Since we’ve been hit-or-miss the past few days, we’re bringing you the last installment of the 2012 football preview today with a look into our Thanksgiving-time home match-up against Boston College. Make sure to take a look at all of our other previews so you know what to look out for when we kick-off at the end of the month!
Boston College has a rich football history dating back to the late 1800s and they have a long-standing (well… a 40 year old rivalry) rivalry with Notre Dame dubbed “The Holy War”. None other than former NC State head coach Lou Holtz played an interesting role in the rivalry running up a large lead on Boston College in the early 1990′s which would later give film makers of the movie “Rudy” material for the award-winning flick.
If you are an NC State fan looking at Boston College, you have to take a moment to talk about Coach Spaziani. Coach Spaz was the defensive coordinator for Boston College under head coach Tom O’Brien and served as interim head coach in 2006 during their bowl game in Charlotte. Interestingly enough, Coach Spaz was running backs coach at Boston College prior to accepting the position of defensive coordinator, giving him a more expansive view of the field from both sides of the line of scrimmage.
What Coach Spaz doesn’t have are results. In 2006, Boston College was in the middle of an 8-year winning streak in bowl games (2000-2007). They were mediocre expansion bowls, but bowls none-the-less and certainly better than NC State’s 2 bowl games in 6 seasons dating back to the last season of Chuck Amato. Since leaving his interim position at Boston College and then returning in 2009 as permanent head coach, Coach Spaz is 20-19 overall and 12-12 in the ACC. Many at Boston College were happy to see Tom O’Brien go, sensing that he had reached a plateau and was doomed to always lose at least one or two “WTF” games a season. The irony is that Tom O’Brien is 33-30 overall and 18-22 in the ACC while at NC State.
Depending on what Spaz and O’Brien do this season may be a better indicator of whether Boston College was right to let O’Brien go, or whether O’Brien just needed a change of scenery to make something special happen. Regardless, Coach Spaz is under a lot of pressure by his own fanbase to produce tangible results this season as Boston College missed a bowl game in 2011 and suffered from their first losing season since 1998.
2011 Statistical Breakdown
In 2011, Boston College was, let’s say, not living up to their past potential. They won only 4 games overall beating Massachusetts, Maryland, Miami,… and NC State. They threw for only 2032 yards on the season and completed only 53% of their passes. Their running game showed some sparks of life with 1571 yards over 437 carries (just over 3.5 yards per carry) but they failed to out rush their opponents by just under 300 yards on the season. In total, BC scored 12 touchdowns in both running and passing games. By contrast, they allowed 8 touchdowns in the air (much better than NC State’s 17 allowed) and 22 on the ground. When you compare the statistical breakdown of Boston College in NC State terms, it appears that Coach Spaz’s defensive skills are still solid. Despite their poor performance on the season, their defense was still ranked ahead of NC State’s (43rd vs 54th) nationally by ESPN. Their rushing game was also ranked above NC State’s, but neither team fielded exceptionally talented games on the ground.
In an article by BC Interruption, the Boston College equivalent to akulawolf’s Backing The Pack, the writer mentions 5 goals for Boston College this year (which can be construed into a set of benchmarks for Coach Spaz to reach so he can stay off the hot-seat):
1) Make a bowl game… any bowl game.
2) No bad losses to bad teams (a hallmark from the TOB “WTF” loses comment stated earlier).
3) Beat a Top 25 team.
4) Keep it close against the Seminoles.
5) Score more than 24 points in at least half of their games.
For a fan base that has competed for an ACC championship twice in the last 5 years and been divisional champs (or tied for divisional champs) 3 times in the last 5 years, that’s a awfully long fall from greatness. Boston College is now in that denial stage where they just want to win something… anything… of note so that they can pretend like this whole episode never happened (my words, not theirs). If Coach Spaz is going to keep his job, he needs to satiate the Eagles’ ego by providing them with a bowl. If he can get them to something like the Champs Bowl, fans will probably be elated. However, to get to that point, he’ll need to beat a few teams that are contenders for the ACC title. NC State might be a good candidate. In the event Spaz pulls out something amazing and actually has a title game or bowl game berth in his sites, NC State will need to be careful since this late-November match-up may be their “all-or-nothing” game.
When a fanbase is use to high expectations and is forced by a matter of circumstances to accept something lesser, they can be neurotic. When players are forced into the same situation, they can become dangerous. Regardless of BC’s performance coming into this game, NC State will need to watch-out for the intangible “who want’s it more” factor. The Eagles may have the edge there, depending on where NC State sits in the ACC title race.
What To Look Out For
Last season, it was painfully evident that BC starting quarterback Chase Rettig wasn’t ready for the task. It’s interesting to note that Boston College only allowed 8 sacks last season. Despite that, Rettig failed to complete more than 55% of his passes. Coach Spaz is trying to fix this under-center position by hiring a new offensive coordinator, Doug Martin from New Mexico State (and Kent State before that) who is known for QB development. If BC can get their quarterback issues sorted out, they seem to have an effective offensive line and a decent defense (BC stopped over 50% of their opponents from making it in the end-zone once they entered the red zone… obviously you’d rather just keep them from getting into the red zone in the first place, but beggars can’t be choosers). Boston College is realistically not going to compete for an ACC crown, but they can easily compete for bowl eligibility and should be able to ruin a few programs’ dreams of post-season play, themselves.