Dan Rubin: AJ, it's been three weeks since we did one of these, thanks in large part to the beginning of hockey and basketball seasons, but with the final week of 2015 upon us, it's worth taking a look back while sizing up one final game - Saturday against Syracuse.
Before we get to the season on the whole, let's look at what happened against Notre Dame. We've spent the whole year under the assumption that BC had nothing at the quarterback position until John Fadule stepped in, but once again, the Eagles enter a game with uncertainty at the position. With Fadule taking a big hit and Jeff Smith stepping in, what did you see at the position?
AJ Black: Fadule struggled at the beginning, but there were a myriad of reasons that he did. The play calling was conservative, skill players were dropping passes, and the offensive line was a sieve. Smith came in and looked like a different quarterback than the player we saw against Louisville. He seemed more confident, quicker, and made some nice passes (like his throw to Charlie Callinan). Is he the answer moving forward? Hard to see, I'd love to see what Smith and Fadule can do with competent offensive line play.
Dan Rubin: Well here's my piping hot take on Smith. People will want to anoint him as the starter for Syracuse because of his 80-yard run, and a game like Notre Dame helps insert him back into the discussion in the offseason. But that one game doesn't erase the larger body of work. If he's going to earn reps in the future or challenge the position at all, he'll need to continue to progress. He's done that, but like I've said before, I think his performance showed flashes of the athleticism we know he has.
I'm concerned that the ND and Syracuse games will mask him a little bit. Smith has other-worldly athleticism, but the Irish and Orange are the two worst defenses BC's played all season. Syracuse in particular is an exceptionally bad team. If Smith is forced to play, he may play exceptionally well because the Orange are as bad this year as they are. If that happens, I hope it can be taken with a grain of salt. That said, I'm not optimistic since nobody took the top 10 defenses with a grain of salt, either.
On a side note, one thing I think helped Smith was the play of the offensive line. All season long, they struggled, but look back over the Notre Dame game. They really seemed to gel. Part of that is attributable to the Irish having a middle-tier defense, but again, I think there's an element to take it with a grain of salt. What did you see out of the blocking scheme last Saturday?
AJ Black: I hope what I saw is the same thing Steve Addazio saw. This offensive line is not playing well enough to play a power set and hope to run the ball down their throat. They looked much much better when BC went to the spread and did quicker developing plays. The quicker tempo got the ball out of the backfield much quicker, and hopefully BC can do that more in the future.
Dan Rubin: Let's switch gears to the season on the whole. There's no question that this year is a disappointment for all parties. Ultimately, how do you see history reflecting on the 2015 Boston College Eagles?
AJ Black: This is going to be seen as the year that the program took a step back. How we perceive this year moving forward will be dictated by how BC rallies in 2016. If BC continues to struggle to score next year and isn't bowl eligible then 2015 will be the point where the downward trajectory starter, however if BC can turn it around next season 2015 will be seen as an outlier.
Dan Rubin: Last question. This Saturday is Scott Shafer's last game as Syracuse head coach after the Orange announced this week he would be fired. It creates a wild card for Saturday. Vince Lombardi once said, "If you're not fired with enthusiasm, you'll be fired with enthusiasm." Where will the Orange fall in their final game under the man who may be remembered best for destroying a podium last season?
AJ Black: Syracuse's defense is almost as bad as our offense. I think if BC can build off of the end of the ND game they are going to be able to score some points and will win easily. But that is a big if.
No Huddle Offense
AJ: Dan, there are a ton of coaching opportunities opening up this year. Which school will be the most prestigious for potential coaches? And do you see a surprise coach moving to the college ranks this year?
Dan: Southern Cal is going to be an attractive landing spot because it's not too far removed from the Pete Carroll era - and this is the first time they'll move past his assistants like Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian. I think Miami is definitely trending down, so I can't justify putting them on the map. South Carolina and Virginia Tech are attractive, but let's face it - they're not Los Angeles.
If you had a hypothetical offseason trading season for college football, who is the one person who would garner the most attention out of Boston College?
AJ: I would say Matt Milano. Dynamic linebacker, just a play maker who would be clutch in any situation. I'd trade him for two good offensive linemen in a heart beat though.
Final question Dan before the off season. Fast forward to BC/Syracuse 2016. What do you predict we will be talking about in terms of the football program?
Dan: Bowl eligibility and positioning. BC will be bowl eligible and trying to get into a middle tier bowl. Syracuse will be a good challenge because I don't think they'll be as bad as they were this season.