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6-6: Evaluating A Strange Season

What matters, and what doesn’t? An attempt to evaluate the regular season

NCAA Football: Boston College at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s the thing about trying to take a nuanced, balanced view of basically anything in 2016: you’ll get pilloried by each extreme. So, our mentions on social media were awash this weekend with people bashing us for being too happy with a fairly disappointing 6-6 season, interspersed with people bashing us for being too negative about a season that ended with a pair of exciting ACC road wins and a bowl berth. That’s the nature of the beast.

But we’ll keep doing our best to thread the needle: 6-6 is not an endpoint, it’s not something worth throwing a parade over, and it’s certainly not the best this team could have done this season. But it’s an improvement over last year, and getting to 6-6 is a milestone the players deserve to celebrate after two tough seasons.

The problem with evaluating this season is that it played out so strangely. If BC went 6-6, but had a pair of close, competitive losses against two of FSU, Virginia Tech, Louisville or Clemson, the feeling would probably be a lot different. But they got demolished by all four. That leaves everything feeling a bit hollow at this point.

Let’s try to cut through the noise a bit: what matters, and what doesn’t matter, in assessing this 6-6 record?

Going 2-2 in the four “tossup games” - Matters

Going in to this season, there were clearly 4 games that should have been locks, 4 games that were going to be really difficult, and 4 games that were tossups and would decide the fate of the season - Syracuse, Wake Forest, NC State and Georgia Tech. In isolation, a 2-2 mark in those four games is reasonable, given of course that they lost all their tossup games last season.

The nonconference wins - Do not matter

UMass and UConn are just awful, each taking more poundings down the stretch just to emphasize how much BC’s wins over these two teams should be evaluated about the same as the game against Buffalo. Which is to say, pretty much not at all.

Game management problems costing a tossup game - Matters

We’ve gone over this staff’s problems with in-game and clock management over and over again here. It scarcely matters when Florida State is running you out of the building, but it matters a lot in close games against peer-level opponents. BC’s fourth quarter approach and clock management essentially handed Georgia Tech the season opener on a silver platter, and the decision-making against Syracuse wasn’t great either. Flip one of those games, and suddenly 7-5 feels a lot better than 6-6. Unfortunately, at this point, we know Addazio probably is not going to get any better at this aspect of the game.

BC ending as a top 10 defense - Matters

It was easy to roll your eyes at the defensive stats when they were largely based on the Wagner and UMass games, but at the end of the day, BC played a full ACC schedule and ended it #10 in the nation in defense, with the defense coming up big and looking impressive in BC’s three wins in the back half of the season. There was a dropoff from last season, but it was still a good defensive performance on the whole.

Getting demolished by one of the powerhouses in isolation - Does not matter

There’s no shame in getting destroyed by a title contender team like a Clemson or a Louisville. They’re going to smash a lot of teams on their path, that’s just how it works when you’re a powerhouse.

Getting demolished by ALL of the powerhouses - Matters

To me, the problem wasn’t any of those four blowouts in isolation, it was the fact that they all happened on top of one another and BC showed no increase in competitiveness against the top teams as the year went on.

A continued inability to develop a passing game - Matters

Patrick Towles was brought in to stabilize the QB situation as a 5th year senior. The results weren't great - 51% completion percentage, 10 TDs, 6 INTs and 22 sacks in 12 games, and BC continued to have one of the nation’s lowest-ranked offenses. How much to put on Towles vs. the offensive line vs. the system is a matter for debate. But BC’s continued inability to develop much of anything on offense, but in particular a passing game, is troubling. It’s year four. We’d like to see some promising signs on that front.

The three bowl games in four years stat - Does not matter

Those aboard the S.S. Addazio are pointing to the stat about Addazio being the second BC coach in history to go to 3 bowl games in 4 seasons as though it’s something interesting and significant. It’s not, and this isn’t just sniping.

Spaz was officially worse than Addazio, so congratulations. Jags didn’t even get 4 seasons. It’s interesting that TOB didn’t get 3 bowls in the first 4 years, so I’ll grant that. Dan Henning and Tom Coughlin each only coached 3 seasons... and they were preceded by Jack Bicknell, the guy who also got 3 bowls in 4 years. Chlebek before Bicknell had 3 years each, so we’re going to back to Joe Yukica, whose first four seasons from 1968-1971 were 6-3, 5-4, 8-2, and 9-2, but none of those seasons were good enough for a bowl berth during an era of limited bowls. Ditto Jim Miller, whose first four seasons from 1962-1965 were 8-2, 6-3, 6-3, and 6-4.

Point being: This stat doesn’t mean much. It’s noteworthy that Addazio’s record is fairly on par with TOB’s in his early days, given that they both inherited the program at a very low point. If his backers want to point to that as a sign for optimism, that’s fine. But let’s drop the bowl stat.

The bowl game - matters

What happens in this bowl game is going to be meaningful and significant toward evaluating the season. It’ll be the difference between 6-7 and 7-6, but it could also mean a number of milestones this team could use: a third win over a peer-level team (depending on the opponents), and the first bowl victory since 2007. These things would matter, and would end the season on positive momentum.

The players never quitting, and getting rewarded - matters

After BC lost to Syracuse, is there anyone here who didn’t think BC was staring 4-8 and another winless ACC season in the face?

The players and coaches deserve credit for staying focused, playing hard down the stretch, and getting to 6-6. Again, it’s not an end goal, but it’s a benchmark, and it’s meaningful for the players to get the experience of going to a bowl game.

Both getting that experience, and the way they had to claw to get there, are meaningful for this program.