don’t screw up. I loved seeing us try to go deep with Gunnell and Robinson.

Tight ends -- a more quiet effort than I would’ve expected. Glad to see Loyte get in on the action.

The offensive line was an issue in the first half. Sheridan’s struggles were obvious. Poles struggled early too. So then we send in the subs and move Beekman to Center and things start clicking. What do we do in the second half? Go back to the starting lineup. Fortunately it worked. Sheridan looked much better as the game wore on. The pass blocking was excellent all night. The run blocking got better each quarter and BC really dominated the last drive in overtime (and Poles opened the final hole for LV).

Bible had me screaming at the TV early, but he eventually settled in and called a good game. The drive to tie the game in regulation was nearly all pass. Finally someone on the offensive staff realized that our guys could exploit their zones and space in the middle. It was really a nice drive. The first OT drive was too conservative, but the winning drive had a great mix of run pass.

Defense: B-

The guys played hard, but were often reckless and dumb.

The Defensive line was still uneven. Nick Larkin played probably his best game at the Heights. Good pressure on Proctor and really good working down the line on run plays. Giles looked solid again. Willis continues to impress and collapses the line well for a skinny guy. Brace…showed me nothing. Someone his size should cause some sort of problems for the opponent. He doesn’t. He can get pushed around and was a non-factor. Raji – I do think he made a difference in the second half. He opened up lanes and clogged things up on some of the third and shorts. His face mask penalty was stupid.

The linebackers. Pruitt played well again. He is a good tackler and really good getting off blocks. His coverage technique is strong too. Francois looked good too. Toal started strong before going out with the injury. Dundar is frustrating. He made more mental mistakes again (including the late hit) and is still having problems in pass coverage. But he saved the game and deserves credit for that. Akins played well and is a great open field tackler. McLaughlin didn’t do much, but I am glad he is getting playing time.

The secondary was an issue. Tribble played really well and is becoming Jazzmen Williams-like run tackler. Anam was terrible. The first TD was on him. He is not a good coverage guy. I say Morris should start getting those snaps. Anderson look better. At least he didn’t let anyone behind him. Silva walks a fine line. He is clearly a head hunter. That helps us, but he is starting to get reckless. The late hit was stupid. And he is letting his coverage responsibilities suffer while he goes around looking to knock someone out.

Spaz has beaten Rob Spence three times already, so he is doing something right. The pressure on the QB was improved. I thought Spaz got too conservative on the third and longs. And the tackling on the Spiller play made me wonder how this keeps happening every year.

Special Teams: A-

Smith was unbelievable. If teams keep kicking to him, he might lead the country in return yards. He doesn’t have Blackmon’s vision, but he is clearly faster and able to make slight adjustments to avoid contact.

Tribble made good decisions on his returns.

Dunbar saved the day and saved Ohliger. Our kicker is now a lost cause.

Overall: B+

A win over a ranked team and a division foe. Considering everything that went wrong, this was a great end result. I am tired of the stupid penalties – three personal fouls. Where is all this supposed discipline?

As I said earlier, BC can beat every team on its schedule. But to do so will take much more consistent efforts and fewer mistakes.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Mr. Smith goes to town

A hard-fought, gutsy, sometimes dumb, and important win. Huge day for Jeff Smith. Ryan played pretty well. Really, a team effort.

I'll have my grades and expanded thoughts later.

Getting this win was huge. BC can beat every team remaining on its schedule. But if they keep winning this way, I won't make it to the end of the season.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Want to understand why I think we will win?

The odds are against BC. I am pretty frustrated with the CMU performance. Clemson is hot. Yet I think BC will win. Why? I don't have any good stat. Nothing jumps out. I grasped at straws in my preview.

My instinct is not logical. It's emotional. I think we can beat Clemson and have a fighting chance in every game of this season for one reason: this clip!

It doesn't make sense. One hit in one game doesn't make a quarterback. But I am not rational. I am a fan. And seeing a kid bounce back from a hit like this and lead his team to victory plays to my susceptible emotions. Gives me strength. It gives me faith.

Matt Ryan is not perfect. But he is tough. He has heart and he is fearless. He may not even see the field this weekend. If he doesn't it will be a big mistake. I believe he can do it again...even on one good leg.

