Dan Rubin: Lots to get to this week in the wake of a 17-14 victory over Northern Illinois. The week started off with news that Jon Hilliman will be out for the foreseeable future with a broken foot. Hilliman really started grinding and, I felt, broke out against the Huskies after slumping in the first couple of looks. AJ - this is a big loss. What happens from here?
AJ Black: It's certainly a tough loss for the Eagles as Hilliman has shown that he can be an everydown back, something that is vital in Steve Addazio's offense. However BC can move past this loss if Marcus Outlow, Tyler Rouse and Myles Willis are healthy. All three got dinged up on Saturday, leaving Rouse the lone option for Addazio to close the game. I think a combination of the three actually will work well with BC. They all over different styles of running the ball, and if Todd Fitch can split the carries, this could give BC the ability to use different looks/plays. However if they are out long term I would guess BC burns the redshirt of freshman Jordan Gowins.
Dan, BC is going to be heading on the road for the first time this season. What kind of challenges will this pose for a young team?
Dan Rubin: You know, I don't view it as a challenge. I view it as a great opportunity.
This is really the first time these young guys are able to travel together as a team for a game, and it's an ideal location. Durham is very accessible, and Duke isn't going to give BC a crazy, rattling atmosphere. The crowds at Wallace Wade Stadium will likely be smaller than what they play against in Chestnut Hill.
At the same time, there's been a ton of noise over the past month. The media, the students, the fans - it's all there and it's been crazy. Getting out on the road strips that away, and it allows them to focus only on the game. It simplifies the process, even though the walkthrough probably winds up in a hotel ballroom instead of a practice field.
One of my favorite things about working in sports is getting out on the road. Even though I despise the travel aspect of it, the first road trip always gets me excited. You bond with your teammates. You play cards, you swap notes on classwork, and you find ways to pass the time. There is a decidedly less amount of distractions. Whenever I've traveled for a broadcast, I've always enjoyed combining E Street Radio or all the Bruce I can fit on my iPod with great conversation with whoever is traveling with me.
It's always great to be at home, but this is a great chance for the younger guys to really come together as a team without any outside interference. After four straight games, with all of the challenges they've had, it's going to be great for those guys to get away and focus on playing a solid game against a good opponent.
AJ - Duke is a very good football team. What stands out when you take your first looks at the Blue Devils?
AJ Black: The coaching. David Cutcliffe has done a remarkable job taking the Blue Devils from the basement of the ACC to a perennial title contender. And this isn't one of those "he hit lightning in a bottle with one great QB deals. Cutcliffe has built talent on all positions, and has been able to recruit and reload year after year. Look at this year for example, they lose Anthony Boone a very good college QB, and replace him with Thomas Sirk, and he hasn't skipped a beat. This is not a team that is going to beat themselves with turnovers and penalties. And Duke is a great defensive team, something that is a bit surprising, they could be the best defensive team BC has played to date.
Dan, do you see any weaknesses in Duke that BC should try to exploit?
Dan Rubin: Even though Sirk's done a good job, I think the passing game is going to be a weakness that BC can try to exploit.
In the loss to Northwestern and the win over Georgia Tech, Sirk threw for 150 yards or less. Against the Wildcats, he was 24-39 with no touchdowns and a pick. Against the Wreck, he went 17-25, 114 yards, a touchdown and two picks. His passing game requires him to complete short to intermediate passes and rely on a surprisingly tough running game to control the clock.
That said, Sirk's the team's leading rusher as part of an attack averaging just under five yards per carry. In the past two games, he's rushed 29 times for 113 yards and a touchdown. That's something BC is going to have to keep in check throughout the game.
If BC forces Sirk to beat them with his arm, Duke is in some trouble. After three or four appearances, he doesn't process fast enough or have the acumen developed quite yet to rip the BC defense apart. He has the physical tools, and the rest of it will come with coaching, patience, and experience.
Boy, doesn't that sound familiar.
AJ - I'm looking at new pictures right now of Wallace Wade Stadium. It looks gorgeous. I know I'll get into this more in detail later in the week, but Wake Forest is also doing some huge facility upgrades. How badly does BC need to get on this train, and how in danger are they of having missed it already?
AJ Black: Badly. I know everything in Boston moves at a snail's pace, and BC's upgrades in facilities is no exception. Clearly we have been over this a million times, but given New England winter and springs BC needs a plush new indoor facility. I have been impressed with the work they have done to the locker room and training facilities, but of course the indoor facility takes the cake. Then there is the mysterious Strat Plan, which we haven't heard from in years. I don't think BC is in danger of missing anything, but it would be nice to hear about a strat plan sooner rather than later.
Final question Dan, bowl projections are starting to turn in BC's favor. Do you see them going to a bowl this year?
Dan Rubin: I'm standing by my preseason prediction of 6-6 and miss a bowl. I don't know the waiver procedures or what could happen, but I'll reiterate what I said at the beginning of the season. BC "should" beat Maine, Howard, NIU, Wake Forest, and Syracuse. They "should" lose to FSU, Clemson, Louisville, and Notre Dame. That means they have to pluck two wins out of Duke, Virginia Tech, and NC State to assure themselves of eligibility. So far, I'm right on target, which makes this game a huge week.
People talk about making a bowl game and how they don't want to go to the Otis Spunkmeyer Toilet Bowl.com Metamucil Bowl, but they don't realize what a bowl game means. Playing in the postseason is more of a sure thing now than ever. If you're a power conference team and you finish .500, you go to a bowl. A bowl game used to be an honor reserved for the very best. Missing a bowl game now indicates that your program is behind the 8-ball and needs to rebuild. It usually is more of a negative to miss a bowl than it is a positive to make a bowl.
Despite that, if they go 6-6 and don't receive an invite, I don't see it as a complete disaster. I see it as a step back along the way with a roster built around youth and inexperience. I've really been beating the drum of "Year 1 of the process" so I can gauge it all. I'm sticking to my guns on all of it.
No Huddle Offense
Dan: Navy torpedoed UConn last week, 28-18. They're now 3-0, 2-0 in the AAC, first place in the Western Division. The conference championship is being played the week before the Army-Navy Game. Are you buying or selling them as early contenders to crashing the New Years Six games?
AJ: Selling. I love watching a service school succeed but they are going to need to be near perfect to get in, and they still have Memphis, Houston, and Notre Dame on the schedule. Dan, big game this weekend between Clemson and Notre Dame. Who you got?
Dan: Clemson. Notre Dame's defense struggled in the first half against UMass. That's not a good sign heading into a game against a Tiger team that's been really quietly dominant.
Last one - if BC picks up a win this week, do they fall in or near the top 25 rankings?
AJ: Probably not. Like many of our fans, the voters seem to go with style points, and ugly wins dominated by defense is not going to do any favors for a team like BC in the polls.