FSU Football Preview: Boston College Eagles At Florida State Seminoles

MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 9: Jermaine Thomas #38 of the Florida State Seminoles breaks the tackle of Ray-Ray Armstrong #26 of the Miami Hurricanes to score a touchdown in the second quarter on October 9, 2010 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Motivation Edge: Boston College.  The enthusiasm for the program right now is off the charts, but the lack of enthusiasm about this game around the program is palpable.  I share it.  I really could not be any less motivated to write this preview.  The game is at noon.  Boston College plays a brand of really boring football.  FSU is just off a huge win over Miami and the defensive players have no reason to take BC's offense seriously after watching the tape.  Let's get to it.    

TV:  12 Noon, ESPN

Boston College's Offense v. Florida State's Defense

The Eagles have run for 374 yards on Florida State in the last two meetings.  BC has won two straight meetings in Doak.  You can really get an appreciation for how far FSU has come by watching tape of the old FSU losses.  In this one, BC ruined homecoming as FSU's defense couldn't keep an awful Eagle offense off the field, allowing BC to hold the ball for 38 minutes:  

This is from the 2006 game during which Drew Weatherford proved he was an awful quarterback (watch the interception right before half).  Clip starts at the 2:10 mark:

Boston College Football Highlight and Recruiting Video 2006: VTECH and FSU GAMES (via VincentSHiggins)

At the 3:27 mark is what I believe to be the worst pass in FSU history.  At FSU's own 35, 1 timeout, 27 seconds left in the half, 3rd down, and Weatherford is a full count late on a 4-yard stop/out?  I left the game after that pass.  

But As I profiled earlier in the week, Boston College has one of the worst twenty offenses in the country.  In the Eagles' last three games (Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, and at North Carolina State) they have gained 553 yards on 151 plays.  That is 3.7 yards per play, which is horrible.  

For Boston College, it has always started up front.  BC was offensive line university.  This year was supposed to be the same, but it has not gone that way.  LT Anthony Castonzo 6-7 308 Sr. was considered a first-rounder coming into the season, but he hasn't played like one.  The guard situation is up in the air with LG Emmett Cleary 6-7 300 So. OR Ian White 6-5 288 R-Fr. and RG Mark Spinney 6-4 282 Jr. Thomas Claiborne 6-3 332 Sr. C Nathan Richman 6-6 300 Jr.  At right tackle is Rich Lapham 6-8 323 Sr.   Let's ask Brian:

It starts with the Eagles offensive line, who has severely underachieved. The line hasn’t gotten the push to establish the running game with Montel and hasn’t given the Eagles signal callers enough time to go through their progressions. Spaz keeps juggling around the starters on the offensive line hoping that something will click but so far, the line play has been pretty poor. It was a bit better in the game last weekend against N.C. State, but there’s still a long way to go. There’s way too much talent on the line for them to be underachieving the way they are (second most returning offensive line starts in the conference).

This is a big, experienced group that is talented but unlikely to turn it around this weekend because the coaching is poor.

Boston College does have a talented back in Montel Harris.  Harris has absolutely tore up the Seminoles over the last two seasons.  Harris is 5-10 205 and a patient runner with tremendous balance.

While the running game has been disappointing, the passing game has been a downright disaster.  

BC's receivers are not impressive:

The wide receivers are incredibly inexperienced. BC is starting one senior (Ifeanyi Momah) and three freshmen / redshirt freshmen on this week’s two-deep roster. The Eagles were dealt a pretty significant blow when Colin Larmond Jr. went down with an injury in fall camp. The WRs have shown some potential, but without a decent QB to get them the ball, this is one of the weaker units on the Eagles offense.

The ESPN commentators in the Notre Dame contest called BC's receivers "the slowest group of receivers I have seen."  The foursome consists of Ifeanyi Momah 6-6 240 Sr., Johnathan Coleman 6-4 214 R-Fr., Bobby Swigert 6-1 180 Fr., and Alex Amidon 5-11 186 Fr.  None of these guys are a threat to stretch the field and they run poor routes, as freshmen tend to do.  

