Opponent Preview: Boston College Eagles

Like Maryland, Boston College became bowl eligible last week with a 38-21 victory against N.C. State. The Eagles (6-4) have exceeded expectations under first-year coach Steve Addazio and are currently on a two-game winning streak heading into Saturday's 3:30 p.m. game in College Park, Md.

Like Maryland, Boston College became bowl eligible last week with a 38-21 victory against N.C. State. The Eagles (6-4) have exceeded expectations under first-year coach Steve Addazio and are currently on a two-game winning streak heading into Saturday's 3:30 p.m. game in College Park, Md.

Brown out: It's surprising to see a Don Brown-led defense that ranks near the bottom of the conference in most statistical categories. It's hard to blame the defensive coordinator, though, as BC just doesn't have a ton of depth or athletes to execute his attacking, junkyard dog-style defense. And, really, the group hasn't been as bad as the numbers suggest, as the Eagles have come up with key stops when they've had to (see: intercepting Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas inside the red zone to help pull out a win against the Hokies).

Even so, stats are stats, and they don't lie. Boston College sits at the bottom of the conference and is 90th in the country in total defense, allowing 429 yards per game. The 27.4 points they surrender per outing is 13th out of 14 ACC teams, and the 277 passing yards Boston College gives up every game is worst in the league and 113th nationally. They are middle of the pack in rushing defense (152.4), though part of the reason for that is opposing offenses are too busy exposing BC's secondary.

But the Eagles had one of their better games against N.C. State last week, allowing 360 total yards and a measly 35 rushing yards (1.3 YPC). The Wolfpack averaged just 5.5 yards per play as well, though they did throw for 325 yards as the Eagles once again had lapses in the secondary.

Record breaker: Running back Andre Williams may not be a serious Heisman Trophy candidate, and that's a shame. After breaking the school record for rushing yards in a game with 295 two weeks ago against New Mexico State, Williams topped the mark against N.C. State. Williams' 339-yard day was the most rushing yards for a back during an FBS game this year and broke the ACC record set by Wake Forest's John Leach in 1993.

Not only did he set single-game marks, but Williams also surpassed former BC running back Mike Cloud's 1,729 total yards for the most in school history. Williams is up to 1,810 yards on the season with two games (plus a bowl) to go.

Run, run and run some more: As you might have guessed given Andre Williams' rushing prowess, Boston College's offense is a run-heavy attack that resembles something out of a Woody Hayes playbook. The Eagles run-pass ratio is almost 2-to-1 with 405 carries and only 206 passes (second least in the ACC). BC averages 5.4 yards per carry and 217 rushing yards per game, best in the ACC. On top of that, 18 of the Eagles' 32 touchdowns have come on the ground, with Williams accounting for 14 of them.

So while spread squads put up gaudy numbers and roll up 500 yards per game, BC is content to move the chains, drain clock and get their 300, 400 total yards. In fact, the Eagles rank near the bottom of the ACC and 91st nationally with 369 yards per game. It hasn't affected their ability to score, though. The Eagles are in the upper half of the ACC with 28.1 points per game.

In the red: The Eagles are in the green when they've been in the red zone this year -- on both sides of the ball. Their red zone offense is second in the ACC and fifth nationally as BC has converted 96 percent of its opportunities. Granted, the Eagles have only had 22 attempts, least in the conference, but when the offense does get close it tends to come up with points (one interception notwithstanding). BC has come away with 13 touchdowns and converted all eight of its field goal tries when deep in opposing territory.

Defensively, the Eagles haven't been quite as good, but they do rank in the middle of the ACC, allowing teams to convert on 81 percent of their chances. Foes have penetrated the BC 20-yard line 32 times and come away with 20 touchdowns and six field goals.

Last week, BC was 3-of-3 in red-zone opportunities and held N.C. State to one score on two attempts.

Third down woes: While BC has, for the most part, gotten the job done in the red zone, the Eagles have struggled a bit on third down. Opponents are converting more than 40 percent of their third-down chances, which puts BC in the league's lower half. Even worse is the Eagles' offensive efficiency, as, despite the prowess of one Andre Williams, BC hasn't done well moving the chains. Only 16 teams in the country rank lower in third-down conversion percentage than BC, which sports a 33-percent success rate.

Against N.C. State, though, BC saw more positive results. The Wolfpack converted just 35 percent of third downs, while the Eagles' offense was at 47 percent.

Limiting mistakes: While BC's pass defense is nothing to write home about and has only eight picks all year, the Eagles still have a plus-6 turnover margin, which is fourth in the conference. That's mainly because the Eagles' offense has had just four interceptions and six lost fumbles all year, making them one of the least turnover-prone teams in Division I-A (No. 6). It does help that the defense has recovered eight fumbles, tied for third most in the ACC.

Staying disciplined: In addition to keeping turnovers to a minimum, the Eagles also don't commit many penalties. In fact, they are fourth in the country in fewest yellow flags drawn with 35. Last week, though, BC had an uncharacteristic five infractions, which is still a low number for most teams.