Conference openers

When I read a little tidbit about Tommy Bowden being 6-1 in conference openers at Clemson, I decided to look up TOB’s record. Not nearly as impressive. He enters Saturday’s game (his second ACC opener) with a 4-5 record in his first games of conference play. Looking back, TOB supporters would be quick to mention the number of times he had to face Miami as the start of his Big East slate. The detractors could just as easily mention the years he got to start against UConn, Temple and Rutgers. What does it all mean anyway? Well it is just another piece in the puzzle.

Numbers can be skewed and taken out of context. The start of a season or a bowl game is a sign of what a coach can do when given time to prepare. Yet as we know, the first game and bowl game are often against inferior opponents.

The start of conference play is probably a better measurement of a team and its coach. They are facing a foe with some familiarity with BC. The game means something with regards to standings and bowls. And there is no avoiding these opponents.

Clemson might not be as tough as last year’s Florida State team or some of the top Miami teams of old, but they are certainly one of TOB’s tougher conference openers. While I can’t label it a true must win, it is pretty crucial to this season.

A few links

Everyone is playing coy about Ryan’s status. No inside info here, but my gut tells me he is starting.

Flutie gets the Wheaties box. You’d have thought that would’ve happened a long time ago.

BC unveiled its new master plan for campus. My question: where are people going to park and tailgate for football games? Seriously. Putting everyone in garages will negatively impact the experience and what BC can charge for those spots.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

BC-Clemson preview

I'll stand by what I said last week -- this game will make or break BC's season. If they win, I think it will give the team enough confidence to potentially reach a 10 win season. A loss probably means 7 or 8 wins and another Boise-like Bowl. Now on to the preview.

Theme that won’t be discussed on television. The national media love to roast Tommy Bowden. If he stumbles against BC and Florida State this year, you can bet that pundits will start putting him on the hot seat. Yet, if you talk to most Clemson fans and bloggers, they say Tommy is secure and well liked. Contrast that with TOB. He would never be placed on any supposed hot seat list. Yet many BC fans don’t particulary like him and are starting to get vocal about it.

Three simple keys:
1. Throwing to the Tight Ends on the short and intermediate routes over the middle. This worked like a charm against CMU. I would think that Clemson would prepare for it. However, the Tigers face one key problem -- their linebackers are decimated. Their new guys are going to be learning on the fly. I like our matchup advantage.

2. Defensive line pressure. This will be tough missing Raji for a half. Although some of the guys played above expectations last week, the unit, as a whole, did not. This week they need to apply more pressure and throw their hands up on passing downs. Like CMU, Clemson will be throwing on quick drops. It is up to our D-line to be dissruptive as possible.

3. Don’t recyle last season’s gameplan. Last year TOB decided to wear on Clemson. The offense ran over 90 plays. The second unit offensive line came in for a TD scoring drive. It was one of TOB’s best effort. Unfortunately it is outdated now. Our line depth is not what it was. Clemson’s front is much better. The heat in Boston won’t be the same as it was in Death Valley. TOB needs some new wrinkles. Yet I have a fear that we are going to trot out the same plan and not anticipate Clemson’s adjustments. In this game, I think BC needs to pass more and give whoever is playing QB some time to throw downfield.

Gambling notes.
-- TOB is 9-7 as a home underdog.
-- Tommy Bowden is 5-9-1 as an away favorite.
-- Clemson has not played a regular season game north of College Park, MD since 1983 (their last trip to Boston. BC won 31-16.)
The current line is Boston College +2.5

What would be a pleasant surprise? With questions at QB and coming off a dud opener, I would be pleasantly surprised with a comfortable BC win.

What would be a letdown? Clemson blowing BC out. If it is another hard fought, close game like last year that just happens to go the other way, I think the fans would be somewhat accepting. If we get crushed it could kill fan and player morale.

What would be a shocker? This is supposed to be Clemson’s year. BC looked lousy agaisnt CMU and has QB issues. If we come out and win by three touchdowns, even TOB’s most vocal critics will shut up (for a week or two).