BC does have two decent tight ends in TE Chris Pantale 6-6 248 So. and Lars Anderson 6-3 240.  The fullback James McCluskey 6-2 252 Sr. is also an excellent blocker.  I really feel like these guys are underused.  

But the biggest problem with BC's offense is quarterback.  The Eagles have gone through three quarterbacks this year and have elected to pull the redshirt off QB Chase Rettig 6-3 210 Fr. Rettig is a talented freshman who was knocked out of the Notre Dame game.  He is not ready to play in this type of atmosphere and has only thrown 10 passes.  Rettig threw 10 passes for 72 yards and a TD against Notre Dame, but 57 of those yards came on a Notre Dame coverage bust.  So Rettig was 4-9 for 15 yards on his other attempts.  And as I said above, BC's offense is horribly coached.  It is literally a shell of its former self under Logan and Jagodzinski.  

FSU's defense is healthy, talented, and learning to play as a unit.  

Through four D1-outings, Boston College is only generating 14 ppg and 275 total ypg. This is just a bad offense.  FSU can do whatever it wants on defense in this game.  It can play press-man and abuse BC's receivers, it could play soft zone and make the freshman beat it repeatedly down the field, it could bring a variety of zone blitzes, etc.  If Mark Stoops wants to invent a new defense, this would be a good time, but for the need to hold BC down because the Eagles' defense is pretty good.  Look for FSU's defensive tackles to ride the hip of the pulling guards and get lots of penetration against BC's unorganized offensive line.  

Even anticipating some lack of mental focus early on, I think FSU can hold Boston College under 245 total yards over 65 plays.  That's probably good for 10 points total.  

Inside, see my prediction for the Florida State offense.  

While BC's offense is a joke, it's defense is far from it.  You have to ignore the point totals here as the offense routinely gives the ball up in awful field position.  

Spaziani is the master of the 3-5-3 defense in passing downs (not 3-3-5, but 3-5-3).  Here's an excerpt, but check out Dr. B's great article on the subject (lots of video as well).  That should kill an hour of work for you, at least.

The basic package appears as a variation on the 33 Stackset with an extra OLB/Nickelback playing, with the SS being the 5th guy in the underneath zone. BC's base is still a 4-3. WILL and SS take the flats underneath, with the two interior LBs playing hook/curl zone and the SAM taking a slot/TE (curl) zone up the seam (note that it could also appear as a shifted 4-3, with the Sam playing in a 3pt stance). The two CBs and the FS are playing the usual 3-deep zone coverage. In the figure above, W, S, and B are LB's (Will/Sam/Bandit), and the SS's are called "Dogs" on the callside, "Rover" on the weakside. One of them will most likely be a OLB or backup Safety/Nickel. Its just terminology.


Read the explanation (Long)  

As that article indicates, hitting the 4-verticals play will be key.  Notre Dame did it to them.  

I have full confidence that Frank Spaziani will come up with good game plan after good game plan, but his ability to get creative could be severely hampered because his defense could face far fewer obvious passing situations given FSU's prolific rushing attack.  Then again, BC is 5th in the country in rush defense.  I expect FSU to run the ball on BC,  force BC to make adjustments that they really don't want to do, and then FSU will attempt to exploit them down the field.   

For Florida State, a lot of this game comes down to not beating themselves.  They have to get DT Scafe blocked.  Other than that, I would not be worried about BC's defensive players more so than I would about FSU beating itself.  It's really a matter of focus for the 'Noles.  

Let's take a look at BC's personnel.