For a team that likes to run the ball…: BC does not have a commanding time of possession advantage. The Eagles hold the ball for about 29 minutes per game, ranking them right in the middle of the conference. But last week, buoyed by Andre Williams' 339 rushing yards, BC did have an eight-minute edge over N.C. State.

Game manager: Though quarterback Chase Rettig (6-3, 206, Sr.) has only thrown 204 passes and averages 152 yards per game (second worst in the conference), he's actually been quite effective with his limited reps. Rettig, who was just 8 of 15 for 53 yards against N.C. State, has the fourth best efficiency rating in the ACC. He has completed 129 of his 204 throws (63.2 percent) for 1,516 yards and 14 touchdowns. That's one touchdown every 14.5 throws, the second best rate in the league.

Moreover, Rettig has tossed only four picks all season and rarely tries to force a play that's not there. He has made a few bonehead throws, drawing the ire of the staff, but for the most part he's managed the offense and let the running game lead the way.

Running wild: Andre Williams (6-0, 227, Sr.) is the nation's leading rusher, and as he goes, BC goes. A tough, physical runner with breakaway speed to boot, Williams, who leads the country with 288 attempts, is averaging 6.3 yards per carry, 181 total yards per game (tops in the ACC) and has scored a league-best 14 touchdowns.

Williams has rushed for at least 100 yards eight times this season, and on four occasions he topped the mark before halftime. Last week against N.C. State he had 100 yards in the first quarter alone and later topped the 200 plateau for the fourth time in 2013. On 42 carries, Williams averaged 8.1 yards per tote against the Wolfpack, broke off runs of 65 and 40 yards (his long this year is 80) and scored two touchdowns.

Naturally, with Williams hogging the carries, there's not much room for a No. 2. And indeed, backup Myles Willis (5-9, 187, Fr.) only has 34 attempts all year. He is, however, averaging 7.1 yards per carry, has gained 251 yards and has seen the end zone twice.

While Williams garners the headlines and generates plenty of yards after contact, the unsung hero is fullback Jake Sinkovec (6-4, 244, Sr.). Sinkovec doesn't have a carry all year, but he's a traditional mauler who can open up house-sized holes.

Collectively, BC's rushing attack is picking up 217.2 yards per game, which is second most in the ACC and No. 21 in the nation.

The Hogs: With every great running back comes a sturdy offensive line, and there's no doubt BC has one of the best -- at least in terms of run blocking. A hulking, nasty and cohesive group, the front five are old-school downhill blockers who pride themselves on knocking D-linemen off the ball. Sure, the line owned the likes of New Mexico State and N.C. State, which feature weaker defenses, but they also helped the Eagles' runners gain 196 yards against the nation's then-fourth-ranked run defense, Virginia Tech, and 200 yards against the then-No. 21 run defense, Florida State.

The key, according to the BC coaches and players, is all five starters have played all 10 games. Cohesiveness is essential, and it's a major reason why the Eagles' rushing attack, which ranked 113th in the country last year, is up to No. 21 this season.

A pair of seniors, Matt Patchan (6-6, 300, Sr.) and Ian White (6-5, 302, Sr.), man the tackle spots, with the former blocking the blindside. On the interior, BC features three juniors in left guard Bobby Vardaro (6-5, 310, Jr.), center Andy Gallik (6-3, 302, Jr.) and right guard Harris Williams (6-3, 298, Jr.). All five are returning starters, all five have plenty of experience and all five love to hit.

If there is a knock (and it's really not a huge knock), though, it's their pass blocking. BC has allowed 19 sacks this season, which is middle of the road in the ACC. Chase Rettig was sacked twice last week, but for the most part he's had time to sit in the pocket.

Amidon and...?: The Eagles' receivers have been one of the squad's least consistent units. While BC doesn't pass a whole lot, there really aren't many true game changers who scare opposing secondarys. That's especially true with several key guys going down with injuries (Harrison Jackson, Spiffy Evans, Brian Miller). That said, Alex Amidon (6-0, 182, Sr.) has been Chase Rettig's go-to-guy, hauling in 62 passes for 760 yards and four touchdowns. He led the way with five catches for 34 yards last week and is 10th in the ACC with 76 receiving yards per game.

After Amidon, however, the next-best Eagle wideout has 11 catches. That's right, BC's No. 2, David Dudeck (5-11, 190, So.), has 51 catches less than the top option.

C.J. Parsons (6-6, 253, Jr.), meanwhile, has more starts this year (10) than he does receptions (six). He does have two touchdowns, though, so he's at least made them count. Mike Naples (6-4, 237, Sr.) has started eight games this year and also has just six receptions. He's totaled 119 yards and has a touchdown as well.

Living in the backfield: Boston College's defense has struggled in some areas this year, but getting after the quarterback is not one of them. The team has 29 sacks, third most in the ACC, and the defensive line has contributed 14 of them.

