Our Boston Globe style look at tomorrow’s game between Central Michigan and Boston College.
Central Michigan (2-2 overall, 0-1 Mid American) at Boston College (1-3 overall, 0-2 ACC)
When: 1:00 PM EDT, TV: ACC Extra, WatchESPN
Where: Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, MA (44,500)
Line: Danny Sheridan opening - BC by 9, The Book - BC by 11.1
Series history: BC leads 3-0 , in Chestnut Hill - BC leads 2-0
Last game vs BC: at Boston College 31 Central Michigan 10 - 2009
Last game at BC: at Boston College 31 Central Michigan 10 - 2009
Last BC win: at Boston College 31 Central Michigan 10 - 2009
Series Win Streak: Boston College 3
My 2017 record vs the Vegas spread: 3-1
My 2017 record straight up: 4-0
Last week: at Clemson 34 Boston College 7, Miami (OH) 31 at Central Michigan 14
When Central Michigan Runs:
Advantage: Boston College
Central Michigan run offense: 147.8 ypg, 85th in the nation, Boston College run defense: 294.8 ypg, 128th in the nation
Central Michigan offers something very different from what BC has seen so far year to date. While every other opponent has been run first and possessed a QB who runs by design, that isn’t the Chippewas M.O. This is an uptempo pass team, which should be a welcome relief for a defense that has struggled against power and QB run teams.
Outside of the opening game where CMU ran for 246 against FCS Rhode Island, the Chippewas have averaged just 115 yards a game against Syracuse, Miami OH and Kansas, who for the most part are better than you might think at least statistically against the run, but not the level of competition for instance that BC has seen.
Sophomore running back Jonathan Ward leads the team in rushing with 295 yards and a 4.76 average, although 147 of those yards came against URI. He has almost twice as many carriers as the team’s second leading rusher.
QB Shane Morris, the Michigan transfer, has carried 25 times, but only for 96 yards and was held to -1 against the Orange on September 16.
There is a belief among some that with the Chippewas receiving corp banged up, they may lean toward a ground game against a rush defense that looks more vulnerable but still will struggle to have more than modest success.
When Central Michigan Passes:
Advantage: Boston College
Central Michigan pass offense: 306.3 ypg, 22nd in the nation, Boston College pass defense: 147.5 ypg, 14th in the nation
Like the URI game skews the rushing stats, the Kansas game where the Chippewas threw for 467 yards and 5 of their 9 TDs, skews the passing stats.
We know how BC has struggled in the passing game, but with the Kansas game as an outlier, CMU has averaged just 5.8 yards per attempt which would put them at least near BC in that regard.
Shane Morris though will wing it, throwing it just above 41 times and averaging just under 300 yards a contest while having 15 different receivers make catches. He has been turnover prone though with 5 interceptions. The Chips will take some shots down field and that may be a tell tale sign of Morris’ mediocre completion percentage either, at just over 50% removing that KU tilt.
Freshman Tony Poljan has seen action in all four games and was 4-5 against Miami OH.
This was considered among the best and most experienced receiving corps in the MAC returning their top four starters, however, like BC in offensive line and linebacking corps, CMU have sustained an incredible amount of injuries. SR Mark Chapman is Morris’ primary target and averages nearly 16 yards a catch with 3 TDs, but the Chips are missing preseason Mackey Watch List TE Tyler Conklin, his backup Logan Hessbrook and WRs Corey Willis (2nd on the team in receptions) and Brandon Childress.
The offensive line has all five starters back, none of which are bonafide stars, but lack depth. They do however, work well as a group, having allowed only two sacks all season, while allowing Morris to hit 16 pass plays of 30 yards or more. However QB pressures and tackles for loss in the run game have been issues
How well BC does against the pass will depend on the pass rush, but even more so on the play of the depleted and inexperienced linebacking corps who are now put into service.
