Saturday, October 31, 2020

Game Day Info: Clemson

No comments this year.

What you need to know

Weather: In the 50s. Crisp and clear.

Radio: SiriusXM 380


Friday, October 30, 2020

BC-Clemson preview

When we first joined the ACC, the Clemson games were such highlights. Obviously because BC won, but also because we battled and entered the games thinking we could win. Aside from a few in-game moments the last decade, there hasn't been much hope related to the Clemson match-up. We were led by dope, while they've ascended to unimaginable heights. This weekend we enter as a huge underdog again, facing potentially Clemson's best team ever (albeit without their all-world QB). I will predict a miracle win for the hell of it. But what's different is I know the gap between the programs is closing. It started closing the minute we hired Hafley. If we don't pull off the upset this year, I know our time is coming.

What's on my mind (not totally related to this game)
Organizers postponed the 2021 Boston Marathon to yet to be determined fall date. They pointed to the unknowns and the current Massachusetts' limits on road races. This is disappointing and indicates the odds of any normalcy with BC events (fans at hockey or hoops, graduation, etc.) are unlikely to change this school year. I don't get it. At some point won't someone mention that there have been outdoor marches, protests and riots and rallies all over the country without a direct link to outbreaks? There have been cross country races throughout the country. There have been large gatherings in Massachusetts. Why not have an outdoor road race with some of the best athletes in the world? Haven't we learned that sports can be done and are an important step back?

Three Simple Keys
1. Don't play ball control. While I understand the temptation to shorten the game, I don't think it will work. When Clemson loses it is always when a team really goes for it and is aggressive in the air. We have the playmakers. Go for broke!
2. Stop with the penalties. Hafley never seems as concerned about the penalties as we are, but there have been a lot of dumb ones. We can't have that this week.
3. Stop the run. With Lawrence out, all eyes turn to Etienne. Stop him and stop Clemson. Let Uiagalelei be the guy to beat us and let him do it by passing.

Gambling Notes
-- Clemson has won nine in a row in the series
-- BC has not won at Clemson since 2007
-- Swinney is 82-16 in ACC games
The current line is BC+24

This is the second time BC and Clemson have played on Halloween. Clemson beat BC on October 31, 1952, 13-0.

Scoreboard Watching
I will be paying attention to UNC-UVA. Because we don't play them regularly and because we have them at the end of the season, I haven't paid much attention to UVA. They seemingly are in a bad place but improved a bit last week. Are they going to turn things around this week against UNC? I am hoping they get crushed and are totally checked out when we play them.

I hope to see...fewer missed tackles. Nothing will give Clemson more confidence than one of those plays where guys miss tackles all over the field and they score on an 60-yard broken play.

BC is in trouble if...we don't score at least four touchdowns. This can't be one of those keep it close, get some field goals games. We need to be aggressive and put points on the board. 

COVID taking out Lawrence robbed BC of their 'shock the world' moment, but who cares? This is it. This is our chance. BC hangs with the elite for the game. Lots of back and forth. Final drive we go down the field and score to win it all. Let's Go!
Final Score: BC 28, Clemson 27

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Clemson is a reminder why great football can change a school

The only people who seem to disbelieve the "Flutie effect" are the ones at Doug's alma mater. But it is real and now as the college market place changes, having really good football is even more important for a place like BC. Great football will remain the best marketing tool the school has. If you don't believe it, look no further than Clemson. 

In 2007, the last year before Dabo, Clemson had 14,504 applications for their freshmen class. Last year 29,070 applied to Clemson. The school is transformed. 42% of the students are now from out of state.

BC's needs to figure out many aspects of their experience. Who knows what students and parents will want and pay for. But supporting and demanding great football can be critical. Just look at Clemson.

Daz could never be Dabo, can Hafley be a BC version of the Clemson coach?

Every year when we play Clemson, I flagellate myself for being so wrong about Dabo, who is now arguably the best coach in College Football. There is no denying what he has done at Clemson. 

For a long time I advocated that Steve Addazio had the perfect personality and strengths to emulate Dabo at BC. We all know he never could. Although Addazio shared Swinney's emotion, big personality and love of recruiting, he never learned to empower his staff like Dabo, nor ever even came close to learning to manage a game like the Clemson coach. Now we have a new coach who shares some of Dabo's strengths. But I think Jeff Hafley can be more than improved, BC-version of Dabo.

