Each Sunday, the Boston Globe's Jim McBride does a scouting report look at the upcoming Patriots' game, I thought it might be interesting to try a similar style weekly article related to BC football. No better place to start than tomorrow's game vs Clemson.
#3 Clemson (5-0 overall, 2-0 ACC) at BC (3-2 overall, 0-2 ACC)
When: Friday, 7:30 PM
Where: Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, MA (44,500)
Line: Westgate Vegas - Clemson by 16, The Book - Clemson by 23.8
Series history: Clemson lead 14-9-2, in Boston, Clemson leads 7-6-1
Last game vs BC: at Clemson 34 BC 17 - 2015
Last game at BC: Clemson 17 at BC 13 - 2014
Last BC win: 2010 - 16-10 at BC
Win Streak: Clemson 5
When Clemson Runs:
Advantage: Boston College
Clemson run offense: 167.8 ypg, 73rd in the nation, Boston College run defense: 78.0 ypg, 6th in the nation
Well it sure better be. Clemson doesn't need to run the ball to win the game, but Dabo Swinney has made it abundantly clear that they want to and when they do run the ball they are simply a better team. The Tigers made a statement on Saturday night running for 201 yards against Louisville after not managing more than 138 yards in any of their previous FBS level games this season. Now the UL run defense wasn't fantastic and the game was at home, but it does signal a direction that the CU wishes to take.
In the one game where the Eagle defense struggled at Virginia Tech, the Hokies were able to run for 223 yards on 50 attempts employing many of the same ideas from an offensive design as does Clemson.
If the Eagle defense gets spread out, will the defensive line alone be able to contain the run game? Will they be able deal with the mobility of Deshaun Watson? In the VT game, although the stats don't bear it out, the usual disruptive suspects of the Eagle D, Matt Milano and Connor Strachan, seemed to be negated.
At home, I think the defense steps up and limits Clemson's exploits on the ground. If they don't, this will be a very long evening.
When Clemson Passes:
Clemson pass offense: 295.6 ypg, 29th in the nation, Boston College pass defense: 124.0 ypg, 1st in the nation
Although the Eagles led the nation in yards per game allowed and are 17th in the country in overall pass efficiency defense, it does seem that so much of this has been predicated on the competition. Against UMass, Wagner and Buffalo, BC controlled the opposition offensive line, although outside of Harold Landry, they were unable to get consistently to the QB without blitzing. Against the Hokies, where the defense got spread out, Jerod Evans put up a 225 passer rating equating to a 93.2 QBR.
The Eagles are 12th in the nation in sacks at 3.2 per game, but had just one in the VT loss.
John Johnson has been exposed in coverage and you can better believe Clemson will make use of mismatches in the secondary with Mike Williams, Deon Cain, Artavis Scott and Ray-Ray McCloud. BC hasn't seen this number of weapons from an offense since last year's game in Death Valley.
When Boston College Runs:
Boston College run offense: 163.0 ypg, 76th in the nation, Clemson run defense: 128.8 ypg, 38th in the nation
To keep the game close, BC needs to be able to run the ball. BC is 100th in the country in scoring offense at 23.4 ppg and that is against three of the weaker teams in the country including FCS Wagner, so to get this into a back and forth scoring battle like the USC game in 2014, probably isn't something the Eagles will be successful with.
Based on the level of effort BC puts into the running game and the opposition, those numbers should be a lot better. The offensive line has been unable to carve out any sort of room consistently for the backs to run and when they have run, Jon Hilliman hasn't looked as sharp as he did in 2014.
The Clemson defense won't mind playing this game in a phone booth and BC doesn't have the speed to play it in on the edge. Tough proposition.
In the Virginia Tech game, the Eagles were only able to manage 44 yards rushing. They will do better than that Friday night, but at VT they lost 49-0...lots of room to improve.
When Boston College Passes:
Boston College pass offense: 172.6 ypg, 110th in the nation, Clemson pass defense: 159.6 ypg, 14th in the nation
Statistically, BC has done a pretty good job keeping offensive balance, but we all know how skewed some of those numbers are to get to the average we have here. If anything about this game is most concerning it is the ability for BC to throw it.
The Clemson front sacked Louisville's Lamar Jackson five times in the game last week and is 7th in the country in sacks per game at 3.60. BC's offensive line has struggled to provide time for Patrick Towles, despite allowing only four sacks all year.
BC needs to throw on early downs with success, run some crossing routes to get press corners off in coverage and give Towles at least a chance to make plays downfield.
Towles for his part, must make good decisions and not provide anything easy to a team that doesn't need any help.
Boston College Keys To Victory:
1. How will the secondary hold up - Isaac Yiadom has been a real pleasant surprise in the secondary, but the Tigers have so many weapons. If BC needs to commit more defenders in the box or send blitzers to disrupt Watson (big night for Harold Landry), it further exposes a secondary that let the Eagles down against both Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech and comes into the game at a definite disadvantage athletically.
2. The offensive line - BC's best chance is to create a wildly shortened game and that is directly related to running the ball. If the offensive line can create marginal gains on the ground while providing some time for Patrick Towles to throw, the odds of making this a second half game improve greatly.
3. Hidden yards - While the Eagle offense may struggle to move the ball, flipping field position to get those hidden yards, particularly in the punt game is necessary. Average starting field position has to drastically favor BC to have a chance.
Clemson Keys To Victory:
1. Prevent a Louisville hangover - The Tigers got a lot of their mojo back in the Louisville game, but with all that emotion and energy expended, it will be natural to have a let down. The thing here is that it appears Clemson has an enormous margin for error, remember they turned the ball over five times vs the Cards (-2 TO margin) and still won.
2. Stay balanced offensively - If the Eagles can take away the run with the front four and allow additional help from the linebackers to support the secondary, BC becomes much more stout. The ability for Wayne Gallman to run and for CU to be between 150 and 200 yards running would definitely please Dabo Swinney.
3. The first, first down - This is what tempo teams rely on and if they can get that going and keep the Eagle defense on the field, the big plays will follow.