Sunday, September 27, 2020

Ugly and beautiful and still undefeated

I will watch the game back and try to get a better feel for all the issues, but the big takeaways from the win over Texas State was that BC played poorly and still won, and BC managed the final few minutes (which included two scores and a stop) better than they've handled any close game in a decade. I know Hafley spent a lot of time on situational football, and clock and sideline management this summer. It paid off tonight.

There were plenty of issues. Texas State made our D look slow and sloppy. Jurk was inconsistent and made some rough throws. The Offensive Line is not where it should be. But who cares right now? Those things can be fixed and are much easier to fix after a win!


Saturday, September 26, 2020

Game Day: Texas State

 No comments this year.

What you need to know

Weather: High 70s with no chance to rain. Perfect football weather.

Radio: SiriusXM 207

TV: Regional sports networks. Here are the affiliates.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

BC-Texas State preview

If Addazio were on the sidelines for this game, I would be worried. Same for Spaz. Maybe even TOB. I am not worried with Hafley. One game shouldn't buy me this much confidence, especially with how competitive Texas State has been. But I am in the honeymoon phase and felt really good about how Hafley already fixed some of the glaring defensive issues from last year.

While this is technically a home opener, it won't feel the same with an intentionally empty Alumni. Fortunately you don't need to lean on the home field factor when your team is well prepared.

What's on my mind (not totally related to this game)
I am glad to have BC Football back. I am glad to have games in Massachusetts. But seeing other stadiums have some fans without issue, makes me think BC can and should be doing it. I know it is easy for me to say. I don't go to games anyway. However, there are people that want to go back into Alumni. And who are we kidding? This game wouldn't be filled under normal circumstances. I hope BC starts phasing fans in before the season is over. We've shown we can handle these things and it would be a good step forward for everyone.

Three Simple Keys
1. Dominate on the Defensive Line again. That was the most surprising and enjoyable aspect of the Duke game. If we do that again against Texas State, I don't see their offense getting on track.
2. Get Jurkovic more involved in the running game. The passing got better as the day progressed, but I still think there are lots of big plays for him in the read option attack. It will also open things up for Bailey.
3. Get others involved in the passing game. Flowers and Long will get all the attention. There should be plenty of plays for the other guys now.

Gambling Notes
-- BC has won two straight home openers
-- Texas State has never beaten a P5 team
-- Sun Belt teams are 6-42 against ACC teams all time
The current line is BC-17.5

This is BC's first ever game against a Sun Belt Conference team. I don't expect many in the future because they can get bigger paydays closer to home. This one was all about the scheduling scramble after COVID.

Scoreboard Watching
Louisville v. Pitt features two future opponents. Plus, the loser will probably drop out of the rankings leaving hope for a surprising team in Chestnut Hill to sneak in.

I hope to see...
A big day from Bailey. He doesn't need to be Dillon, but it would be nice to see him break some long runs or come out of traffic into a big score. It would help other areas of the offense too.

BC is in trouble if...
If it is close in the end. We have a lot more talent but are still all in the getting to know you stage. (Even the staff to some extent.) The players don't have the track record with one another to know what to call in a tight game. I would hate to see the tension and chaos of a close game. Dumb things happen.

While I am giving Hafley and Company a lot of leeway with this season, they can't lose this game. I don't think they will either. I think the D looks great again. I think our offense is a bit uneven but gets enough big plays that BC doesn't even get scared.
Final Score: BC 30, Texas State 13

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Great beginning

It was only one game but the Hafley era had a pretty perfect start. After scoring on their first possession, BC struggled a bit in the first half. But solid D kept them ahead. In the second half both BC units exploded and BC ran away with the game.

There will be a lot to digest and discuss in the coming days, but this was fun and promising.

Game Day: Duke

 No comments this year.

What you need to know

Weather: In the 60s with little chance of rain. Perfect football weather.

TV: This will be on your regional Sports Network. Here is the list of affiliates.

Radio: SiriusXM 382

Friday, September 18, 2020

What will Hafley's Defense look like and how long will it take BC to adjust?

One of the benefits of running Spaz's Cover 2 defense so long was that every player knew what to do, especially by the time he had been in the system a year or two. Smart players then almost become coaches on the field because they could then help put other guys in the right spot. (The real breakdown of Spaz's D occurred as the talent declined and McGovern and Spaz couldn't get on the same page once Spaz became head coach.

When Don Brown took over the D, he implemented his heavy blitz package. The was about as opposite as could be from Spaz and took a few seasons to adjust. We didn't have the talent or experience. But once he got both, the D was lethal. He put a lot of responsibility on his DBs, but they delivered and BC had one of the best Ds in the country. Once Brown left, BC then saw things erode again. It was partially due to tweaks made by his successors and a drop in talent.

This brings us to the Jeff Hafley/Tem Lukabu. A first time Head Coach and his first time Defensive Coordinator. They worked together at Rutgers, but I don't think they will be running Schiano's old scheme. We know from Ohio State that when Hafley had his own D, he ran a Cover 3 in the Pete Carroll Single-high mold. 