The most obvious commonality I see between Swinney and Hafley is how they talk and relate to players. They both seem to relate to the kids and understand how to motivate through positivity and confidence. This persona and communication skills seem to be having a Dabo-like impact on BC recruiting. Players are excited to play for Hafley and that will hopefully translate to a talent upgrade. It is early and we are not privileged to all that is going on, but Hafley also seems to be giving his coordinators a lot of autonomy. Maybe not as much as Swinney gives his staff, but certainly more than we've seen from recent BC coaches. If Hafley can follow Swinney's model of finding the best players and coaches and then getting out of their way, he will have success.  

Swinney isn't just motivation and talent evaluation. He's also been aggressive as a game manager. Though it is early, I think Hafley has shown Dabo-like qualities when it comes to game management. We are aggressive and have played to win throughout. Hafley has also had his team managed and prepared for close, tight games. 

Where I think Hafley can be more than Dabo is in how he carries himself. Dabo's personality and background work at Clemson. I don't think it would work everywhere. Even if he won in Boston, I think the media and portions of our Alumni would never take him seriously. Hafley doesn't have that problem. Aside from the northeast roots, he also is more earnest and serious than Swinney. That professionalism and seriousness, combined with winning and emotion, will win over even the most cynical BC fan or Boston media member. 

I will preface this by saying that although Hafley might have more upside than Swinney, I don't think that means BC is going to win multiple National Championships. The schools are in two very different situations and have two different coaches. Hafley's NFL experience  means that any success will spark NFL interest. Dabo's aw shucks shtick had most of the NFL dismissing him until recently. Clemson can keep Dabo happy financially to the point where the only jobs people even speculate about for him are the NFL and Alabama. If Hafley becomes a hot name, there will be plenty of College Football factories that come calling. I don't think he will take the first job offered to him, but I also realize that if the right one comes along, it will be tough to turn down.

The unknown in all of this is how Hafley will manage himself. Dabo is one of the rare people in any profession, who stepped back after failure, recognized the mistakes he was making and then had the ability to fix those problems. Most people let their egos get in the way. Hafley seems to have the right sort of personality to self-assess. He has owned up to his mistakes and shown that he can fix them game-to-game. If he can implement those same program-wise fixes, we are going to enjoy our own version of Dabo. 

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Game Day Info: Georgia Tech

No comments this year.

What you need to know

Weather: Mid 60s and perfect.

Radio: SiriusXM 207

TV: The ACC Network.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

BC-Georgia Tech preview

Normally I would love BC coming in off a sound defeat. It would seemingly be a great opportunity for Hafley to rally the troops and get everyone sharp and motivated. Georgia Tech complicates that since they are coming off a historic loss. Clemson clobbered them. They will also be looking to regroup and refocus. While neither team is destined for a National Championship, this game is critical. One team will bounce back and return to feeling good about their season. The loser will probably start wondering if their early season success was all a mirage.

What's on my mind (not totally related to this game)
The Big Ten is back this weekend and the remaining FBS holdouts are following in the coming weeks. I've been pretty adamant from the beginning that these teams should be playing, so I am glad to see them back on the field. Unfortunately the movement to unionize college football seems to have lost momentum. Perhaps the discussion has moved behind the scenes and out of the public. More likely, by allowing the players back with a few concessions, the discussion went away. That would be unfortunate. The college sports model is broken and exploitative. The health, financial, and logistical challenges of COVID 19 provided an opportunity to fix things. Aside from some sports getting cut, it looks like not much will change. Hopefully when things calm down, someone in leadership somewhere will look to improve the situation for student athletes and the athletic departments caught in the middle of this bad system.

Three Simple Keys
1. Pass protection. If Jurk has time, guys will get open. GT's pass D has plenty of holes and weaknesses. And even if Jurk can't find guys open, if we protect he should be able to run for first downs.
2. Don't give up on the run game. When passing is working and Tech has so much trouble stopping the pass, the temptation is to come out throwing. I want BC to also use the run game. It looked better against Virginia Tech (aside from the fumbles).
3. Don't allow big plays. Georgia Tech will go for the home run passes. We need to make sure we stop those potential game changers.