Bottom line
Believe it our not, I like our chances this week. I think getting Clemson early and at home is a good thing. I think Proctor and the Clemson injuries will be a bigger factor than BC’s issues (QBs and Raji’s suspension). I think Ryan will be okay and play well. And I hope that last week’s game was a wake-up call to the staff and players.
Final Score: BC 27, Clemson 17.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Quick links

Here is the coverage map for this weekend.

Matt Ryan was named the Co-Offensive player of the week.

Finally, TOB will be a quest on a Atlanta-based college football show. You can listen online at The show begins at 1 PM ET.

Guest Blogger: CU Sporting News

Big things are happening for the guys at CU Sporting News. Yet despite their hectic blogging plans, Jason still had time to guest blog here. Check out CU Sporting News for all Clemson related things and updates on the boys' big move to the big time.

1. Proctor got the win and his stats in the opener were okay, but what did you think of his performance?

His stats and performance were more about what Coach Bowden said he graded them as, an A-. He was admittedly nervous at the start of the game, and it showed with a botched handoff to a running back in the backfield that resulted in a fumble.

Here is what you need to know about Will Proctor as he enters his senior year: he is more mobile than former QB Charlie Whitehurst, while not having as much arm strength he is a more accurate passer than Whitehurst. Will Proctor is probably a better fit for Offensive Coordinator Rob Spence's system than Charlie Whitehurst was last season. The system relies on quick reads, and packages with multiple options. He can come to a line with 5 to 6 options that he has to make within a few seconds. Proctor does well with this.

Last season's 16-13 BC ot win in Death Valley received a lot of arm chair criticism in Clemson circles for the offense's failure to lengthen the field by throwing deeper. What happened instead was Whitehurst, a drop back passer, either had to rely on the running game or buy time for receivers to get open, which rarely happened vs. BC's talented defensive front. With Proctor, you will see a different situation. Expect multiple sets, with multiple play options coming out of the huddle. Expect several designed roll outs, sprint outs, bootlegs, etc. Proctor, while unproven in road situations as THE leader of the offense, has the skills to make a difference forcing the defense to match Clemson's speed at wide receiver and three very different running back sets.

Proctor will attempt a lot of very safe passes (hence his very high completion percentage) and rely on a near constant rotation of three running backs and team speed at wideout with Chansi Stuckey, Aaron Kelly, Rendrick Taylor, Jacoby Ford, etc.

2. Your LB core is the walking wounded. Tell us about the new guys who are filling their shoes?

The line backing situation is like a punch to the gut for Clemson at the moment. Middle linebacker Anthony Waters, who turned down a likely third round pick in the NFL draft returned to Clemson to fulfill a family promise to graduate and make a difference on this squad. Instead, the ACC's leading returning tackler will have to watch the rest of the season from the sideline. On top of that, outside LB Billie's broken foot in preseason camp and immediately depth becomes an issue for Clemson. Here is why that is important. Clemson D front line is perhaps the best in the ACC, led by Gaines Adams, perhaps a NFL first round pick in April. The Secondary is ok. Converted running back Duane Coleman and Sergio Gilliam lead that corps, but it is what lots of folks considered to be the weakest part of the Clemson team. Because of attrition of probably the top two linebackers, expect Clemson to be less aggressive on defense, especially among the linebackers, so as not to give up large plays through the air.

Clemson is now vulnerable, moreso than before, to mismatches on defense. Against the run or pass alone, Clemson should be fine. When assignments start to break down, Clemson will be more vulnerable, especially to passes in the flats as the game goes on.

3. Do you think traveling this far north will be a big deal for the Tigers?

Yes. There is an exotic factor to BC for Clemson. I cannot speak for the team, but many fans are seeing the BC game as a late summer vacation opportunity to New England, almost with the same attitude that folks approach a winter bowl trip to a warm climate.

As far as the team goes, other than the usual disruption that traveling causes, I cannot really imagine that much being made of it, as all they will see of Boston will be a hotel and the BC stadium. What will be interesting will be who travels with the team. Saturday, over 70 of the 85 scholarship players, saw action vs. Florida Atlantic, over 50 in the first quarter alone. For the Clemson coaches, decisions this week about who to bring on the travel squad will be important. Against FAU, Clemson was often subbing four players a down. Lots of positions were being showcased, especially at the second string level. Also, losing to BC was a bit of a rallying cry for the Tigers last season, because it served as a reminder to play all 60 minutes. Things like that will be on the mind of the Tigers.

