There’s already been a surprising amount of upheaval within the ACC Atlantic, what with Louisville and Florida State imploding amid turnover to a degree nobody anticipated. S&P+ says that Boston College and UVA are the second- and third-toughest league games on NC State’s schedule this year.
Yeah, see it got weird really quick.
With the first test passed, NC State is presented with BC, which is a bit of a different animal than Virginia. UVA liked running the ball. Boston College likes steamrolling you, then puttin’ the old gal in reverse, running you over again, then hittin’ you a third time on the way to the end zone.
Funny thing, though, that while the Eagles have put up big numbers on the ground, the advanced statistics—which are schedule-adjusted—don’t much care for BC’s run game. Partly it’s that the Eagles laid an egg at Purdue but also that they work in bulk. If you run the ball 50 times per game, you should average 200+ yards, unless you are flat terrible and your coaches are blind and what are you doing why would you be running this much you blind fools!!!!
BC’s offense meets that basic standard, at 243.4 YPG on 51 carries per game. But the Eagles also haven’t been all that efficient about getting there, ranking only 70th in marginal efficiency. The other thing troubling the Eagles here is their stuff rate: over 20% of their rushing attempts are stopped for no gain or negative yards, a figure that ranks 84th among FBS teams.
They’re boom-or-bust: 84th in stuff rate, 36th in marginal explosiveness. The Eagles run the ball almost 74% of the time on standard downs, so pretty much when other teams are guessing run, they’re guessing right. So you can imagine how that ends up with a lot of plays blowed up real good ... and a lot of plays that end up successful regardless of the defense’s call, because of AJ Dillon.
Boston College isn’t a triple-option team, but it runs about as frequently as one, and that’ll create advantages elsewhere. BC’s passing game hasn’t been super efficient, but it has been one of the most explosive passing attacks in the country. The Eagles thrive on the same defensive laziness that triple-option teams do.
Quarterback Anthony Brown is averaging 8.0 yards per attempt and already has 12 touchdown passes. The Eagles have 17 touchdown passes as a team and have four guys with multiple touchdown grabs. Brown has been more discerning in his second season under center, better at taking advantage of the gotcha moments that a run-heavy scheme provides. He’s a much better passer than most triple-option outfits have, which not surprisingly makes a considerable difference.
Unless BC falls well behind Saturday—as it did at Purdue—it is unlikely to alter its overall approach to moving the ball, even if Dillon doesn’t play. Running the dang ball is just how Steve Addazio prefers his dudes to dude it. NC State needs to be aware of this and stay patient down-to-down.
Purdue showed that you can send this offense off a cliff of its own design, but that is far from guaranteed without the right amount of pressure on the scoreboard and discipline on the back end of the defense. Discipline makes the cracks show: suddenly Boston College is not finding the explosive plays it needs on the ground, and the play action gets dulled, and Brown’s sometimes-iffy accuracy gets magnified. That’s when the Eagles can shatter.