Going into the season, one would have figured this to be a Central Michigan strength and with BC down those linebackers, be an advantage, but with injuries of their own and Morris’ proclivity to throw picks, the Eagles get a slight nod.
Central is tied for 120th in the nation in giveaways, with five fumbles lost.
When Boston College Runs:
Advantage: Boston College
Boston College run offense: 143.0 ypg, 89th in the nation, Central Michigan run defense: 183.0 ypg, 93rd in the nation
Central Michigan has experienced a bit of what BC has in terms of giving up big run plays. In the Syracuse game alone, where CMU surrendered an even 300 yards on the ground, SU hit runs of 74, 71 and 41 yards.
The weakness of this team appears to be depth in the defensive line and the linebacking corps and with the weather the way it is, despite BC’s issues on the offensive line, should be a more traditional pound the rock approach than we may have seen in recent weeks.
The weather should be a good fit for Jon Hilliman and AJ Dillon, provided they hang on to the ball which at times for Hilliman at least has been problematic.
When Boston College Passes:
Advantage: Central Michigan
Boston College pass offense: 177.5 ypg, 104th in the nation, Central Michigan pass defense: 275.8 ypg, 111th in the nation
BC has been only marginally better through the air in 2017 than they were in 2016, while Central Michigan (outside of the Syracuse game) has been reasonably solid, allowing their other three opponents all less than 200 yards.
Although CMU has just five sacks on the season, the defensive line is considered a team strength and the secondary has nine interceptions on the season, which should be a concern with the gutting of the Eagle offensive line and the two per game INT rate of QB Anthony Brown.
Brown had his best game in the season opener against NIU, both in attempts, completion percentage and rating. On what looks to be a rainy day with a depleted line and an opportunistic secondary, we may not see as many balls in the air as usual.
Boston College Keys To Victory:
1. Win the line of scrimmage - While the Eagles are depleted in the offensive line, the relative ineffectiveness of Anthony Brown, CMU’s ability to create turnovers in the passing game and the weather, make this a game that BC needs to win at both lines of scrimmage by being both the more talented and more physical team.
2. Pressure on Shane Morris - Morris has shown a habit of making bad decisions in much the same way that Anthony Brown has and this without taking a large number of sacks on the season. The Eagle secondary, provided they get a little help from the pass rush has more than been up to the task against previous opponents. In the first game where the opposition wants to throw the ball, that pressure will be key.
3. Act like the ACC team - Central is the number 108 team in this week’s Book poll and near the absolute bottom in terms of strength of schedule, while BC has been in against two current top 25 teams and another on the fringe. It’s time to act like the ACC team in the contest and at home, exert their will.
Central Michigan Keys To Victory:
1. Win the turnover battle - Both teams have been more turnover prone than one would prefer. The Eagles and Chippewas have turned both the ball over 10 times. CMU though has been a little more opportunistic. Central may hit a big play, but gaining field position via the turnover will be needed to score often against a defense superior to what they have played against to date.
2. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot - Penalties are a big difference in the matchup. CMU averages almost 40 yards more per game than BC and it seems that many of those have come at very inopportune times.
3. Expose the BC linebackers - The Chippewas make a lot of use of their tight ends and running backs in the passing game, which are generally the responsibility of the linebackers. With BC so badly exposed there right now, look for CMU to make use of it particularly in the pass game.
This is a game where the statistics are a bit misleading until you look below the numbers. According to the Book, CMU has played the 128th ranked schedule in the country coming into the game, while BC has played the #1 schedule.
The Chippewas numbers look inflated against the likes of Rhode Island and Kansas, while BC has simply played better folks.
Both teams are banged up, the Eagles on the offensive line and linebackers, Central Michigan with their receivers and with depth on the offensive and defensive lines.
This is really as simple as level of competition and level of talent. In both cases, BC has an advantage. The weather may pull this score in just a bit, but look for the Eagles to win fairly comfortably and at least cover the number.
Boston College 31 Central Michigan 16