Boston College will have their hands full when they travel to Los Angeles to play the USC Trojans in September. But this is certainly a game they can win if things go right for the Eagles. Today we will look at some of the steps BC will need to take if they want to notch their first road victory of the season and first out of conference road win since Syracuse in 2010.
1. Score early and set the tempo. USC has a tradition and fan base that rivals almost any team in the NCAA. Last season alone USC average 87,000 in attendance, or 2 1/2 2012 Alumni Stadium crowds. BC needs to make a statement early by either sustaining a long drive with multiple third down conversions, or scoring a quick touchdown. If there is one vulnerability that USC has is that the fans patience with Lane Kiffin is growing thin. Take the crowd out of the game early and BC could gain a tactical advantage on the road.
However if BC allows a big play to Silas Redd or Marqise Lee early in the game, the fans are going to go beserk, and make life that much more difficult for the Eagles.
2. Block, Block, Block, block, block. Boston College's offensive line will be completely reshaped after the graduation of Emmett Cleary and John Wetzel and the subsequent firing of Frank Spaziani. New offensive line coach Justin Frye is going to have some choices to make ahead of him including who to plug in at tackle, and whether any of the young kids could earn starting jobs. Frank Taylor, Wins Homer, and Matt Patchan could all realistically become starters. The first two games BC plays shouldn't test the line all that much, but USC is a whole other animal.
First off BC is going to see a prolific pass rusher the likes they have not seen in 2013. Morgan Breslin could possibly be the best defensive lineman in the country. But he isn't the only defensive player BC is going to need to account for. Last season the Trojans were 3rd in the country in sacks. However it'll be interesting to see how the schemes change going forward as Monte Kiffin is now in the NFL and Clancy Pendergast takes over the defensive at Southern Cal. USC will get pressure, but a solid run game, and play action pass should allow Rettig some time and prevent costly sacks.
3. Make Max Wittek uncomfortable. Last season, Wittek was thrown to the wolves after Matt Barkley suffered an injury that kept him out of two games. He has some game experience now, but just like BC fans know with Chase Rettig, if you rattle him he can make mistakes.
Just look at last year's Sun Bowl, in which Wittek faced an average Georgia Tech defense, and proceeded to throw 3 interceptions and never got into a rhythm. His inability to do much of anything on offense, kept Marqise Lee in check and held USC to just seven points. Don Brown's defenses have been heralded and if they can go into USC and make life miserable for the sophomore QB, they could become legendary.
4. Run The Ball Down Their Throats. If USC's defense has one Achilles heel, it is their run defense. Last year alone the Trojans allowed 150 yards in rushing 6 times, all eventually led to USC losses. Boston College is going to get blown out of the memorial Coliseum if they try to throw the ball like they did in years past. However if Addazio plays his system, and runs the ball with Andre Williams, Myles Willis, Tajh Kimble 40+ times and the blocking can open some holes, I honestly think BC will have a good chance. Running dictates tempo, and controls game clock, all things BC has lacked under Spaz, Addazio can change all that in USC if he commits to the run.
5. Prevent The Big Plays Last season USC was a monster when it came to big plays. They were 31st in the country in pass plays that went over 25 yards, and 8th in the country in plays that went over 15 yards. Boston College on the other hand was actually middle of the pack when it came to the big plays, finishing 51st in the country in plays over 25+ yards allowed and 10th in the country in plays over 15+ yards. Much of that can be attributed to Spaziani's conservative defense that dictated not gettitng blown up on big plays but did little from stopping the underneath stuff that bled the defense dry.
This season the defensive style is going to be a whole different animal for Boston College. Don Brown is going to put guys like Al Louis Jean & Manny Asprilla out on an island more often in one on one coverage and BC's front line is going to be blitzing much more frequently. While this could make some big defensive plays, and help prevent the awful 3rd down conversion percentage BC had last year, it also leaves them more vulnerable. In years past, Lee would be allowed all the underneath stuff he wanted, but this year BC is going to press him, and that could lead to the big play. If BC wants a chance to win this game, they can't allow him to stretch the field.