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Coach’s Corner: Evaluating BC - Maryland

A look at the 2016 Quick Lane Bowl

Eagles - Terps square off in Detroit
Quick Lane Bowl

Our Boston Globe style look at Monday's Quick Lane Bowl between Maryland and Boston College.

BC (6-6 overall, 2-6 ACC) vs Maryland (6-6 overall, 3-6 Big 10)

When: 2:30 PM
Where: Ford Field, Detroit, MI (65,000)
Line: Westgate Vegas - Maryland by 1, The Book - Boston College by 8.5
Series history: Boston College leads 8-3, neutral site games - first contest
Last game vs BC: Boston College 29 at Maryland 26 - 2013
Last game at neutral site: first contest - no matter what the media guide says. The 1985 game was a BC home game in Foxboro.
Last BC win: Boston College 29 at Maryland 26 - 2013
Win Streak: Boston College 3

When Maryland Runs:

Advantage: Boston College
Maryland run offense: 205.5 ypg, 39th in the nation, Boston College run defense: 106.9 ypg, 8th in the nation

At first look, Maryland has a very productive run offense. Averaging over 205 yards per game with four of their five top backs averaging over 6 yards per carry. 5’10 210 lb sophomore Ty Johnson leads this group. Johnson is a big play waiting to happen, averaging 8.9 yards per carry on 95 carries this year. Johnson has 9 plays of 40 or more yards Big 10 games this season. His backup, Lorenzo Harris, actually gets a few more carries per game than Johnson (just under 10 vs just under 8) but still posts hefty per carry numbers at 7.2 YPC.

With a second glance though, the numbers are definitely skewed to the competition. Versus FBS teams with winning records, the Terps are averaging just 86 yards per game on the ground. Having played some pretty rugged competition in Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State, you can certainly understand the drop off, but from a run defenses standpoint, BC measures up and while Maryland may do a bit better than that 86 yards per game, expect the Eagle D to do what it has done all year long and control the Terp ground game.

To be effective, Maryland will need to create some of those chunk yardage plays, but that’s another area the BC defense has been stout against, allowing the fourth fewest in the country on the year.

When Maryland Passes:

Advantage: Boston College
Maryland pass offense: 174.0 ypg, 110th in the nation, Boston College pass defense: 203.7 ypg, 32nd in the nation

The biggest improvement in the Maryland attack surrounded the play of SR QB Perry Hills. Playing in just 10 games after suffering various injuries during the season (just Google Perry Hills injury and the number of articles that come up over a long span of the season is remarkable), Hills provided consistency and ball protection to the Terp offense.

Hills doesn’t throw it a lot, only around 16 attempts per game, but completed 66% of his passes for 10 TDs and only 3 INTs, finishing 2nd in the Big 10 in pass efficiency...but a paltry 123 yards per game against FBS competition.

Hills is mobile in the pocket, but not a runner, so while he may be able to extend plays, doesn’t provide the danger threat BC saw from QBs like DeShaun Watson and Lamar Jackson.

Like the Wake Forest game, the Terrapins spread the wealth around, with no receiver averaging more than 3 catches per game and no one with more than 50 yards per game. This should bode well for a BC secondary who struggled at times, but definitely improved in finding the ball in coverage during the final few games of the season.

The Maryland offensive line has had major troubles in pass protection, giving up 41 sacks on the season, something that a BC defense should feast on.

When Boston College Runs:

Advantage: Boston College
Boston College run offense: 146.8 ypg, 100th in the nation, Maryland run defense: 217.9 ypg, 101st in the nation

Like Maryland, BC would like to win this one on the ground and there is reason to think that BC will be able to control the clock and move the ball on the ground vs the Terps.

While the Maryland pass defense and push rush is solid, the defense has been gashed fairly regularly by teams committed to running the football and this certainly fits the BC mold. The Terps have allowed 4.9 ypc and 30 rushing touchdowns, and with BC one of the better teams in the country in time of possession, this should be an area that the Eagles can actually execute on the usual Addazio/Loeffler game plan.

Where Maryland can have success and the Eagles at times have struggles are tackles for loss. LBs Jermaine Carter and Shane Cockerille both have over 100 tackles for Maryland and posted 20 tackles for loss in the final two games of the season against Nebraska and Rutgers.

When Boston College Passes:

Advantage: Maryland
Boston College pass offense: 141.5 ypg, 121st in the nation, Maryland pass defense: 215.8 ypg, 51st in the nation

We’ve been waiting all year long for the BC passing game to come around and unfortunately, outside of a play here or a play there, this hasn’t happened. The line has struggled to protect, receivers have had trouble getting open and the design of the offense hasn’t adapted to personnel limitations to put the players in position to make plays.

On the plus side for BC, Maryland is #118 in the country in interceptions, grabbing only four all season. On the negative, the Terps are #27 in the country in sacks, averaging 2.75 per game, just half a sack below what the Eagles pass rush provides.

Maryland is lead by DE Jessie Aniebonam who finished 22nd in the country with 9 sacks.

We can hope that the 15 bowl practices have allowed more time for the offensive line to come together and for the game plan to evolve, but it is more likely we see what we’ve seen all year long as opposed to some sort of “air revolution”.

Boston College Keys To Victory:

1. Get to Perry Hills - Although his numbers aren’t spectacular and it would appear that for Maryland to win, they need the big play from Ty Johnson, Terrapin nation credits the solid play of Hills with the success they have had this season. Getting pressure on Hills, particularly with his injury history, therefore turning the Terp offense one dimensional, would really help.

2. Win the turnover battle - In game where the teams seem fairly evenly matched, the game could well come down to turnovers and here the Eagles have an edge. Maryland is #94 in the country in turnover margin vs FBS opponents (-0.45) while BC is #29 at +0.45, a one turnover difference. We know that BC needs short fields to score, turnovers really help there.

3. Prevent the big play - In games against the best of the Eagles’ schedule, the defense has been burnt by the big play. Otherwise, although there are some notable examples, the defense has really limited those. Maryland, in particular Ty Johnson, has feasted on big plays. Unlikely that Maryland will sustain a lot of 8-10 play drives against the defense, so staying away from the big play will severely hamper their ability to score.

Maryland Keys To Victory:

1. Defend the run - this is strength on strength (well perceived anyway!), with BC wanting to run and Maryland 3rd in the Big 10 vs the run. Doubtful that if BC is forced to live through the air that they can win the game.

2. Johnson hits at least one big play - it hasn’t happened against any sort of real quality, but when Maryland has been at its best, it’s been Johnson delivering big blows. The Terps offense has averaged just 7.4 points per game in contests against winning FBS teams, which shows how valuable Johnson can be and just how tough it has been for Maryland to generate those big plays against better defenses.

3. Win the kicking game - In a game you figure will be pretty close, field position whether it is generated in the kicking game or via turnovers will generate the hidden yards. Neither team punts it well, but Maryland has a decided advantage in the return game which could be another area either to gain field position or hit a big play.

Prediction:

I get why many believe this game will be close. The teams, although different in their approaches, have similar track records of good vs bad and bad vs good. To me the difference in the game will be the BC defense and it’s ability to stop the run, be reasonably effective against the pass and create field position for the Eagle offense.

I know on the prediction page I had 24-20, but although I don’t think BC can bury any power five opponent, I do believe this will be a pretty solid win and a plus .500 finish.

Boston College 24 Maryland 16