The Cover 3 in Carroll's world puts the DBs in single coverage where they are trying to prevent the big play and funnel the WRs into certain areas. They play behind the WR so it might appear a little soft and won't manhandle the WRs like the Don Brown DBs did. 

With the DBs preventing the big plays, the LBs (and a Safety) get all the underneath stuff. This helps BC since our LBs are probably our most talented position group on the defensive side.

At Ohio State, Hafley also had all defensive players watching the ball. There weren't run stoppers assigned...they were all supposed to stop the run. Help, leverage and keeping assignments simple were the key. The front guys are reading the backfield and chasing the QB and/or RB.

If Hafley follows his Ohio State model, his D will be pretty simple and standard. Not a lot of blitzing or anything particularly unique on early downs. It will seem more like Spaz than Brown.

I think simplifying the D will make things better than they were last year. Clearly there were lots of assignment breakdowns. That alone will make a difference. Hafley also put an emphasis on tackling at Ohio State. I hope that improves as well. But we will all find out more on Saturday.

For more reading on Xs and Os under Hafley at Ohio State, I recommend these three articles:

1. Hafley brings a renewed focus on pattern-match coverage to Ohio State

2. Why OSU prefers a 'vision and break' style of zone coverage

3. Emulating Pete Carroll's single high defense in 2019

Thursday, September 17, 2020

BC-Duke preview

I am still trying to figure out if the unusual circumstances to the start of the Jeff Hafley era is a good thing or bad thing. He lost the chance to have a normal transition and season preparation and the guy who hired him left before Hafley coached his first game. However, because of COVID and this season's unique schedule and playing environment, I think expectations and pressure are minimal. BC could finish with one or two wins and I think most of us would be forgiving. Fortunately I don't think it will get that messy. I see Hafley as someone who will adapt quickly, manage the season well and bring some fun back to BC.

What's on my mind (not totally related to this game)
I am selfishly a little disappointed to see the Big Ten and Pac 12 scramble to get back to playing. While I am happy for their players and fans, part of me already started thinking that with a limited number of Power 5 teams playing, BC might actually get into a real bowl. Now we will be back to playing in whatever bowl will have us. 

Three Simple Keys

1. BC needs to run a lot and with the QB. Cignetti will have his own style and brings a better passing system than anything Addazio tried to run. But let's not rush into it this week. Duke showed issues with run stopping last week. BC needs to keep it on the ground and pound away. Assuming Jurkovic starts, I also want to see him in the running game. Based on what we've seen of his limited prior action, his legs should be an advantage.
2. Get Brice out of the pocket. Against the Irish, Brice did not look good when he was flushed. He made some bad decisions and took a few sacks. He is not someone who is going to beat us with his legs. 
3. Manage the game well. This is Jeff Hafley's first game as a head coach. I don't expect everything to be perfect Day 1, but I hope there are no glaring issues with clocks or timeouts. 

Gambling Notes
-- BC leads the series 4-3
-- Duke won the last two games in the series
-- Our last three coaches have all won their BC debuts
The current line is BC+6.5

This is the latest that BC has played its opener since 1981.

Scoreboard Watching
There are no divisions this year, so we have to pay attention to the entire ACC. Pitt-Syracuse is a matchup of future opponents. It might tell us something about both teams.

I hope to see...
Jurkovic starting and playing well. BC is being somewhat coy about the QB situation. I appreciate Dennis Grosel and all he did last year. But if we are going to be something special this year, I think we need a dynamic QB.

BC is in trouble if...
We don't get any pressure from the front four. Our linebackers are very good (potentially great). Our DBs are young, but given Hafley's background, I think he can coach them up. The big question is the Defensive Line. They need to be much better than they were last year.

I think we are entering a special window for BC sports. I think Hafley will be great and it all starts Saturday. This won't be a perfect game. There will be plenty of rust. But I think we pull away in the second half.
Final Score: BC 28, Duke 17

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Season Prediction Part III: what will happen

There have been years under certain coaches where BC Football's record wasn't just predictable, it was a certainty. Most notably and recently under Addazio. This year is a total unknown and we should all be thankful. In these times, sports should be a fun, community building escape. When you dislike the coach and the product on the field is boring and predictable, the escape becomes a punishment. 

Jeff Hafley has done everything right so far. It gets a bit harder Saturday. But regardless of what happens, the fact that none of us know what to expect is exciting. Are we going to shock the world? Be a disaster? Probably neither. This is still BC. But I do think we are in for a fun year and here is how it will play out. This serves as my official prediction.

What will happen

at Duke. Win. We go heavy run since Bailey and the Oline are our best assets.

Texas State. Win. I am assuming Jurk emerges as the clear starter after this game.

North Carolina. Loss. At this point I assume the D will still have some rough transition moments.

Pitt. Win. A lot of folks seem to be high I Pitt. I am not. I think we match up well.

at Virginia Tech. Loss. I think this could be a shootout. We just end up on the wrong end.

