Florida State Football Preview: at Boston College

Tonight, the Florida State Seminoles travel to Chestnut Hill to take on the Boston College Eagles. Let's break this down. Make sure to join us tonight for our excellent live gamethreads!

Time: 8:PM | TV: ESPN | Line: FSU -15 | Weather: 40s, moderate wind, no snow. 

BCInterruption (opposing site)

How did BC get to 2-6?

Each week I post the "Scouting FSU's Opponents" series. Here are the BC excerpts from weeks 1-9. Please remember that these observations are from that week. 

BC dropped a close game at home to Northwestern. It was pretty sloppy.

The Boston College Eagles lost to UCF, 30-3. It was a close game through three quarters before the Knights blew it open in the fourth. Not only did UCF double BC's yards-per-play (6.0 to 3.0), but UCF ran almost 20 more plays (63 to 44).  Oh, and UCF had a big edge in starting field position as well. Here is Brian's recap: http://www.bcinterruption.com/2011/9/10/2417518/ucf-football-22-boston-college-3-central-florida#comments

The Eagles appear to be in trouble. That's not to say this team can't get healthy and grow up, but as of now, it is the circumstance (Thursday nighter on the road on short rest) that scares you -- not BC's team. There is a lot wrong with this group right now. BCI asks http://www.bcinterruption.com/2011/9/11/2418229/central-florida-30-boston-college-3-where-does-bc-go-from-here

  Duke BC
Plays 80 58
Yards/Play 5.8 5.7
Duke outgained BC by 3% per play
Avg Field Position Duke 24 BC 25

Duke beat Boston College 20-19. Yes, Duke. BC missed a 23-yarder off the upright to win the game with no time left. Duke still isn't any good, and BC has very serious injury issues right now, along with some coaching issues. This was a very even game, as the score indicates.

Duke threw the ball 52 times and ran 28. Renefree was 41 of 52 on the previously-referenced green BC secondary (Eagles have lost 3 of 4 secondary starters since the final week of camp due to injury or suspension). I didn't watch this game and can't imagine it was much fun on tv or in person. Unless BC gets its guys back in a hurry, it will not go bowling. I See the Eagles finishing 4-8.

BC beat UMass 47-17 (D1-AA team).

Wake BC
Yards/Play 6.2 4.1
Plays 63 82
Wake outgained BC by 51% per play
Avg Field Position Wake 21 BC 38

Wake Forest beat the Boston College Eagles, 27-19. Wake only out-gained the Eagles by about 60 yards, and BC won the field position battle. But here is where we really see the value of yards-per-play, as Wake was much more effective on a down-to-down basis. Also, BC was terrible in the red zone, scoring a TD on only one of four chances. Wake's defense is nothing special, so this offensive effort at home by BC was terrible. Wake's offense, on the other hand, is pretty good and had several explosive plays, including two over 40. 

Finally, BCI has its proposal for fixing Boston College football. I don't really agree with Brian's opinion of the program and think BC fans need to re-evaluate expectations a bit. I don't disagree that they should fire Frank Spaziani, however. For some comedic relief, read this piece by HD on whether Wake is a dark-horse contender for the ACC. Seriously. 

BC Clem
Plays 51 73
Yards/Play 4.80 6.71
Clem outgained BC by 40% per play
Field Position BC 29 CLEM 31

Boston College lost to the Clemson Tigers, 36-14. BC was thoroughly dominated in this one, being outgained by 40% per play and running 43% fewer plays. BC was also -2 in turnovers. This could have been worse, but Clemson QB Tahj Boys was injured and is day-to-day with a hip injury.

BC is still very banged up, and will now seek a redshirt for #1 DT Kaleb Ramsey and RB Montel Harris. Ramsey's continued absence hurts BC's defense every week and he is one of the few BC defenders capable of causing FSU trouble. 

Here are the BCI post-game thoughts.  And can BC win out like it did last season? I think BC has a chance to lose out.

  BC VT
Score 14 30
Plays 59 71
Yards/Play 4.6 6.6
VT outgained BC by 42% per-play
Field Position Own 28 Own 25

BC is a bad team. Virginia Tech is a pretty good team. VT thoroughly outplayed BC on a down-to-down basis (42% outgain), and were +2 in turnovers. This blowout should have been bigger, but BC kept putting the Hokies in terrible field position. 

BC held the lead at the half (7-6), but VT made some qualify adjustments and had drives of 60, 89, 56, 74 in the second portion. 

Postgame thoughts from BCI

BC Maryland
Score 28 10
Plays 69 65
Yards/Play 5.48 4.74
BC outgained Maryland by 16% per play
Field Position Own 41 Own 34

This game was beyond ugly. Played in front of no more than 5,000 people (literally, 10x empty seats as people), in the snow, Maryland didn't really show up.