Defensive end Kasim Edebali (6-3, 246, Sr.) picked up a sack against N.C. State and has 9.5 for the season, 11th most in the nation. Edebali also has 13.5 TFLs, 50 total stops, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and four pass breakups.

Classmate Kaleb Ramsey (6-3, 285, Sr.), a defensive end who has missed the last two games and has been in and out of the lineup with injuries, continues to be listed atop the depth chart. In eight outings, he has 23 tackles, two sacks and four TFLs. If Ramsey can't go, BC mainly relies on Brian Mihalik (6-9, 283, Jr.), who had two tackles against State and has 14 stops and a sack this season.

On the interior, BC starts a pair of upperclassmen at defensive tackle. Jaryd Rudolph (6-3, 275, Sr.) had a big game last week with a sack and a forced fumble. A space eater who takes up blockers, he has 15 stops, 2.5 TFLs and that one sack and forced fumble for the year.

At the second tackle spot, though Connor Wujciak (6-3, 300, So.) has started seven of the 10 games this year, Dominic Appiah (6-5, 291, Jr.) was listed atop the depth chart last week. Either way, neither has made much of an impact as far as stats are concerned. Wujciak had one tackle against N.C. State, and has 15 stops and two TFLs in 2013. Appiah has seven total stops and no other listed stats.

Tackling machines: Boston College's three starting linebackers all lead the team in tackles. Kevin Pierre-Louis (6-1, 225, Sr.) is tops on the squad with 89 stops and had a huge game against N.C. State, racking up a team-high eight tackles and two sacks. For the year, Pierre-Louis has eight TFLs, four sacks and an interception.

At MIKE linebacker, Steele Divitto (6-2, 237, Sr.) is coming off an eight-tackle game as well, and has 88 stops in 2013. Divitto's also tallied 4.5 TFLs and two sacks to go along with four pass breakups.

Weakside linebacker Steven Daniels (6-0, 249, So.) ranks third on the squad with 69 tackles, 5.5 TFLs, a pair of sacks, a pick and a forced fumble. He had five tackles against N.C. State, but he's been hampered by an injury that could affect him going forward.

Josh Keyes (6-2, 215, Jr.) is in the top backup and has 18 tackles, 3.5 TFLs and 2.5 sacks this season.

While not the most athletically gifted group, BC's linebackers do tackle and fill relatively well. Running backs average about 152 rushing yards per game and 3.9 yards per carry against them, putting them in the ACC's middle tier.

As far as pass rushing, defensive coordinator Don Brown likes to move his linebackers around to try and wreak havoc on the backfield. So far it's been working as his multitude of blitzes have resulted in double-digit sacks.

Leaky coverage: When you're giving up 277 passing yards per game, worst in the ACC, there are some issues. This is a group that just gave up 325 passing yards to a Wolfpack team that averaged less than 230 coming in. Simply put, the secondary lacks the pure speed and athleticism to hang with the league's best receivers.

The main positive is these guys can go get the football. Each of the four starting defensive backs have at least one interception and have combined for six of the team's eight this season.

Cornerbacks Manny Asprilla (5-11, 177, Jr.) and Bryce Jones (6-1, 166, So.) have two picks apiece, though each has given up their share of big plays as well. Asprilla didn't make much noise against N.C. State, but he does have 53 tackles, seven TFLs, five breakups and those two interceptions on the season. Jones had three stops and a TFL last week, and has tallied 38 stops, 2,5 TFLs, two picks and a breakup through 10 games.

Strong safety Dominique Williams (6-0, 212, Jr.) is up to 49 tackles after recording two last week. He has 2.5 TFLs, an interception and a breakup, but has been exposed in coverage on occasion. Same goes for free safety Sean Sylvia (6-0, 208, Jr.), who leads the secondary with 56 tackles but once in awhile has communication errors. Sylvia had one stop and a TFL against N.C. State, and has one interception and a pass breakup for the year.

Special Teams: Jack-of-all-trades kicker Nate Freese (5-11, 192, Sr.) is the best in the ACC. Not only has he converted all 14 of his field-goal attempts, but he's also averaging 42.5 yards per punt. Freese has connected on his only 50-yard attempt, all three of his 40-49 yard chances, all five between 30-39 yards, and five more between 20-29 yards. As for punting, he's ranked fifth in the conference in yards per punt, has placed 20 punts inside the 20-yard line and has 13 boots of 50-plus yards. Freese handles the team's kickoffs as well and has 42 touchbacks on 57 attempts.

As for the return game, kick returner Myles Willis (5-9, 187, Fr.) has been electrifying so far, ranking fourth in the ACC with a 26.5-yard average. He brought one boot back 98 yards for a touchdown. Dave Dudeck (5-11, 190, So.) is the second option, and he's averaging 16.2 yards on eight returns.

Spiffy Evans (5-11, 190, Jr.) handles most of the punt bring-backs. So far he has a dozen returns and is picking up 12.2 yards per with a long of 34.

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