Georgia Tech. Win. At 4-2, we would start to get some genuine respect. This is right around the time of the Big Ten's debut, so still unranked.

at Clemson. Loss. Hafley knows Clemson well but I still think the talent difference is too big.

at Syracuse. Win. A back to basics game. We pound them again.

Notre Dame. Win. Huge attention getter. The students storm the field in the most socially distant and responsible way possible.

Louisville. Loss. This would be a big letdown, but I don't see us getting through the season without a few hiccups.

at Virginia. Win. A nice way to end a strange regular season.

With this, BC would finish 7-4 (6-4 in ACC play). That record would not be enough for an ACC Championship slot nor a big bowl game. But I think we get invited to a low level bowl (if they happen) like Detroit. I think we win that against a terrible Big Ten team and finish the season 8-4. Probably not enough to be ranked, but a great start to the Hafley era. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Season Prediction Part II: Best Case Scenario

As I referenced in Part I, I am very optimistic on the Hafley era. Yet at the end of the day, this is still his first year and he is a first-time head coach. He also inherited a patchwork roster and had his entire transition and training camp disrupted by a global pandemic. There are plenty of unknowns, but here is how it might play out if everything goes right. My actual predictions post Wednesday.

Best Case Scenario

at Duke. Win. BC looks much improved on D and win with ball control and rushing on offense. A good opener.

Texas State. Win. No scares for this unplanned game. BC handles them and the D looks strong again.

North Carolina. Loss. In their first early test, BC comes up a little short in a back and forth game. Optimism remains high.

Pitt. Win. Maybe I am taking them lightly, but I see us beating Pitt in all three of my scenarios.

at Virginia Tech. Win. The offense is coming around (with Jurk) and get its first big road win. BC now enters the Top 25.

Georgia Tech. Win. This is a game where the OLine wins the day and controls throughout. 

at Clemson. Loss. This game gets a ton of hype in the run up. All the talking heads ask "is this the only team that might beat Clemson?" We don't as we can't outscore them. BC remains ranked.

at Syracuse. Win. I think BC can do what we did last year and run all over them.

Notre Dame. Win. Jurk's revenge. We help spoil their season. Opinions on Hafley move from well liked to beloved.

Louisville. Win. BC is flying high. This is a tough game, but we come out ahead. 

at Virginia. Win. BC stays focused and finishes the season with a nice, no-nonsense win.

This would leave BC at 9-2 (8-2 in ACC play). Who knows what bowls will or will not happen. I also don't know if the Big Ten and Pac 12 will be able to play in all of their respective bowl partnerships. But in this scenario, I don't think BC makes the ACC Championship Game with two conference losses. I still think the ACC will protect their partners first and the bigger bowl will get priority. So, I see us to the Camping World Bowl (Orlando) against one of the bottom rung SEC teams. I think we win giving us an improbable 10 win season and a Top 15 ranking. This makes Hafley the hottest coach in the country (who may get hired away), but it is worth it for this sort of season.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Season Prediction Part I: Worst Case Scenario

 Another new era, yet an old tradition: looking at various ways the season could play out. Aside from a new coach and QB, this year is unprecedented with COVID, expanded ACC games, Notre Dame in conference, and empty stadiums. I am optimistic in general about Hafley and the season, but at this point anything is possible. Here is how it could go wrong. Best case and my actual predictions follow Tuesday and Wednesday.

Worst Case Scenario

at Duke: Loss. A sloppy game where our offense can't sustain anything. Duke does enough to win and looks a little more prepared given they've already played a game.

Texas State. Win. A much closer game than we want. We run on them, but they hang around enough to give us a scare.

North Carolina. Loss. One of the better teams on the schedule. Even when I am being optimistic, I still see this as a tough game.

Pitt. Win. Another close game. I think Pitt's D will be better than ours and but we pound away like we did at the end of last year. In this scenario Jurk is struggling and Bailey is really our whole offense.

at Virginia Tech. Loss. I don't think this is a great VT team but do think winning on the road at Blacksburg (even partially filled) with a new coach and QB is a lot to ask.

Georgia Tech. Win. Like the Pitt game, I think this will be close. I think Tech is a program in transition too, but we get a few breaks and get another win. At 3-3, people are feeling very happy with the season.

at Clemson. Loss. Did you see Clemson against Wake? This won't even be close.

at Syracuse. Win. If Clemson looks unbeatable, Syracuse looks very beatable. I don't love trying to win on the road there in a normal year, but think we control on the ground.

Notre Dame. Loss. Notre Dame might not be at Clemson's level, but they have more firepower than we do. Jurk's revenge comes up short (in this scenario).

Louisville. Loss. BC can't bounce back and the D still seems short on talent.

at Virginia. Loss. A losing streak to end the season is tough. Like the early days of Coughlin and TOB, the team plays hard, but doesn't get over the hump.

Even in this strange year, 4-7 won't get BC bowling. It is a disappointment but even in the worst case scenario, I think Hafley will be a good long-term bet.