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Coach's Corner: Evaluating BC - Wake Forest

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With the Eagles looking to become officially bowl eligible, we take a look at the 2016 edition of "The Rivalry"

Zach Allen and the Eagle D look to get after John Wolford and the Deacs
Zach Allen and the Eagle D look to get after John Wolford and the Deacs
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Our Boston Globe style look at today's game between Wake Forest and Boston College.

BC (5-6 overall, 1-6 ACC) at Wake Forest (6-5 overall, 3-4 ACC)

When:  3:00 PM
Where:  BB&T Field, Winston-Salem, NC (31,500)
Line:  Westgate Vegas - Wake Forest by 3, The Book - Wake Forest by 7.4
Series history:  Boston College leads 12-9-2, in Winston-Salem - series tied 3-3-1
Last game vs BC:  Wake Forest 3 at Boston College 0 - 2015
Last game at Wake Forest:  Boston College 23 Wake Forest 17 - 2014
Last BC win: Boston College 23 at Wake Forest 17 - 2014
Win Streak: Wake Forest 1

When Wake Forest Runs:

Advantage: Boston College
Wake Forest run offense: 147.3 ypg, 101st in the nation, Boston College run defense:  103.0 ypg, 8th in the nation

Wake Forest is among the nation's most improved teams in running the ball, averaging over 40 more yards per game in 2016 than in 2015, this still leaves the Deacs at #101 the country.  Wake has a fairly balanced attack lead by SO Matt Coburn's 528 yards and FR Cade Carney with 475 yards, but the team averages a rather paltry 3.56 yards per carry (#112) in the country and against the better teams they have played in Clemson, Louisville and FSU has been held to an amazingly low 1.81 yards per attempt.

BC is up seven spots nationally in the past week following the -6 yards total given up against UConn and there is no reason to think the Eagles won't once again completely shut down this type of attack.

When Wake Forest Passes:

Advantage: Boston College
Wake Forest pass offense: 161.3 ypg, 114th in the nation, Boston College pass defense:  209.7 ypg, 40th in the nation

John Wolford, brother of BC fullback Bobby Wolford, is back at QB for Wake after missing last week's game against Clemson with a shoulder injury originally sustained in the Louisville game.  Wolford has suffered from lack of support from his offensive line in the past and this year is no exception with the Deacs allowing nearly 3 sacks per game putting them at #112 in the country.  It also makes Wolford one tough character, willing to stand in under heavy pressure that he is sure to see this week from BC.  Wolford completes just over 56% of his passes on the season, but outside the game at NC State (283 yards), it is tough to find a contest in which the passing game has had any real impact on a game.

The pass catchers, like the running game, is pretty well dispersed, with five receivers having 20 or more catches on the season, but none with more than 33.  Tabari Hines leads in catches, yards and touchdowns, but as a team, Wake has just five passing TDs on the season.

Similarly to what we saw on the run side, BC improved nationally from the UConn beat down, rising 12 spots up to number 40 and like what we saw against the Wake run game, the BC pass rush should have great success getting home to the QB.  If Wolford's shoulder causes problems and getting hit as much as he should it definitely could, the Deacs will go to freshman Kyle Kearns who started against Clemson, but went just 7-18 for 126 yards.

When Boston College Runs:

Advantage: Wake Forest
Boston College run offense: 151.6 ypg, 94th in the nation, Wake Forest run defense:  161.4 ypg, 53rd in the nation

Does good against bad and bad against good ring a bell?  If it does, then say hello to the Wake Forest defense.  While not as totally dominant in some games as the BC defense has been, the Deacon defense has done a better job overall of keeping opposing teams off the scoreboard.  In the last two weeks, Wake has allowed 600 yards and 8 TDs on the ground to Louisville and Clemson, but has allowed 200 or more on only two other occasions, against run happy Army, where they still limited the Cadets to under four yards per carry and at NC State where Matt Dayes ran for 125 of the Packs' 200 total.

FR DB Jessie Bates leads the Deacs in tackles, but it is LB Marquel Lee and DE Duke Ejiofor who are the primary disruptors for Wake.  Lee ranks 12th in the country in tackles for loss, while Ejiofor is 27th.

BC on the other hand is averaging just 2.85 yards per carry in games against FBS teams with winning records and has only gone over 200 yards twice in a game all season, with one of those being against Wagner.  The diversity the Eagles showed using more of Jeff Smith in the Wildcat was effective against UConn and should be something we see more of this week.

When Boston College Passes:

Advantage:  Wake Forest
Boston College pass offense: 147.6 ypg, 120th in the nation, Wake Forest pass defense:  226.9 ypg, 64th in the nation

Last week Patrick Towles had his best overall game of the year, an efficient 14-19 for 183 yards and a TD with no turnovers, against a very porous secondary but a decent pass rush.  The receivers held onto balls and made some big plays including the 54 out and up to Jeff Smith (contributions in both the passing and run game) and the Michael Walker TD catch in the back of the end zone were impressive, but against a very weak secondary.

Wake has been solid against the pass all season, in particular the past two weeks where they have limited both DeShaun Watson and Lamar Jackson, at least for periods of time.  Like BC, Wake has the ability to get to the QB, with Ejiofor (9 sacks -13th in the country ) and Lee (6) leading the way.  The Wake pass rush has produced 32 sacks, just short of BCs 35 on the year.

One would figure the BC passing game goes back to what we have commonly seen this year this week.

Boston College Keys To Victory:

1. Get to the QB - Wolford is clearly not 100% and depth behind him is a concern.  The Eagle defensive line has been dominant most of the year and the Wake offensive line has struggled to protect the QB.

2. Win the kicking game - One of the notable advantages BC has is in the kick return game, both punts and kickoffs.  Where yards will be tough to come, the hidden ones could be most valuable.

3. Create the big play offensively - Both Wake and BC are among the worst in the country at making the big play.  Wake at #123 and BC at #125, the key here though is the BC Defense who in their five wins has allowed just 22 plays of 10 yards or more #3 in the country), in their losses, 90 big plays (#68).

Wake Forest Keys To Victory:

1. Creating turnovers - Wake Forest is 8th in the country in turnover margin and they do it both via the fumble and the interception.  In a game neither side figures to move the ball effectively, creating short fields will be key.

2.  Red zone efficiency - Despite their poor offensive numbers, the Deacs are top 20 in both red zone offense and defense nationally.  It explains an awful lot of the reason that Wake has been able to stay competitive in games where they appear outmanned.

3. No yellow on the ground - BC is one of the more highly penalized teams in the country and Wake one of the least. It isn't just yards, but it is when they occur to stall a drive or defensively allow a drive to stay alive and turn into points that will be a key.

Prediction:

In doing this over the past six weeks, I have noticed that the more information you analyze, the more likely you are to understand the outcome.  The NC State game was the classic case of me being a fan and being down on what was happening and just thinking that on the road, there was no way for BC to win that game, but the information suggested otherwise, that the Pack was ok, but certainly nothing BC could not overcome.  This game is the same thing, but there are even fewer reasons to doubt that the Eagles can win in Winston-Salem.

In the 2015 game, BC dominated Wake statistically but continually blew up any chances they had to win the game with four turnovers and even where it was gifted to them with the late game fumble, still couldn't take it as the Dazzler's game management skills came on full display.

This team is a little better offensively this year, albeit not much, but provided the Eagles can stay away from the turnover bugaboo, should be able to muster just enough against a Wake team that I believe will have an extremely difficult time generating anything against the BC defense.

Boston College 16 Wake Forest 13