Our Boston Globe style look at today's game between North Carolina State and Boston College.
BC (4-5 overall, 1-5 ACC) at Florida State (6-3 overall, 3-3 ACC)
When: 7:30 PM
Where: Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, FL (82,300)
Line: Westgate Vegas - Florida State by 21, The Book - Florida State by 33.1
Series history: Florida State leads 10-4, in Tallahassee - Florida State leads 4-2
Last game vs BC: Florida State 14 at BC 0 - 2015
Last game at Florida State: at Florida State 20 at BC 17 - 2014
Last BC win: 2009 - at BC 28 Florida State 21
Win Streak: Florida State 6
When Florida State Runs:
Advantage: Boston College
Florida State run offense: 190.7 ypg, 49th in the nation, Boston College run defense: 106.6 ypg, 8th in the nation
The FSU run game has been horribly inconsistent on the season. Solid in three games (North Carolina, Clemson and South Florida), two of which they lost and otherwise pretty poor including last week's 63 yards on 24 carries in the narrow win at NC State.
The young offensive line has struggled at times with both penalties and creating holes for the explosive Dalvin Cook to run through.
Cook without a doubt is the real deal, but last year in Chestnut Hill, BC did a great job of shutting him down with 15 carries for 54 yards and only one explosive play of 28 yards, so in the other 14 carries, Cook managed just 26 yards. The focus of the BC defense once again needs to be on stopping Cook.
BC meanwhile although 8th in the country against the run, has given up 45 yards more per game vs ACC opposition than non ACC and versus Power 5 teams with winning records, BC ranks #66 in the country at 195 yards per game. This is one that the Eagles can control and need to control to be competitive.
When Florida State Passes:
Advantage: Florida State
Florida State pass offense: 279.7 ypg, 29th in the nation, Boston College pass defense: 216.0 ypg, 48th in the nation
This appears to be another situation where the Eagles secondary is going to have to come up big against a talented group of Seminole receivers. FSU has really struggled against quality defensive lines to protect QB Deondre Francois. FSU is #116 in the country in sacks allowed at over 3 per game and we know that is something that BC, with Harold Landry, Zach Allen and Matt Milano can definitely create.
Francois is an extremely tough character though, taking a beating virtually every week and continuing to produce.
The problem though is what happens when Francois can actually get rid of the ball, there BC has real problems. Against Power 5 opposition with winning records, BC's pass efficiency rating is #122 in the country, so if you can get the pass off, there's a really good chance it will be caught and although Florida State doesn't have quite the quality of receivers we saw last week against Louisville, Travis Rudolph, Jesus "Bobo" Wilson, emerging stars Nyqwan Murray and Auden Tate and once again, that guy, Dalvin Cook out of the backfield give Francois a myriad of solid options to throw to.
When Boston College Runs:
Advantage: Florida State
Boston College run offense: 157.6 ypg, 88th in the nation, Florida State run defense: 153.8 ypg, 51st in the nation
The Seminole defense has been far from dominant this season. Under Charles Kelly FSU ranks a shocking 73rd in the country in total defense allowing over 410 yards per game and the usually stout Nole rush defense is giving up the most yards they have per carry since BC's last win in the series in 2009. The stats may be a bit deceiving though as most of those yards came in back to back games against Louisville and South Florida where FSU allowed nearly seven yards per pop. In the other seven games, teams have rushed for only 3.3 YPC.
BC averages just 3.65 yards per carry on the season, has dropped 21 spots nationally in yards per game over the last two weeks and in three games against ranked opposition has averaged only 2.27 yards per carry.
The key to FSU defense whether it be against the run or the pass is DE DeMarcus Walker. The 6'3 280 lb senior has been dominant against both run and pass contributing 11 tackles for loss on the season tying him with BC's Harold Landry for 34th in the country. NG Derrick Nnadi has been a handful as well and we know how difficult the push in the middle of the line has been for BC all season long.
For BC, the thought going into the season was that it would be Jon Hilliman leading the way, but as we know that hasn't materialized and in the past few weeks, we've seen more and more of Davon Jones, who unlike Hilliman is getting a respectable 4.39 ypc.
When Boston College Passes:
Advantage: Florida State
Boston College pass offense: 154.6 ypg, 117th in the nation, Florida State pass defense: 257.3 ypg, 96th in the nation
Certainly this is not the FSU secondary we've become accustomed to in the past. 96th in the country is just not "Nole like" but that is the situation this year. Teams that have wanted to air it out, in general have had success throwing on the FSU corners, provided they can hold up under the pressure brought by Walker.
Both Clemson and NC State have touched up FSU for over 300 yards a piece in the air in the past two weeks, but we know that is not BC's style or forte. Another thing to be careful of here are turnovers, Florida State has 12 interceptions on the season and with Patrick Towles propensity for some poor decisions, the receivers for dropped or tipped balls and BC destined to be in more than a few third and longs, this is an area of concern.
That said, it also appears to be a potential opportunity for BC to take advantage of. Like games against Syracuse and NC State though, can they do that?
Boston College Keys To Victory:
1. Get to Deondre Francois - The Eagles don't have a lot of matchup advantages but particularly when they bring blitzers, BC has the ability to put a signficant hurt on Nole QB Deondre Francois. Can those hits lead to poor decisions and turnovers for scores and field position is the key for any chance at an Eagle win.
2. Limit Dalvin Cook big plays - Last week we saw what a one man wrecking crew Lamar Jackson could be, BC can't let the same thing happen with Dalvin Cook. He needs someone to get him the ball obviously and won't (or shouldn't) throw it, but FSU uses Cook in a variety of ways and he is one of the best pass catching running backs int he country. One of the reasons the game stayed close last year was that Cook didn't break off the big run or pass reception, it has been something that this year, the Eagle defense has shown a propensity to give up.
3. Can they grind it out - BC and FSU are 1/2 in the conference in time of possession, so hoping to play a field position game and shorten the contest is probably going to be more likely than in the Louisville or Syracuse games were. The question is can BC gain enough yards on the ground to make that strategy plausible.
Florida State Keys To Victory:
1. Friday night fright - or which FSU teams shows up? This is a really young Nole squad and as one would expect, with youth comes immaturity and a lack of focus. Sky high against Clemson and indifferent against NC State and now playing BC. My thought is that with a night game and this being senior night in Tallahassee the Eagles get at least a B or B+ effort out of FSU.
2. Keep Francois upright - We've seen that BC can't cover in the secondary and we've seen that FSU has trouble in pass protection but when given time (and sometimes even when he doesn't have time), Deondre Francois can be effective. The Noles have enough weapons on the outside to punish BC, if they can keep Francois from getting buried.
3. The D Line Dominates - Nnadi and Walker are the real deal and given BC's inability to move the ball at all via air or ground, you can see the FSU D Line providing its offense with either a score or great field position.
This game shouldn't be like the Louisville one. FSU doesn't play at that tempo or have the quantity of really, really big play receivers or the QB play that the Cardinals had, nor do they have the offensive line play of the UofL, those are pretty good reasons whey the Cards blasted them earlier in the season. However, this is still one very talented football team, playing at home and the few areas that BC could potentially take advantage of (throwing the ball in particular) the Eagles simply aren't in a position to do it. Limit Dalvin Cook and the game stays reasonably close, but no reason to think on a Friday night in Tallahassee the Eagles can generate the offense to win.