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Coach's Corner: Evaluating BC-UConn

What are the keys to Eagles-Huskies?

Patrick Towles goes against UConn today
Patrick Towles goes against UConn today
Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

Our Boston Globe style look at today's game between North Carolina State and Boston College.

UConn (3-7 overall, 1-6 American) at BC (4-6 overall, 1-6 ACC)

When:  1:00 PM
Where:  Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, MA (44,500)
Line:  Westgate Vegas - BC by 8.5, The Book - BC by 10.4
Series history:  Boston College leads 10-0-2, in Chestnut Hill - Boston College leads 5-0-1
Last game vs BC:  at BC 27  Connecticut 17 - 2004
Last game at BC: at BC 27 Connecticut 17 - 2004
Last BC win: at BC 27 Connecticut 17 - 2004
Win Streak: Boston College 9

When Connecticut Runs:

Advantage: Boston College
Connecticut run offense: 123.0 ypg, 114th in the nation, Boston College run defense:  113.9 ypg, 15th in the nation

The UConn rush offense has been essentially anemic this season, but it is definitely a key to a possible Husky win.  Only in their 20-9 win over Cincinnati was UConn able to average in excess of 4 yards per carry.  On the season, they average 3.26 YPC and in the past two games, a 41-3 loss at East Carolina and a 21-0 loss vs Temple, they ran 59 total times for 180 yards.  JR RB Arkeel Newsome leads the Huskies with 549 yards on the season, but similar to what we saw last week out of Deondre Francois, don't be surprised if UConn relies fairly heavily on FR QB Donovan Williams who replaced former starter Bryant Shirreffs and ran for 66 yards on 16 carries last week.  BC had trouble accounting for Francois in the run game.

When Connecticut Passes:

Advantage: Boston College
Connecticut pass offense: 218.1 ypg, 84th in the nation, Boston College pass defense:  218.0 ypg, 52nd in the nation

BC's pass defense has fallen on hard times over the past several weeks.  Once in the top ten nationally, the Eagles are down at #52 after being lit up by both Lamar Jackson and Deondre Francois in successive games.  In WR Noel Thomas, the Huskies have their best offensive weapon.  Thomas a 6'1 202 SR is physically strong and tough and has 87 receptions on the year, a full 68 more than the second leading receiver on the team ranking him 10th nationally.  The UConn passing game is more control than big play or score, with the team only accounting for 7 receiving touchdowns on the year.  The big question here though is whether the Husky offensive line can hold up against the BC pass rush and whether Donovan Williams can make plays through the air.  UConn is #112 in the country in sacks allowed at 3.0 per game while BC is #14 in the country in sacks per game defensively.  The book is definitely out on Williams after only one game where he completed 12-21 for a mere 69 yards in the Temple loss.

When Boston College Runs:

Advantage: Boston College
Boston College run offense: 151.4 ypg, 96th in the nation, Connecticut run defense:  134.4 ypg, 32nd in the nation

On paper, it looks as if this is an area where UConn can control Boston College and get them into passing situations the way other teams have, but closer inspection seems to indicate that a team dedicated to the run game has had success.  The Huskies gave up 216 yards on the ground last week to Temple and when your leading tackler is a safety, such is the case with Obi Melifonwu, that's never a good sign.  We know Steve Addazio won't quit pounding the rock and in this case, it most likely will have long term success.

When Boston College Passes:

Advantage:  Boston College
Boston College pass offense: 144.1 ypg, 120th in the nation, Connecticut pass defense:  282.7 ypg, 119th in the nation

I have gone back and forth for this one and although UConn has been lit up by Houston, Syracuse and East Carolina in the passing game..they got lit up by three accomplished passing teams and BC certainly doesn't fit that mold.  That said, everyone has had some level of success throwing the ball with the Huskies giving up almost 64% completions on the year.  Junior safety Jamar Summers is Connecticut's big play man in the secondary.  Although BC shouldn't be dominant in the passing game by any stretch of the imagination, it is likely that Patrick Towles is at least more efficient than usual and certainly better than last week at FSU.

Boston College Keys To Victory:

1. Take advantage of a mediocre offensive line - This has been a strength of the BC defense all year long and today should be no exception.  Look for Harold Landry to have another big day rushing off the edge against a UConn line which has not been good.

2. Back in a comfort zone - Get in a huddle, take your time, ball control..old school football. This is where the BC defense is in it's comfort zone and this is what they will see this week against the Huskies.  The more base the team, the more the Eagle defense thrives.

3. Where are their heads - 97-14 the past two weeks is something that can't be overlooked.  This has been a program historically that has pride and hasn't totally packed it in, although we've seen some chinks in that at times this season.  A bowl bid is still in play, although one has to wonder whether this team, with this cloud hanging over its head wants that, or just wants the season to end.

Connecticut Keys To Victory:

1. A big day for Noel Thomas - The senior is UConn's biggest offensive weapon and a real difference maker in their biggest games of the year.  He had 14 catches vs Syracuse, 11 vs Navy and 12 vs South Florida.  I don't see any scenario where Thomas doesn't come up large and UConn wins.

2.  How does Donovan Williams perform - UConn fans are excited about the possibilities of Williams play, but he is a freshman and certainly didn't light the world on fire last week against Temple.  Although he may pose some problems with his feet, if he can't connect with Thomas, it is hard to see Connecticut moving the ball at all, forget about consistently. He will need help from an offensive line that has struggled to protect.

3. Forcing some turnovers - UConn is 73rd in the country, -.10 turnovers per game.  Assuming that the offense has trouble moving the ball, UConn will need some short fields to get easy points.

Prediction:

The best thing I can say about this one is that it will probably be over in a shorter time than most games.  With both teams traditional ball possession teams, we should be out of there right at 3 hours.  What scares me is that despite UConn's record, they have been competitive in games against teams you can compare to BC such as Syracuse and Virginia, however starting a freshman QB and seemingly no ability to move the ball at all, I look for BC  to do just enough when they have the ball to prevail in what will most likely be a close, but snoozer of a game.

Boston College 17 Connecticut 7