BC vs. Wake Forest Preview

There are hundreds of reasons why Labor Day Weekend is a fun time, but the number one reason on my list is that the college football season begins. Normally, the first weekend of games is pretty scarce for big match-ups.

Most teams get a cupcake opponent on their schedule, so if they get the game off to a sloppy start they can still manage to win. The big boys almost treat it like a dress rehearsal.

For Boston College, that isn't the case. So if your wife is dragging you to the Van Trapp Family Lodge in Vermont this weekend, don't bother reading the rest of this preview. You're just going to be jealous that you're missing one of BC's most important games of the year against the defending ACC Champions.

Last season WF exceeded expectations - think getting set up on a blind date and the girl ends up looking like Jessica Simpson. The Demon Deacons had a magical season in '06, as they overcame injuries to their top 2 QB's and almost all of their RB's on the way to capturing the ACC Championship. In my mind, WF coach Jim Grobe had one of the top 5 coaching performances in ACC history.

BC is hoping that their new coach Jeff Jagodzinski can help pull together their 1st ACC Title. The Eagles have had some solid seasons in the past, but they've never been able to get over that last hurdle.

One thing's for sure: a loss by either team right off the bat is going to seriously hurt conference title hopes for either side

When Boston College runs: Advantage Boston College

Coach Jags will bring his zone blocking scheme to BC, and it will get a good test right off the bat. That's because that sometimes the best way to attack the zone blocking scheme is by having a smaller, quicker front seven, and that's exactly how Wake's personnel stacks up.

On the other hand, if it was that easy to railroad the zone blocking scheme then it would be pretty easy for any team to stop it. The big part of penetrating the scheme is good reads and good tackling. The Demon Deacons enter this season without 3 of their top 4 tacklers from last year, including their #1 tackler, Jon Abbate, who left school early for the NFL. Without him, I believe there's going to be transition period for the run defense that won't get solved in just one game.

Recently RB LV Whitworth has been banged up, so look for Andre Callender to solidify himself as the #1 back on Saturday. This is a good opportunity for Callender to show that he can handle the bulk of the workload on his own. A 100+ yard rushing day sure wouldn't hurt that.

When Boston College Passes: Advantage Boston College

In last year's meeting Matt Ryan torched the Demon Deacons' secondary for 400+ yards. With the departure of star safety Josh Gattis to the NFL as well as other safety Patrick Ghee, you have to figure that the WF secondary will be just as vulnerable- if not more vulnerable- this time around. With this being the 1st game of the year, there will still be a lot of kinks to be worked out for WF without their safeties that were the glue of their defense. By the way, before it sounds like I'm glorifying Gattis and Ghee, WF still ranked 11th in the ACC in pass defense last year with those two guys. In other words, their pass defense is defiantly a weak part of the team.

One area in particular where I see a mismatch is wide-outs Kevin Challenger or Brandon Robinson going up again CB Kevin Patterson in man-to-man coverage. In the past Patterson has let opposing receivers get position on him in their pass routes. With Ryan's accuracy I think he can hit Challenger or Robinson all day on slant patterns or curls.

WF will show BC both zone and man-to-man coverage, and as long as Ryan is patient he should have a pretty big day passing.

When Wake Forest runs: Advantage Boston College 

Don't think that the Demon Deacons are the only ones who have stars to replace on their defense. The Eagles must find a replacement for Brian Toal who is taking a medical red-shirt this season. It was thought Robert Francois would be the man to take over, but that may have to wait at least another week as he is not listed on the two-deep. Enter option #3 at outside LB, Mark Herzlich. The sophomore played in a reserve role last year at MLB, and now must transition to the outside. DC Frank Spaziani didn't seem to think the move would be a big deal for Herzlich, so if Spaz is confident so am I!

As for WF, unlike some of their other positions, they actually are gaining players at the RB position from what they had last year. The best of the bunch is Micah Andrews, who has had some unbelievable performances in his career with the best being 254 yards rushing against Vanderbilt two seasons ago. Andrews is the biggest weapon that WF has on offense, but it remains to be seen if he can stay healthy.

Unfortunately for WF, I think it's going to take at least a week for Andrews to shake the rust off. That fact combined with WF having some real question marks on their offensive line leads me to believe that BC can keep the WF running game in check most of the day. I think BC's veteran defense won't be fooled as much as other teams by Wake's misdirection running plays.

When Wake Forest Passes: Advantage Wake Forest

People not familiar with Wake should know one thing right off the bat: their passing offense is pretty unique. The Demon Deacons run not only a lot of misdirection runs, but lots of misdirection pass plays as well.

When I say ‘misdirection passes', I mean quarterback Riley Skinner will line up in shotgun formation with a running back next to him. In one scenario, Skinner will start running an option to one side with the running back, thus making the defense pursue them. Skinner will then quickly change direction, and roll out to the opposite side of the field and throw a pass. In another scenario, Skinner and his running back will line up the same way, but this time Skinner will run a fake draw play to the running back. The back will pretend to run one way and Skinner will keep the ball and roll out in the other direction. Both plays can be tricky to stop especially when they mix and match the run and the pass. In addition, a wrong step by the BC secondary could lead to a huge play with the speedy Wake Forest receivers.

The biggest weakness I see right now for BC is their secondary. Taji Morris and Paul Anderson raise some serious questions marks based on what I've seen in past performances. Unless BC can keep up a solid pass rush on Saturday, the WF passing game should do pretty well. AT the very least they will throw for more than the 154 yds that they averaged per game last season.

Special Teams: Advantage Wake Forest

I guess a good place to start would be to mention that BC's dangerous KR Jeff Smith may not be playing Saturday. That alone is like a power play for WF right off the bat, but it's not their only distinct special teams advantage.

To say WF kicker/punter Sam Swank is one of the best special teams weapons in the ACC is probably an understatement. Last season, Swank was a candidate for both the Lou Groza Award (Best Place-Kicker) and Ray Guy Award (Best Punter). There's no questioning how good Swank is at both kicking and punting. The real debate is whether Swank is better as a kicker or punter.

As a kicker, Swank was 21-of-127 on the year on FG tries, including a remarkable 5-of-7 from 50+ yards.

As a punter, Swank averaged 41 yards per punt. Even more impressive is that Swank pinned 19 punts inside the 20-yard line as well.

BC doesn't have quite the same weapons in their kicking game. Johnny Ayers is a decent punter but not in the same league as Swank. On top of that, Swank is a much better kicker than BC's kicker for this weekend, Steve Aponavicius, who is filling in for the injured Billy Bennett.

Final Analysis:

Looking back on last year's game, one of the biggest factors for BC losing was their stale play calling. In the 1st half, on 9-of-14 1st down plays BC ran the ball and averaged .44 yards per carry doing so. That's not to mention that on at least five occasions, WF had 8 stacked in the box when BC tried to run on 1st down. Yikes! However, when Dana Bible let Matt Ryan throw on 1st down, BC averaged 8.0 yards per play.

It's understandable that Bible was trying to get the running game established, but when the opposition is daring Matt Ryan to throw the ball on 1st down you have to make them pay for it.

Rest assured new OC Steve Logan will not make the same mistakes and instead will come out on the attack. Matt Ryan and the BC offense should be able to control this game and put up at least 4 TD's on the day. Wake's passing game combined with their solid special teams play will be able to match the Eagles for awhile, but BC's offense is going to be just too much in the end. Vegas likes BC by a little less than a TD, while I like BC by 7-10 points on Saturday.


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