Give some credit to BC for running the ball well in the cold conditions (200+ yards). They have this new kid by the name of Finch. He didn't look to be anything special. BC had a bunch of runs that went for 6, 7, 8 and 9, as Maryland's front seven is horrible. Remember that in five conference games, Maryland has allowed almost 1,000 more rushing yards than Florida State. Did BC's run attack suddenly get better, or did BC just play Maryland? Perhaps some of both. 

The game featured six turnovers and five missed field goals. Put a lot of that on the weather. 

Post-game thoughts | Recap from the MD side | Helmet Stickers | Film Review

How good (or bad) have both of these teams been?

Team Total F/+ F/+ Offense F/+ Defense
Florida State Seminoles 16th 30th 18th
Boston College Eagles 78th 83rd 62nd

The chart at left is an excellent snapshot of the seasons to date for these two teams, adjusted for garbage time and opponent level, of course. FSU has had the far superior season, and both teams are defensive teams. Florida State is a defensive team primarily because its massive injury bug afflicted the offense; BC because that is BC's M.O. 

Two defensive teams, in cold weather, on short rest (a setting which typically favors defense as the offenses are sloppy?). FSU fans should begin reminding themselves that an ugly win is still a win. 

Florida State Defense v. Boston College Offense

BC Offense
WR 83 Alex Amidon (5-11, 185, So.)
14 Johnathan Coleman (6-4, 208, So.)
WR 10 Bobby Swigert (6-1, 184, So.)
7 Spiffy Evans (6-0, 173, Fr.)
WR 1 Colin Larmond, Jr. (6-3, 202, Jr.)
30 Donte Elliott (6-0, 195, Jr.)
LT 73 John Wetzel (6-8, 303, Jr.)
LG 76 Bobby Vardaro (6-5, 301, R-Fr.)
C 69 Mark Spinney (6-4, 282, Sr.)
RG 62 Ian White (6-5, 288, So.)
RT 77 Emmett Cleary (6-7, 300, Jr.)
TE 81 Chris Pantale (6-6, 251, Jr.)
87 Lars Anderson (6-3, 236, Sr.)
QB 11 Chase Rettig (6-3, 212, So.)
15 Dave Shinskie (6-4, 220, Jr.)
RB 28 Rolandan Finch (5-10, 209, So.)
44 Andre Williams (6-0, 222, So.)

Florida State's defense has been excellent this season, and that's where we will start. This is a defense with all the pieces, and DC Mark Stoops uses them all. FSU will run its standard 4-3, as well as 3-4, 4-2, 4-1, 3-3, and 3-2 fronts, with a variety of zone and man coverages as well as blitzed. FSU wins with talent, with scheme and with discipline. 

Boston College's offense simply isn't very good. Their OC quit/was fired/retired early in the season. They don't have great talent on the edges. Chase Rettig -- the QB who was supposed to make the leap this year, has not done so. Star RB Montel Harris is out for the season, and his backup, Andre Williams is hurt as well. 

And I'll let you in on a little secret: BC's offensive line is not that big. I've heard a lot of talk about how big BC's offensive line is from the FSU media, but it's simply not true. This is not your father's BC line. They are, however, tall. That's not to say the offensive line is bad. It's a decent offensive line, though nothing special. 

Boston College is going to try to run the football on Florida State. They'll attempt to do so using a lot of gap exchange plays (pulling guards, mostly). They operate out of the I, 2 TE, and 3 WR sets. They show a bit of empty backfield, but I don't think we'll see a lot of that out of them. 

The key for Florida State will be to stop the run from the opening play. Florida State has the front seven to do this, and should absolutely be able to shut down the BC run game if it drops 8 into the box, playing either man or cover 3 behind it. 

Ronaldan Finch did key the rushing attack that went for 300+ against Maryland last week, but keep in mind that Maryland has allowed almost 1,000 more rushing yards in conference play than the Seminoles. Finch is not a special player. He's just a decent running back. 

If FSU takes care of business and stops the run, it will eat up the BC passing game on 2nd-&-8+ and 3rd-&-5+ downs. 

FSU's defense should dominate the Boston College offense.

Goals

Hold BC to fewer than 4.3 yards/play before garbage time. This is a lofty goal for a road game, but BC's offense is not very good. FSU fans should not be satisfied with simply a decent defensive performance.

Allow no more than 3 plays of 20+ yards. BC is not an explosive offense. More than likely BC will not be able to hit big plays against FSU unless the 'Noles are sloppy in tackling (uncharacteristic) or undisciplined and not assignment sound.

