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Boston College vs. NC State: Film Study

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The depleted Eagles defense goes up against another Florida transfer with a cannon arm.

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Ordinarily, a coordinator with a bye week gets his team back for practice sometime in the middle of the week. With the added rest, the players get a couple of extra days off without pads, letting their bodies heal that little extra. From a game plan perspective, there's extra film work, extra classroom study, and more mental preparation.

Smarter teams excel in the bye week. They learn everything about their opponent, have everything down pat for preparation days, know what sets are run in what situations. The type of film study is advanced because they have extra days in which to do it.

The best coordinators dial up something special on bye weeks because, quite simply, they can. They have the time, know their personnel inside and out, and have the ability to create something the likes of which a team not coming off a bye isn't ready for.

The monkey wrench is, of course, always hovering, though. And it fell into the BC defensive machine in a big way last week when Bryce Jones, the junior defensive back who was in the midst of turning into the future #1 corner in Chestnut HIll when he was thrown off the team for a violation of unspecified team rules. If Don Brown had anything drawn up, it's gone.

The Eagles defense enters this Saturday's game in need of a major boost. The secondary will be completely depleted, and the defensive front seven could struggle in the wake of key injuries, including the loss of Mehdi Abdesmad for the remainder of the season. Since the secondary will almost assuredly struggle against a pass-heavy, run-and-gun football team, the pressure for the D becomes getting to the quarterback.

Jacoby Brissett's thrown for a ton of yards, only throwing one interception to 16 touchdowns in the process. He's also agile, can evade the rush, and can step up into the pocket with a big frame. If coverage breaks down, he has the potential to do severe damage.

The Boston College defensive line absolutely has to get inside on Brissett.  They have to force him east-west as opposed to north-south in the pocket. Against Florida State, a strong edge rush ran by Brissett, who promptly stepped up and used the momentum to fire a deep ball past coverage (0:15). With blown coverage, the receiver was off to the races in a play not unlike what Blake Frohnapfel completed to Tajae Sharpe against BC in the first game of the season. That was on the second play of the game, and Bo Hines probably could've ordered delivery pizza against that coverage because he was THAT wide open.

For the BC defense, stopping that pass has to be something of a concern. They absolutely need to own the line of scrimmage, and they need to be able to get pressure up the middle. They will lack the edge rush without Abdesmad, especially on the strong side, and we have to assume the weak/blind side will have the best NC State OLs available. For that reason, BC needs to be concerned with getting pressure up the middle against the center and right guard positions.

I anticipate a lot of zone blitzes coming from Don Brown. He seemed to blitz a lot on first or second down against Colorado State but fell back into coverage schemes on third down. With the lack of defensive backs, I don't see BC going into the same type of gameplan .They would be more suited to bring someone like a Josh Keyes on third down as the extra rusher and maybe swap out to a 3-3-5 nickel setting when they do that. With the lack of edge rushing, they can run misdirection blitzes up the middle if they use more linebackers. But since they don't have the pass coverage available, they'll need to load up more guys in the back.

If BC can cover the middle without having to pack guys in, they'll be able to get pressure on the running game. BC doesnt necessarily have to dive into the backfield and get tackles for losses; they just have to contain the running game. If they can set up 3rd and 8 situations, they'll be in much better position to defend the pass. They'll be able to allow for a four or five yard pass play and fade back a couple of linebackers to spy and protect against the sticks. But it's paramount to BC that they stop the run. A 3rd and 6 situation is going to be a killer because they don't have the resources to stop that. And if they can't get off the field on third down, we're right back to Colorado State.

I have a feeling that NC State will try to establish the run with Shadrach Thornton. They'll run some Wildcat, some pro style runs to establish the run and set up the play action pass. If BC can shut down Thornton early, given the lack of resources available to Don Brown, I see offensive coordinator Matt Canada be more willing to open things up with Brissett. With less blockers, that's when you can send the house after him. Hopefully by then BC will also have a lead against a defense that struggles to stop the run.

The only problem with this theory is that Don Brown hasn't had two weeks to prep the defense. He's lost one of his biggest assets in the weakest area of the team. The secondary was prone to getting burned with Jones. Now it could be open season for long, sustained drives that keeps BC off the field offensively. Remember that USC ran fast drives and scored quick. The quick, lightning offense didn't work because they ran virtually one look. It worked to get yards, but BC was able to adapt quickly up front and get stops. NC State is a much different team that will work the drives like Colorado State, work the clock,and utilize the defense's weaknesses to keep them on the field for a loooooong time. If that happens, BC can't do anything offensively, run or pass. Sometimes you don't want to go deep and score 80 yard bombs.

It'll be really interesting to see what Don Brown dials up with two weeks' preparation but less than that in terms of personnel. Under the gun, he's a guy that needs to have his defense performing this week. In a virtually must-win situation, this is the time for the defense to stand up and play like we believe it can, not like it has.