Gambling Notes
-- Georgia Tech leads the all-time series 7-2
-- Georgia Tech is 3-0 at Alumni
-- Hafley is 2-1 at Alumni
The current line is BC-3.5

BC Athletic Director Pat Kraft hired one of the head coaches in this game...just not the one coaching his current Football team. (Kraft hired Geoff Collins when he was at Temple.)

Scoreboard Watching
Syracuse at Clemson. The Orange look terrible and this might be the best team Dabo has ever had. Could the Tigers score 100? I don't know. Syracuse usually gives them a game, but this year I expect a blowout. A bad Syracuse is good for BC since we often recruit similar players and have them on the schedule every year. I don't mind them falling apart as Hafley tries to build up BC.

I hope to see...Garwo and Bailey hold onto the ball. While luck and carelessness are factors in fumbling, there is a mental element too. Both guys have shown they have issues protecting the ball so far in this short season. May they please hold on this week and get it out of their respective heads!

BC is in trouble if...we don't get third down stops. For the first time in weeks, we are not playing an elite QB. Sims will make mistakes and bad throws. We have to be smart and not let broken plays become third down conversions.

I think this will feel a bit like a shoot out. Only BC will capitalize on some GT mistakes and score TDs when they are scoring field goals. Jurk has a big day and we put last week behind us.
Final Score: BC 35, Georgia Tech 23

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Ugly football but still optimistic

The fact that as BC's turnovers piled up, I still felt we could win is a huge sign of progress. But it was not to be as for the first time Hafley lost decisively as BC's coach. Turnovers are frustrating all the time, but especially on a night when BC moved the ball. The maligned OLine looked better but our RBs couldn't hold onto the ball and Jurk got careless a few times. But I still believe we are on the right track. It is up to Hafley to reset and get things fixed. I think he will.

Game Day Info: Virginia Tech

No comments this year.

What you need to know

Weather: The game will start in the 50s and drop to the 40s. This is our coldest game of the season so far.

Radio: SiriusXM 382

TV: The ACC Network.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

BC-Virginia Tech preview

I understand that is is very, very early in the Hafley era. I also know he will have to prove a lot as he brings in his own players, adjusts to a normal year, adjusts to teams getting a feel for how he coaches, and many other hurdles. But I am pretty confident he is the best and most aggressive game manager we've had in my time as a BC fan. Jags was aggressive but it always felt like he was going with his gut and sort of a gambler, where Hafley seems more analytical. The fact that we've been in close games nearly every week and continue to push to score instead of being conservative is a huge change. The fact that we can run a two minute drill is a huge change. But most important is that the sidelines don't seem chaotic during crunch time. Think of how manic Addazio and his crew were during the final minute against Wake years ago. That's not happening now and I think BC will win more just because of that approach. This week won't be the typical trip to Blacksburg, but that even-handed, smart approach should make a difference.

What's on my mind (not totally related to this game)
Every week BC previews their uniform combo on social media and BC twitter (including me) weighs in on the latest look. This year has been heavy on the throwbacks. I have stated this in multiple places, but for the record let me say that I strongly prefer the throwbacks to our current uniform. However, I would like to see a full uniform refresh that has aspects of the throwback but looks most like the '90s BC uniform. There are plenty of rumors that a new look is coming. Hopefully it makes everyone happy...and has a single helmet stripe!

Three Simple Keys
1. Slow down their running game. It really is that simple. Our D has been good enough in bend but don't break mode. This week will be more about stopping the run on first and second down.
2. More production from Lamot. Because we've played so much nickle, Lamot hasn't been on the field as much. With VT being run first, that might change. Hopefully that means more support for McDuffie and Richardson.
3. Other guys in the passing game. It is nice that VT has to focus on Long and Flowers. That means other guys should have lots of opportunities. We could use big plays from Lewis, Gill and even Levy and Bailey.