4. What is your prediction for the game?

Keeping Clemson's team speed, experience at both the offense and defense lines and raw talent at running back with Davis, Meriwether and 2005 Florida player of the year, CJ Spiller, I expect Clemson to use some complicated sets with runners out of the back field catching passes, alternating inside/outside running and less aggressive zone defense. At the end of the day, Clemson's experience and speed make the difference with a final score in the 31 to 16 range for the Tigers.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Old QB, current QB, and new QB news

The Steelers signed Brian St. Pierre.

Tommy Bowden expects Matt Ryan to play. Other coaches are not always good at predicting who TOB plays (see: Jim Bunting).

Brett Kan is still hoping for a BC offer.

In non-QB news, Kiwi had a strong preseason and feels healthy.

Understudies under O’Brien

Matt Ryan is questionable for Saturday’s game against Clemson, meaning Chris Crane could get his first start. Backups have been a mixed bag under TOB. Take a look.

YearInjured Starter Back Up1st fill in start of the season
1997Matt HasselbeckScott MutrynGeorgia TechL
1999Tim HasselbeckBrian St. PierrePittW
2000Tim HasselbeckBrian St. PierreNotre DameL
2003Quinton PorterPaul PetersonRutgersW
2004Paul PetersonMatt RyanSyracuseL
2005Quinton PorterMatt RyanClemsonW

Once again, let me state that I think Matt Ryan will play this weekend. But as this chart shows and the cliché says “the backup is only one snap away.” I like Chris Crane. Let’s hope he is ready for whatever may happen.

Blogpoll ballot Week 1

Like last year I was harsh on the teams that lost. The only winner I slightly penalized was BC. A performance like that doesn't deserve a bump up in the polls. The top teams are unchanged.

Games I watched:
BC-CMU 100% (twice)
FSU-Miame 100%
ND-Ga Tech 100%
Michigan-Vanderbilt 25%
Memphis-Ole Miss 50%

1 Notre Dame
2 Auburn
3 Ohio State
4 Southern Cal
5 Florida
6 Texas
7 Iowa
8 Louisiana State
9 West Virginia
10 Virginia Tech
11 Georgia
12 Florida State
13 Michigan
14 Louisville
15 Tennessee
16 Oregon
17 Clemson
18 TCU
19 Texas Tech
20 Boston College
21 Oklahoma
22 Utah
23 Nebraska
24 Alabama

Dropped Out: Miami (Florida) (#16), Cal (#23).

Monday, September 04, 2006

Ryan and Raji's returns

The papers finally gave us an update on Raji and Ryan. First the good news, Raji will return for the second half of the Clemson game. I think we'll be okay, since Willis played so well against CMU. Also, I think the fresh legs and focused Raji could be a real lift in the second half -- assuming we are still in it.

Ryan's status is much more uncertain. I am not a doctor, but I've got to think that if he could play last Thursday, he'll be able to play this Saturday. We beat Clemson last year with a backup and I've heard good things about Chris Crane, but I'd feel a lot better with Ryan under Center.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Second viewing thoughts and grade report: Central Michigan

Time and a second look at the game via TiVo calmed me down. I don’t think we played well, but there is hope for Clemson.

[For those new to the blog this season, after every televised game, I watch the game back on TiVo, log the plays and grade out the players. It sounds really dorky (and it is) but you really do see a lot more the second time around.]

Offense: B-

Matty Ryan looked great. My only complaint was the bad intentional grounding penalty. Other than that his passes looked sharp. His reads were good. He was missing some downfield options early, but made great adjustments as the game moved on. Down field routes that he overlooked early become touchdowns to Challenger and Gonzo later. Despite a gimpy ankle he moved well in the pocket. Overall a very strong performance. He remains my biggest source of hope.

The running backs picked up where they left off...with nothing brilliant. Neither outshined the other. No explosiveness. Their best play were when they had good run blocking. Neither made something happen on their own. Both had drops. Whitworth fumbled. The only real brightspot is that both showed improvements in their blitz pick up and protection. Since we look like we are going to have to pass a lot this season, protection will be important. Palmer was solid. Good receptions and much improved on his overall blocking.