Sizes Of The Front Sevens Florida State Will Face
DL 270 267 295 255 275 285 251 260 245 275 255 255
DL 285 301 307 240 270 293 295 289 275 310 295 307
DL 280 284 261 285 275 305 309 297 305 315 285 302
DL/LB 245 251 239 235 265 251 257 259 260 260 275 250
LB 212 240 232 215 215 227 238 239 230 215 230 226
LB 245 225 225 240 225 240 235 231 235 230 250 238
LB 220 232 225 225 230 220 215 224 230 220 235 223
 Total 1757 1800 1784 1695 1755 1821 1800 1799 1780 1825 1825 1801

The Eagles have always been stout up front and this team is no different.  The two men in the middle are LT Kaleb Ramsey 6-3 295 Jr. and RT Damik Scafe 6-3 309 Sr.  Backing them up are  Dillon Quinn 6-6 299 R-Fr. and Conor O'Neal 6-3 286 So.  These four are excellent run stoppers.  They anchor against the run, control gaps, and allow the linebackers to run free.  They are not much in terms of rushing the passer.  The ends are LE Alex Albright 6-5 251 Sr. and RE Brad Newman 6-2 257 Sr.  These two have been playing pretty well, but FSU's tackle tandem of Andrew Datko and Zebrie Sanders should be able to win more battles than not against then.  Max Holloway 6-2 250 So is a bit of a pass-rushing specialist.  Overall, BC's front four does a great job against the run and an average job rushing the passer.  They do an excellent job of batting down balls in the short game and FSU must cut them effectively to make sure they don't get their hands on passes. 

At linebacker is the well-known SLB Mark Herzlich 6-4 238 Sr..  Herzlich was the defensive player of the year in 2008 and then battled cancer last season.  He's back, and while he is not the same player he was before the illness, he is still a good player and it's great to see him back out there.  The real stud in this group is MLB Luke Kuechly 6-3 235 So.  Kuechly leads the nation in tackles and will be the best linebacker on either team tomorrow.  He's smart, physical, and fast.   The WLB is Kevin Pierre-Louis 6-1 215 Fr.  He'll be a pain to deal with in 2012 and 2013.  This is a good linebacking corps, but FSU must abuse Herzlich in the passing game on early downs.  He's simply not back to where he needs to be in coverage.  

The secondary is good and experienced.  The Field Corner is Donnie Fletcher 6-1 200 Jr.  At boundary is DeLeon Gause 5-11 184 Sr.  The SS is Dominick LeGrande 6-2 215 Jr.  And at FS is Wes Davis 6-1 217 Sr.  FSU fans know this group well.  They play their zones quite well and pass off guys and hit extremely well.  

This team reminds me a lot of the Florida State teams in 2006 and 2007, that had good defense and no offense.  The defense eventually wore out and gave up because the offense was such a joke.  This BC defense is yet to do that, and it is much more disciplined than those FSU teams were, but everyone gets frustrated at some point.  

I think FSU will start slowly because BC really forces teams to methodically move the ball down the field in small chunks.  This is probably the exact style of defense a team coming off a huge win and lacking in focus does not want to play.  FSU can execute, but only if it is in the right frame of mind.  I would elect to kickoff if I were FSU and won the toss.  There's a good chance excellent field position will result.  I look for FSU to run about 10 more plays than BC will run.  BC has allowed 4.71, 4.54, and 5.19 yards per play this season.  I'll say FSU goes for 405 yards on 75 plays, which is about 5.4 per play.  I should also mention that BC is excellent in the redzone, allowing only 33% touchdowns.

FSU also holds a large advantage over BC in every area of special teams.  

There is no doubt that FSU is a better team than Boston College and should win this game easily.  A letdown might occur, but even if it does, it shouldn't be a letdown loss, but rather a non-blowout.   The Eagles are inept offensively and will be fortunate to reach double figures in points on Saturday.  Eventually BC's defense will succumb to the awful field position it inherits from the offense.  

Chance of winning:  92%

Prediction: FSU out-gains BC by 45% and wins 37-13.  

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