Gambling Notes
-- Virginia Tech leads the series 18-10
-- Fuente is 34-20 at Lane Stadium
-- BC has never won three in a row in this series
The current line is BC+12

Henning, Jags, and Addazio each won on their first trips to Blacksburg. TOB and Spaz did not.

Scoreboard Watching
I am curious to see how Louisville does with Notre Dame. I think the Irish are very overrated, however, Louisville has been a major dissapointment. Can they regroup against Notre Dame? Can someone show the Irish are not a Top 5 team? We face both and I think both of their records are decieving. It should be interesting to see if they play a close game.

I hope to see...continued great punting from Carlson. Obviously, I truly hope we never punt, but if we do, I trust Carlson. He's been very good so far this season.

BC is in trouble if...the offensive line continues its uneven play. Hafley addressed it after the game and with the media. He says we are just a few plays here and there from looking great. I hope he is right, because the breakdowns and misses put way too much pressure on Jurk to escape or throw into bad situations.

I don't get what the oddsmakers see. Is Virginia Tech good? Probably. But I think we are good too and have proven that we play to the level of our opponent (for better or worse). I think this is a back and forth game with lots of passing. I think a few turnovers go BC's way and we hold on to win.
Final Score: BC 31, Virginia Tech 27

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Enjoying the roller coaster ride

Close games are not good for your health or your W-L record. But after three weeks of tense, back and forth games, I am thrilled that BC beat Pitt to improve to 3-1. But like our other close games, the big picture is still very encouraging. We have plenty of areas to improve (penalties, OL execution, Jurkovec's decision making) but we are still winning. The winning is coming from areas that have been much harder for BC to fix in previous administrations (in-game adjustments, aggressive play calling, late game execution).

The other thing that is great about a coaching change, is that there is always some guy who was overlooked or misused by the previous regime, who blossoms. For BC that is Zay Flowers. He had a huge day and made numerous unbelievable catches. 

There is still a lot of football left to play this year, but this first month of games has provided lots of hope and promise and wins...and that's all we wanted.  

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Game Day: Pitt

No comments this year. 

What you need to know

Weather: Mid '60s with no chance to rain. Another perfect football day

Radio: SiriusXM 193 

TV: The ACC Network. If you don't have the ACC Network, perhaps get a temporary login for Hulu+ or Youtube TV.

Thursday, October 08, 2020

BC-Pitt preview

We just played Pitt in November, yet BC Football and the world has changed dramatically since then. My fear at the time was gutting out that win might have saved Addazio. We know it didn't and instead led to the welcome change in leadership. This Pitt game is unlikely to provide any sort of capstone or turning point, however, it should be fun and winnable, which is all we can ask for at this time. 

What's on my mind (not totally related to this game)
While winning is primary, I think how this season is playing out should be good for Hafley and BC's recruiting. Stadiums are empty everywhere so using the "no fans" argument against us is negated for now. Hafley is getting a ton of positive media coverage, especially after last week's impromptu rant after the Long injury. The student life is still not back to normal, but BC is providing a more traditional college experience than most. If the team wins, the BC sales pitch will look that much better.

Three Simple Keys
1. Stops on 3rd down. Last week was beyond frustrating. The whole point of a bend but don't break D is not to allow long 3rd down conversions. Pickett is a good QB. If you give him time, he will find someone open. They need to bring him down.
2. Go deep more. The ease in which Jurkovec can fling it is probably something we haven't had since Shinskie. The late TD called back that Long caught was just a rope. We need to challenge donwfield more. The explosive plays can be backbreakers for Pitt.
3. Stay aggressive in Special Teams. The short kickoff didn't work, but the idea was good. I think we need to keep trying things like that, especially as an underdog.

Gambling Notes
-- Pitt leads the all time series 17-14
-- Pitt is 8-7 all time in Alumni
-- Narduzzi is 14-12 following a loss
The current line is BC+6

This is the first time we've played Pitt in back to back years since the Big East days.

Scoreboard Watching
The only ACC game that matters -- other than ours -- is Miami-Clemson. Are the 'Canes back (again)? This season is already unpredictable. Who knows what the playoff will bring. The ACC will likely have at least one team in it, but if Miami proves to be great, maybe two can get in.