The Receivers and Tight Ends were a pleasant surprise. Gonzo was sure handed as always. Challenger looked good (a good route runner, not great once he has the ball in open field). The freshman worked into the lineup and acquitted themselves well. Many hoped for a breakout game from Robinson. This wasn’t it. But he’ll get better. I loved the Tight Ends working the seem routes over the middle. They won’t run free like that against Clemson, but both Thompson and Purvis will cause matchup problems for the less talented teams on our schedule. My biggest critique of the pass catchers -- dropping catchable balls. By my count they missed on seven good throws.

The offensive line was the most troubling part of the game. First the good. The pass protection was pretty good and they worked well out of the no huddle and out of the shotgun. The problems -- where to begin? First Sheridan and Poles couldn’t block anyone when pulling. Sheridan was either getting blown up our running without purpose. (Get in front of someone!) Their struggles left AC and LV out to dry. Marten looked slow and weak at Left Tackle. If he was having trouble against the MAC, imagine what it is going to be like in conference play. The good news, Beekman moved over to Center at two different times without missing a beat. The most confounding situation:
1. Avenski and Hall both got time on the field.
2. Avenski and Hall played well.
3. Yet we brought back both Poles and Sheridan late in the game. Why?
Either stick it out with Poles and Sheridan or play the guys you think are better. Giving the subs a shot only to yank them out later (despite their solid performance) doesn’t make sense and certainly isn’t fair or morale building. My bet is that Hall is in the starting lineup by BYU.

As for Bible…despite the score and the yardage it was a very uneven game for BC’s Offensive Coordinator. The first touchdown drive was really well called. Our design and play selection for the first three quarter were also strong. I liked going up-tempo, no huddle. I like that the staff has confidence level in Ryan to let him throw downfield. Bible’s game plan went to shit when CMU scored with 8 minutes left and cut the lead to 14. So here’s the scenario:

1. You’re on the road. You have a two touchdown lead with eight minutes remaining.
2. Your QB is over 300 yards and has passed at will.
3. You’ve struggled running the ball and your line has looked much better in pass protection.
4. You need to move the ball, kill some clock and potentially add a few more points.

If you are stubborn and/or foolish you say “let’s run the ball” (even though it hasn’t worked) and dump a few passes to the flats. What happened with that strategy? No first downs. Barely taking a minute off per drive. The play calling was ultra conservative with the game on the line and it nearly cost us. What TOB and Bible need to realize is that with the new clock rules, successful passing can kill chunks of time. Get first downs, keep the ball and move the chains. That will work just as well as run, run, dump, punt. Ryan only threw three passes in the final eight minutes. Terrible. One other thing about the game alarmed me. Coming out of a CMU timeout, BC couldn’t get their play in on time and had to burn a timeout. Fortunately they didn’t end up needing the TOs. It is frustrating watching BC waste them in a tight game. I don’t hate Bible like others, but his late game management is mediocre at best.

Defense: C-

No one unit stood out, but each had a few stars and each had guys who seemed lost or under motivated.

The defensive line was a mixed bag. The very first drive Raji and Brace were collapsing the line and causing problems. However, knocking out Brunner and CMU adjustments changed that quickly. The Chips went exclusively spread with short drops and our first team DTs became non-factors. Giles doesn’t have Kiwi’s closing speed, but showed good hustle and understanding of his responsibilities. Larkin was key late in the game, but MIA for the rest of it. The biggest surprise on the second viewing -- how well Willis and, to a slightly lesser extent, Brady Smith played. They were better able to handle the spacing and speed of the CMU spread. Raji didn’t play like a 300-pounder last year. He was a good tackler and had a great motor. Thursday night, he looked slow. And then to make matters worse he lost his cool late and got kicked out. An auspicious start.

The linebackers really let me down. These guys need to carry the team and only some of them showed up on Thursday. Pruitt looked great. He had a solid tackling night and did a real good job pealing off of blocks. Francois didn’t see as much time, but he was also strong. Before the season, I thought Dunbar would be All-ACC. He didn’t make me look very smart Thursday. Yes, he led the team in tackles, but he missed a few and was really out of position on a few plays. Toal took three quarters off and was in a fog. He pulled it together late, thankfully. Akins and McLaughlin looked good in limited time. Toal and Dunbar are the two most talented guys on the defense. They need to play much, much better.