Hold BC to less than 50% touchdowns in the red zone

Force 2 or more Turnovers. You cannot blow out Boston College without generating turnovers and giving your offense good field position. It simply does not happen due to the conservative defense BC runs. 

Florida State Offense v. Boston College Defense

BC Defense
DE 56 Max Holloway (6-2, 253, Jr.)
45 Mehdi Abdesmad (6-6, 264, Fr.)
LT 95 Dominic Appiah (6-5, 286, R-Fr.)
97 Conor O’Neal (6-3, 299, Jr.)
RT 98 Max Ricci (6-4, 330, Fr.)
65 Jaryd Rudolph (6-4, 295, So.)
DE 91 Kasim Edebali (6-2, 248, So.)
99 Brian Mihalik (6-8, 233, Fr.)
SLB 49 Steele Divitto (6-3, 225, So.)
54 Nick Clancy (6-3, 237, Jr.)
MLB 40 Luke Kuechly (6-3, 235, Jr.)
50 Will Thompson (6-1, 236, Sr.)
WLB 34 Sean Duggan (6-4, 215, Fr.)
35 Andre Lawrence (6-1, 224, So.)
FC 4 Donnie Fletcher (6-1, 195, Sr.)
5 Al Louis-Jean, Jr. (6-2, 183, Fr.)
SS 47 Spenser Rositano (6-1, 200, Fr.)
9 Dominique Williams (6-0, 209, R-Fr.)
FS 37 Hampton Hughes (6-3, 200, Jr.)
19 Sean Sylvia (6-0, 196, R-Fr.)
BC 23 Jim Noel (6-4, 185, Jr.)
21 Manny Asprilla (5-10, 170, Fr.)

It's not all that tough to beat Boston College. But it is really, really hard to blow out Boston College. Why? BC plays an ultra-conservative defensive style. BC's defense is designed to keep the Eagles in games. 

Frank Spaziani is not a great head coach, but he and Bill McGovern (DC) are excellent defensive minds. BC has dealt with a lot of injuries on defense this season, and this isn't your typical BC defense, but it is getting better each week as the injury replacements are learning to play with each other. 

BC's defense will play very conservative zone coverages and not allow big plays. It will take away the run and funnel everything to Keuchly. And it will allow short passes. The key for the offense is to throw the short passes accurately so that the receiver can run after the catch. BC's defense is typically great at tackling, but that hasn't exactly been the case this year. 

And BC has struggled this year when opponents have spread them out. BC will try to combat multi-wr looks by staying in its base 4-3/3-4 alignment because its #3 and #4 corners are not great at this point. 

BC will do a ton of zone blitzing, because its pass rushers simply are not that good on their own. BC's zone blitz works if the offense makes a mistake in identification or protection. Rarely does BC bring more blitzers than the offense can account for -- meaning they do not try to simply outnumber the offense. 

This will be an interesting test for FSU's offense, particularly on short rest, where offenses are expected to be sloppy.

EJ Manuel must do a great job in setting the protections against BC. He must be able to identify what BC is giving -- and then take it. BC doesn't have the personnel to beat Florida State man for man. But if FSU doesn't take care of its own business, particularly pre-snap, BC will have a chance. The backs need to be sharp in protection as well. This is definitely a spot to worry over if you're an FSU fan, as FSU has lost 4 of its top 8 offensive linemen since Spring, and this new group isn't great. 

FSU's receivers and backs have been good at making defenders miss in space. That must continue in this game because BC will sell out to take away the run and the deep ball. That leaves the short passes, particularly to the flats. BC has been giving a ton of cushion, and FSU's receivers must make them pay for doing so.

Here's some video of the fire zone:

Goals

At least 6.25 yards/play before garbage time. This is not a great defense. I don't expect perfection from the group on short rest, but 6.25 is a good goal.

66%+ TDs in the red zone.

No more than 1 turnover. I said above that it's very tough to blowout BC without the defense generating a lot of turnovers to give the offense good field position. The flip side to that is that FSU won't lose this game unless BC's own defense generates a lot of turnovers.

No more than 2 operational penalties (false start, illegal motion, illegal formation). 

Special Teams and other Notes

Fielding punts and kicks will be key here. FSU doesn't need big returns to win this game, but it must avoid special teams turnovers and gaffes.

Prediction

FSU's defensive advantage over BC's offense is huge, and FSU's offense is better than BC's defense. Special teams edge to the 'Noles. Home field and travel advantage to BC. I expect rather conservative game plans from both sides, and an ugly, boring game that should make for awful TV watching.

Noles 30 - BC 13

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