Another week, another noon kickoff. Honestly at this point I’m numb to it and it’s not a huge deal to me. My mind and body have simply gotten in to the routine of waking up before sunrise on Saturday mornings and cracking open the first beer around 7:30 am. At least this week the TV networks were kind enough to push us back a full 10 minutes to 12:30 kickoff. Hopefully that extra time will give the crowd some extra juice on Saturday for what is a huge game that could do wonders for NC State going in to their bye week before traveling to Death Valley. Boston College has been a thorn in the Pack’s side for as long as I can remember, even when they’ve been awful. But BC is actually good this year… I think.
Boston College so far this year:
The Eagles come down to Raleigh at 4-1 (1-0). Through the first 3 games, this looked like a team that could MAYBE (but probably definitely not) challenge Clemson in the Atlantic with a revitalized offense averaging 52.7 ppg. Then came Purdue. After entering the national rankings for the first time since 2008, the Eagles got absolutely manhandled for 4 quarters by an 0-3 Purdue team. They followed that up with a close win at home against Temple in which they needed a late touchdown to put the game away.
The biggest difference in Boston College’s offense this year is the ability of QB Anthony Brown to make plays over the top in the passing game. Other than the Purdue game where he threw for 96 yards and 4 INTs, he has been very good. Don’t be fooled though, this attack still runs through AJ Dillon who is arguably the best running back in the country, and is off to a stellar start with 106 carries for 652 yards and 6 TDs.
But now if teams stack the box they have proven that they can take shots down the field, as Brown has now hit six different players for touchdowns of over 30 yards. Kobay White and Jeff Smith are their main playmakers on the outside, with veteran TE Tommy Sweeney being a huge target in the red zone.
For years now everyone has grown accustomed to a less than flashy yet solid BC defense shutting opponents down. In a shocking turn of events, this year’s defense has been just meh. After decent showings against UMass and Holy Cross, the Eagles have given up at least 30 points in their last three games against average to below average competition and now rank 72nd nationally in total defense.
There are still playmakers on that side of the ball though with Wyatt Ray tied for 8th in the country with 5.5 sacks and NFL prospect Zach Allen at DE. Conner Strachan leads the defense at LB with 36 tackles on the year and Hamp Cheevers (no really, that’s his name!) is a problem in the secondary with 3 INTs and one returned for a touchdown. This defense has been feast or famine; while they give up some points, they get after the quarterback (T-5th nationally) and force turnovers (T-4th nationally).
How NC State wins:
Win the turnover battle and control the line of scrimmage. Under Dave Doeren, NC State is 25-7 when winning the turnover battle. Last year, all four losses came in games in which State lost that statistic. This becomes even more crucial against a defense that thrives on forcing turnovers. As far as controlling the line of scrimmage, NC State dominated Virginia last week in the trenches all game long. But BC is a definitely a step up in that regard and it won’t come as easily.
However, the O-line has got to have a strong game against this pass rush and the D-line must get push in order to throw the BC offense off schedule. AJ Dillon is a game time decision but honestly it doesn’t matter who lines up in the backfield; they’ve got capable backups and will try to pound the ball down the Pack’s throats. If guys like Murchison and Bryant can wreak havoc in the middle, it could cause some trouble on early downs and force the Eagles to throw the ball on 3rd and long.
How NC State loses:
Please don’t fall in to the BC trap. Please just don’t do it. If it weren’t for Nyheim Hines being able to outrun an entire defense, NC State probably would’ve lost again last year. Even though Dillon is technically a game time decision, you’ve got to think he’s going to play even if he’s only 60-70% healthy. That’s how important he is to this team. If he has his way early on it could cause quite a few problems for the defense.
That would open up the play action pass game that Anthony Brown has been so deadly against. If State has to start stacking the box it could lead to some big plays down the field. BC wants to be able to play with a lead and run the ball until it can’t possibly be run anymore. And this could be even easier for them to accomplish if the defense continues to force turnovers creating shorter fields as well as taking State’s high powered offense off the field.
I do think AJ Dillon suits up and I do think he will have a fine day on the stat sheet. He’s just that good to where he’s probably going to get his on most afternoons. But so far this year the defense has shown the ability to limit big plays and be pretty stout against the run. NC State will force their offense to play off schedule enough and will force field goals in the red zone like they have all year. Oh yeah and Ryan Finley will be wearing red and white, not maroon and gold. He should have a big day against a defense that has given up 30+ points the last three weeks. NC State 34, Boston College 23.