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Dazzle or Be Dazzled - The 2014 Boston College Football Season

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Can Steve Addazio overcome trends and get BC to another bowl?

Jared Wickerham

Ahh and here you all thought I had vanished...not a chance...it's football season!  I may have spent 25 years coaching high school and college basketball, but my fan passion has always been and will always be college football.

This season marks my 45th year attending Boston College football games as a season ticket holder, going all the way back to a 56-3 win over VMI before 15,600 on October 3, 1970, the Eagles first home game of the season.  Since that time I have seen the Eagles play over 300 games live, missing just two home games in the past 44 years.  It is a labor of love..my school, my team.

So what about 2014?

There seems to be a lot of optimism heading into the season.  Steve Addazio's first season couldn't have gone much better.  From 2-10 to seven wins and a bowl game, one of the biggest turnarounds in the country.  A first team All-American running back and Heisman Trophy finalist in Andre Williams and establishing a Boston College mindset. They were a tough, physical, disciplined and unified squad.  He brought a spirit to BC that captured the BC community and brought respect back to a program that worked so hard to earn it in the late 90s through the 2000s.

Was this a great revelation though? Going into 2013 I didn't think this was a bowl team, I thought five wins about maxed them out.  Addazio though built confidence into what was a team who had that ripped from them in the Spaziani era and got the most out of the talent he inherited.

The future at BC is bright, that's for sure.  I am not sold on every last thing going on in Chestnut Hill right now, particularly offensively where I think that the spread may not best fit the skill sets that BC will be able to recruit to.  I think they had it right last year, trying to be more of that Stanford power style and play to that uber physical mind set and to the offensive linemen they have a long history of attracting.

What happened last year though I will contend, was not a miracle, although it was a fine coaching job.

My absolute favorite college preview magazine is Phil Steele's.  The print is so small, I still struggle to see it with the reading glasses I now need daily.  Steele, though not 100% correct, has become the defacto standard for preview magazines and it's because he tends to get it right and he has statistical evidence to back it up.

In 2013, there were some very key factors that pointed to the improvement that BC ultimately showed.

  • BC returned 18 starters
    • this ranked #7 in the country and #1 in the ACC in terms of overall experience
      • 80% of the teams that have that level of experience improve their record from the year before.
    • Three of these became your all time leading receiver, rusher and scorer and the fourth leading passer in terms of yards in school history
  • BC played the 57th strongest schedule in the country in 2013, after playing the 25th toughest schedule in the country in 2012.
  • BC was a +3.5 in the stock market indicator, which looks at how a team has performed in the past two years as opposed to its last year.  77.5% of those teams with this rating have had their records improve the next year.
  • BC brought in Don Brown as DC and he took over a unit that was dead last in the country in sacks
    • they essentially had nowhere to go but up
Fast forward to 2014.  Yes, the team that returns has the taste of winning in their mouth, but how many of them that were here actually contributed to that...and maybe more importantly how talented is the team left behind?

  • BC goes from 7th in the country in experience to 127th.
    • they return just 12.8% of the total yards gained
    • 81.1% of the time, teams with this little experience have a poorer record than the season before.
  • BC plays the 28th toughest schedule in the country, some 29 spots tougher than in 2013
    • teams facing those odds have an 84% chance of a poorer record.
  • BC is a -4.0 on the stock market indicator this year
    • those teams have a 73.2% chance of a poorer record
So what should the goal be this year?  A bowl..any bowl.  Forget taking on the winner of the Oregon-Oklahoma playoff game, if they need a team to take the place of the 6th place team in the MAC, grab it.  If they need an opponent for the loser of the Everett-Xaverian playoff game...take it. Just go somewhere.

I really believe that if the Dazzler can get these guys to a bowl game this year, he will have done a better job than he did last year.

It doesn't mean this team stinks, far from it. The freshman class is something to get excited about, players like Jon Hilliman, Sherm Alston, Connor Strachan and Harold Landry are great building blocks for the future.  Getting  transfers like Shakim Phillips (haven't I seen him somewhere before) and Ian Silberman, fill key holes, but overall there is just a huge lack of experience and experienced depth to lean on and while it's nice to think about those freshmen coming to the rescue, you really don't want to find out how good they are until they are sophomores.

Keys to the season:

The offensive line.  Tyler Murphy may be the bridge to Darius Wade, but we saw what he was capable of at Florida and it wasn't much. The O Line is the clear #1 strength of this team and those guys have to open up some holes to control the ball on the ground as it is unlikely that BC is going to be a downfield threat in the passing game.

The secondary.  They were nothing short of awful last year and although Don Brown will certainly have them improved, most still feel they are among if not the weakest group in all the ACC.  They lack athleticism and don't play well in space.  They are going to need to hope the defensive line, which has some promise, can get pressure on the QB to limit their exposure.

Turnovers.  If BC can simply keep from making the big mistake and continue to force turnovers, they can perhaps steal a game and definitely remain competitive in most.

Injuries.  This goes without saying, but a team that is this razor thin on experience, needs to stay healthy.

The schedule:

As mentioned, it's more difficult, potentially much more difficult than last year, although a lot of the more difficult games (save FSU) are at home.  The key to the season in my opinion is the Pittsburgh game.  A win there very much puts BC in line for a bowl, a loss and the climb uphill starts early.

The upset or be upset game:

I don't see a lot of potential upset wins here.  BC hasn't beaten a top 25 team since 2008 (at Florida State), but I am thinking that Louisville could have that potential. I wish that game was earlier in the year.  Significant injuries aside, this team simply isn't ready yet to beat a USC or a Clemson even at home.

The be upset game..don't worry, it's not UMass, but be afraid..very afraid, of Colorado State.

The verdict:

Seven wins is the upper limit, I simply don't see more.  The Pitt and NC State game then become critical and games that people may be putting in the bank like Wake Forest (who I know isn't good, but it is a road game) and Syracuse are needed.

My pick, and I have gone back and forth and back on forth on this one, the Eagles come up one game short and finish the season 5-7.  UMass, Maine, Colorado State, Wake Forest and either NC State or Syracuse go in the W column, but not both.

Enjoy the 2014 BC football season and Go Eagles!