KICKOFF: Saturday, noon ET
SITE: Doak S. Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Fla.
SERIES: Tied 4-4 (last meeting, 2009, Boston College 28-21)
RECORDS: Boston College 2-3, 0-2; Florida State 5-1, 3-0
POLLS: Florida State (16 AP, 17 USA Today)
PREDICTION: Florida State 38-10
KEYS TO THE GAME:
--For Boston College these days, it always starts at the quarterback spot, and there were still no answers as the week moved on. Matt Ryan isn't walking through that door, folks. So, obviously, the Eagles need improved play at the position to stay in this game.
--Slow starts and sloppy play have been the biggest reasons why Florida State hasn't beaten BC since 2007. The Seminoles had nine penalties and fumbled three times (losing one) in last year's loss at BC. The Seminoles were also dominated at the line of scrimmage, unable to generate a running game. This time, the Seminoles offense seems to be in high gear with a pass-run balance. But the biggest factor in the game will be FSU's mind-set. Is this team refocused after the big win at Miami?
SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
--BC's offense is a mess. It starts at quarterback and spreads to the running game because the quarterback spot has produced very little. The hope is freshman Chase Rettig, injured in the second quarter of his first start two weeks ago, can return this week. Montel Harris, the key to the attack, has been shut down to the tune of just 81 yards over the last two games. The Eagles, long known for their running game, are 110th in the country in rushing (89.8 ypg), a deceivingly high 66th in passing (211.8 ypg), 105th in total offense (301.6 ypg) and 104th in scoring offense (18.8 ppg).
On the other side of the ball, this is not a great BC defense, but it's not a bad one, either. It's really a case of being asked to do too much in light of the offense's struggles. The group seems to be wearing down. LB Luke Kuechly continues to be a tackling machine, and LB Mark Herzlich is now playing with a busted hand. DE Alex Albright, finally getting a chance to play and not watch because of injury, has stood out up front.
Only Georgia Tech, which runs the option and throws sparingly, is ahead of Florida State among ACC teams in rushing yards. The Seminoles rank 16th nationally in rushing offense (223.5 ypg), a stat that makes you pause when thinking how badly this team once struggled to gain anything on the ground. A year ago at this point, FSU QB Christian Ponder was averaging 297 yards passing. Right now, he's averaging 170. But if there is something the Seminoles need to do better, it's throw vertical passes. The majority of passing yards for this team has come from screens and quick hits, not drop-back downfield throws.
After visible improvement in the three games since the Sept. 11 debacle at Oklahoma, everyone wanted to see how FSU's defense measured against Miami. It was the first time since the Sept. 11 game that the Seminoles faced a team with fast athletes and a solid offensive line. It turned out better than maybe FSU coaches hoped. FSU controlled the line of scrimmage and defended the pass well. This group continues to rank No. 1 among FBS teams in sacks (4.33 per game) and is fifth in tackles for loss (8.67).
Eagles: Boston College has been outscored 94-30 in its first three-game losing streak since 1998. That team lost six in a row en route to a 4-7 finish that represents the last time BC didn't go bowling. ... BC was 5-for-17 on third-down conversions against North Carolina State, moving to just 21-for-75 for the season. ... The Eagles are 3-2 against Florida State since joining the ACC in 2005, winning the last two meetings. ... The Eagles' defense is fifth in the country against the run (80.2 ypg) and now faces a Florida State offense that is averaging 223.50 ypg rushing. BC is 101st against the pass (253.0 ypg), 39th in total defense and tied for 66th in scoring defense. ... Opponents that get inside the BC 20-yard have a tendency to score. The Eagles are tied for 114th in the nation in red-zone defense, yielding 16 scores on 17 tries. But eight of those have been field goals. ... The Eagles are tied for 112th in the country in red-zone efficiency with 11 scores in 16 opportunities.
Seminoles: The Seminoles have now beaten four consecutive opponents by at least 20 points -- something no Florida State team had done since 2000. ... Florida State's offensive line of Rodney Hudson, Ryan McMahon, Andrew Datko, David Spurlock and Zebrie Sanders has combined for 164 career starts. ... The Seminoles are looking for their first 4-0 start in ACC play since 2004. ... Senior QB Christian Ponder ranks seventh in school history in passing yards (5,845) and looks to move past No. 6 Thad Busby (5,916) this week. No. 5 Danny Kanell (6,372) would be the next target after that. ... RB Chris Thompson's 90-yard scoring run against Miami was his second touchdown run covering 80 yards or more. He had an 83-yard dash against BYU. The two plays are the third- and seventh-longest in school history, respectively. ... Sophomore PK Dustin Hopkins already is 14th on FSU's career scoring list with 179 points. With his next field goal -- or three PATs -- he would tie E.G. Green for 13th.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
LB Luke Kuechly -- He doesn't make every tackle for BC. It just seems that way. He had 20 in last week's loss at North Carolina State and has 14 straight games in double digits, dating back to last season. His 14.2 per-game average leads the nation.
RB Montel Harris -- The failure of the quarterbacks makes him a marked man. He has netted only 81 yards on the ground the past two weeks, far off his season-average pace of 77.4 ypg for the season.
LB Mark Herzlich -- His heroic comeback after a year off to fight cancer puts him in the spotlight whether he wants it or not. He has 21 tackles for the season, 17 of them solo stops and 1.5 for losses. He also has two interceptions.
CB Greg Reid -- In the Miami game, facing the best athletes in kick coverage he has seen this season, Reid continued to establish himself as one of the nation's most dangerous returners. He registered a career-high 145 kickoff return yards on four attempts (36.25 avg.), including a season-high 55-yarder, in response to Miami's first touchdown of the game. The sophomore added six solo tackles, including a tackle for loss, and two pass breakups on defense.
TB Chris Thompson -- With the uncertainty about backfield teammate Jermaine Thomas, this could be Thompson's day as the featured tailback. He's coming off a career performance, gaining 158 yards against Miami, headlined by the 90-yard TD run for FSU's last touchdown.
WR Bert Reed -- He caught seven passes for 107 yards last season against Boston College, and the Seminoles could be looking for a way to get him another breakout game. The Seminoles figure to have huge matchup advantages, as they always do, on the edges against BC. The Seminoles may try to feature the passing game this week to gain some more confidence for QB Christian Ponder and spread the field to tire the Eagles quickly.
LB Mark Herzlich (hand, probable), QB Chase Rettig (ankle, day-to-day).