I hope to see...BC establish some sort of run game. I am not Addazio but I do think not running more is hurting the offense. So much would open up if we had believable play action. I also think Bailey is too much of an asset not to use.

BC is in trouble if...we are down going into the 4th Quarter. As much as I embrace the feeling of always being in the game, digging out of a hole game after game is not good for anyone. BC came up short last week. Let's not have that again.

I think this is a relatively low scoring defensive game. I think BC gets lucky with some turnovers to stall Pitt drives. I think instead of trying to comeback, this week we get ahead and hold on to the win.
Final Score: BC 21, Pitt 14

Saturday, October 03, 2020

An encouraging loss

I don't like to fallback on "moral victories" but I will say this: I am a happy BC fan right now. We've played three games which I would call B/B- ball and are 2-1, including a near upset of a Top 20 team. And most exciting was once again, I never thought BC was out of the game and in the final moments I thought they were going to win. It is nice to feel that way.

There were still plenty of problems. Too many stupid penalties. Still way too much confusion up front and issues with the OLine. Jurk still has some bad decisions, including holding onto the ball too long and missing open guys. But I will say Hafley managed the game well and more than just the clock and timeouts, he also pushed the right emotional buttons. These are still young players who need those wake up calls.

I will try to have more in the coming days, but I feel real good about the season and the program.

Game Day: North Carolina

No comments this year.

What you need to know

Weather: Mid '60s, no rain

Radio: SiriusXM 193


Thursday, October 01, 2020

BC-North Carolina Preview

I don't know if we can consider last week magic. If you take your BC colored glasses off, it was more of a case of escaping with a win after a sloppy day. But those are the types of wins that often lead to a special season. You need some luck. You need some growing pains. And you need a little bonding among the players and coaches. The emotions of last week will be gone by kickoff, but maybe the learning and luck will still be there. We need both to pull off the upset.

What's on my mind (not totally related to this game)
I don't know how plugged in the regular readers are to what's happening on campus, but BC is generally making more restrictions related to COVID. Based on their moves, I don't know if we will see students at sporting events any time soon. I also don't know what new and returning students even think of the BC experience right now. Going to and covering BC sports were big parts of my experience. I feel for those who miss it. I hope they realize how special this Hafley season might be. Even though they can't be in Alumni, being around it still might provide some great memories.

Three Simple Keys
1. Figure out the run game. We've done a lot on the ground so far and it has been a mixed bag. The basic stretch looked good. Some of the counter trey stuff was a mess. I liked Jurk running. I didn't like the direct handoff stuff to Levy. My suggestion is keep it easy to manage with some zones and option reads. Everything else can be put on the backburner for now.
2. Help the DBs in the red zone. Leaving Sebastion or any of the corners out on an island is dangerous. We don't have that level of talent there right now. Either give them more help or bring so much pressure that the passing is off.
3. Get back to stripping the ball out. Hafley said it was a priority. That showed against Duke. Last week the guys weren't seemingly as active. This week they need those takeaways.

Gambling Notes
-- UNC leads the series 2-5
-- UNC has won two in a row
-- North Carolina is 1-1 at Alumni
The current line is BC+13.5

Mack Brown has coached more than 300 games, but this will be his first trip to Alumni as a coach.

Scoreboard Watching
Clemson v Virginia will be interesting. We all know Clemson is great and will probably be our toughest game. However, ending the season with UVA will also be tough. Seeing how the 'Hoos handle Clemson might give us an idea of just how tough.

I hope to see...better tackling. This might seem like silly thing to harp on, especially with how COVID put limitations on spring ball and game prep, but there were plenty of missed tackles against Texas State. The game shouldn't have been as close as it was. If BC makes five more tackles, half those drives end without even getting into BC territory.

BC is in trouble if...Jurkovec holds the ball too long. While the OLine has been very inconsistent, many of the sacks are also on Jurkovec for holding onto the ball too long and not throwing it away. He can't keep taking drive killing sacks.

This game will be tough. We looked out of sorts last week and certainly not capable of hanging with one of the better teams in the ACC. But my hope is the wakeup call from last week leads to a cleaner, better game this week. I think this goes back and forth and BC holds on to win another close game at home.
Final Score: BC 28, UNC 24