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Meet Boston College, which is 50 percent great and 50 percent awful

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Remember those years late in the Chuck Amato era when NC State had outstanding defenses but didn't really accomplish much as a program because the offense and quarterback play were iffy? Those were some bummer years. It's painful to think about the could-have-beens when you have an elite unit. The 2005 team managed to get to a bowl game but even then it felt like a disappointment.

Those are the emotions Boston College fans are having to go though in 2015, and while the cases are similar, BC is taking the sorrow of mismatched units to a new extreme.

The Eagles had a solid offense in 2014 with Tyler Murphy under center; Murphy wasn't a great passer, but he was good enough to make opponents respect that aspect of his game, and he was a fantastic runner. The Eagles adjusted their scheme around him beautifully, and the result was an offense that put up more than 250 yards rushing per game.

But Murphy is gone, and BC had to replace its entire offensive line, and so here we are:

BC Offense Off. S&P+ national rank Yds/Play
(national rank)
(national rank)
Yds/Pass Att.
(national rank)
2015 123
4.4 (125) 3.8 (99) 5.6 (117)
2014 46 5.7 (61) 5.2 (25) 6.9 (72)

Off a cliff she goes! Whew, man, it's tough to look at some of these numbers. Boston College is averaging only 3.7 yards per play against FBS teams, and in conference games that number is 3.6. The Eagles haven't cracked 5.0 yards per play or 350 total yards of offense against any FBS opponent this season. They are averaging a hair over 18 points per game and haven't scored more than 17 against an FBS team. There's more but you get it.

As the 2015 season has made plain, Boston College did not have an adequate replacement for Tyler Murphy lined up. The Eagles have been through four different quarterbacks--Troy Flutie, Darius Wade, Jeff Smith, John Fadule--in a vain attempt to find consistent production. Fadule, who made his debut against Virginia Tech this past weekend, is a walk-on. He will be getting more reps with the first-string offense this week, and that tells you plenty right there.

Flutie has been the most efficient of the bunch, but he is still completing less than half of his passes, and as a team, BC has completed 42% of its throws. They have six touchdown passes all season, and the team's leading receiver has a grand total of 10 catches.

Not surprisingly, BC's coaching staff has tried its best to limit the quarterbacks' exposure, as the Eagles are only throwing the ball about 20 times per game. That's fine in theory but it means they're hoping a below-average ground game can set the tone offensively. There are no right answers, merely one gamble or another, with the likelihood of a positive outcome poor in either case.

BC Defense Def. S&P+ national rank Yds Allowed/Play
(national rank)
Yds Allowed/Rush
(national rank)
Yds Allowed/Pass Att.
(national rank)
2015 2
3.7 (1) 1.9 (1) 5.9 (17)
2014 36 5.1 (30) 3.1 (6) 7.1 (69)

Here is the sorrow portion of the show, because man what a waste this is. What a terrible, terrible waste. No defense has been better on a per-play basis than Boston College's group, which has consistently and impressively stifled opponents' running games. They've held opponents under 100 yards rushing in seven of nine games, and their first two opponents--FCS schools Maine and Howard--combined to rush for 14 yards.

The Eagles rank second nationally in Havoc Rate*** at 22.7%. By this measure they also have the most disruptive front seven in the country.

(Havoc Rate, again, is: TFLs plus forced fumbles plus passes defended divided by total plays.)

Boston College has 88 tackles for loss in nine games, nearly matching the 89 TFLs this unit posted in 13 games last season. That total leads the ACC easily and includes 29 sacks, which also leads the league. Clemson is the only team to average more than five yards per play against BC. (The Tigers averaged 6.8 YPP, which might make you feel a smidge better about what they did to us.)

This defense is good in pretty much every conceivable respect, and whether you adjust for opponent or not, the numbers look great. They control the ground game. They suppress big plays. They are great at putting teams behind schedule. And on and on.

And it's all being squandered by an offense that produces like it's playing against this BC defense every Saturday.