The secondary was a near disaster. In the past against the spread offenses our front seven was so strong that the secondary in turn looked good as well. Thursday was not as impressive. Silva played well, but Bowman was lost in coverage and let people get by him twice. Without Glasper, Silva is going to need to step up and direct traffic. Anam -- great speed, still no game sense and he still thinks tackling is flinging his body at the guy with the ball. How has the coaching staff not reinforced wrapping up after four years? Morris and Tribble played okay. Still too much cushion in match ups where they were favored. Anderson was a non-factor.

I didn’t like Spaz’s gameplan. He was mixing linebacker combos and who was playing with whom and I think it hurt cohesiveness. The three man front was ineffective. The prevent didn’t prevent anything. Goalline defense -- even with two guys over 330 on our side -- saw CMU get a good push. We have a lot to accomplish defensively before Clemson.

Special teams: C+

Ohliger looked good. The miss was a long kick and nearly through. Ayers got good distance but still needs to get the punt off faster. The kick coverage looked great. The kick returns were solid and I think Tribble will break something big this year. But we could never have a flawless special teams outing. How do we not stop the fake field goal? The fumbled punt was sloppy too and, finally, Dunbar losing his cool on the final punt was stupid. Just stupid.

Overall: C-

Yeah, I know the grades don’t even out, but this was a bad effort overall. I am still a believer in this team, but there is a lot of work to do before Clemson.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Friday fallout

Not a whole lot of news and analysis yet. I’ll rewatch the game tonight. However, the papers and message boards provided plenty of fodder for today.

First maddening quote: “They brought us here and wanted to take a shot at the moon.” -- TOB.

My reaction: Of course they did. A MAC school getting a BCS school to come to their stadium in primetime on ESPN. You know how a real team handles that challenge -- by stepping on their throats. Kicking them while they are down. Backing the bus over them over and over and over. What did we do up 21 in the fourth? Let them back in the game. Ugh. I am getting fired up again.

Second maddening quote: “We went to Pitt and their quarterback was a guy named Rick Trocano. We knocked him out. You know who the backup was? Dan Marino. He went about 20 of 30." -- TOB comparing facing one of the all-time greats to facing CMU’s backup Freshman QB.

My reaction: Give credit where it is due -- "this kid is tough. He looked sharp." Whatever. But don't put him in the same class as Marino. It just sounds and reads bad and is just more ammo for TOB critics.

Surprising quote: “So why did Boston College schedule this game? Why were the Eagles put at risk in last night's season opener at Central Michigan? On the face of it, BC faced what appeared to be a no-win situation: Lose and, well, the Eagles might as well walk back to Chestnut Hill; win, and it better be by a large margin.

Again, the question: Why did BC have to go to such great lengths -- chartering a flight to East Lansing, Mich., Wednesday night, then practicing at Michigan State's facilities yesterday morning before taking an hour bus ride north on US 127 four hours before last night's game -- to play its first game of the season at Kelly/Shorts Stadium?

Why go through the hassle of scheduling a road game against a Mid-American Conference opponent?

Ostensibly, it was to give BC a much-needed 12th game, but, in reality, it was a way to schedule an easy W."
-- Mike Vega!! Vega who rarely takes the team or school to task asked the question that needed to be asked. He gave Gene a chance to answer: (paraphrasing) “blah blah blah 2-1 for one with the MAC, blah blah blah people cancelled on us, blah blah blah we can’t buy games.”

The two papers did a pretty good job. Yet neither gave any insight into the extent of Ryan’s injury or confirmed Raji’s status for next week.

After seeing his awkward start on the ESPN Season Preview show, I was really worried about Doug Flutie’s broadcast potential. Last night he was great. A natural. Very good voice. Picked up good things and while a little too forced jokey, I thought he did have chemistry with Craig James.

As you’d expect the message boards were vicious today. And we deserve it.

I have some good news and some bad news if last night is a real indicator of this team’s flaws. The good news: we are in for a bunch of passing shoot outs and I think Ryan is up for it. The bad news: more rollercoaster games and more frustration.