When Wake Forest played Florida State at the beginning of the month, it was a classic case of David vs. Goliath. On the one hand was the #1-ranked team in the nation, the defending national champions and their Heisman Trophy winner. On the other was a team entering with only two wins, one of which was over an FCS-level cupcake. There was no doubt the shoe would drop on the Demon Deacons; the only question was when.
As we wound find out, the shoe didn't drop until the second half. Wake Forest led 3-0 at the end of the first half, but it was more a case of waiting for the Noles to wake up, which they did with no less than 13 points in the remaining three quarters. It's one of those case studies where one team is so overpowering talentwise that they can not only win but also dominate based on talent alone.
When Boston College plays the Demon Deacons, they find themselves in a much different scenario than what they've been used to. After weeks of being a team called an "unknown" or "hot-and-cold' (I tend to refer to it as inconsistent), the Eagles find themselves as heavy favorites over a pretty bad team. That said, they still have to show up and play the game and can't just go through the motions. They have to be able to turn it on and exploit the weaknesses exhibited by the Wake defense.
The biggest and most obvious mismatch for Boston College is in the running game. Clemson bottled up BC's rushing attack, but Wake Forest is the polar opposite of the Tigers. The Demon Deacons are one of the nation's worst defenses, and they're especially bad against the run. Despite what Steve Addazio said in any of his press conferences, this is a major area favoring the Eagles.
Consider this against what we remember from the Massachusetts game. On Labor Day weekend, we didn't know what type of offense Boston College had, only that they would be run first. We didn't know about Tyler Murphy's running ability, and Ryan Day hadn't called any plays to showcase Jonathan Hilliman, Marcus Outlow, or Sherm Alston. The offense didn't look crisp, and there was no rhythm for most of the game. Eventually BC used the size on their offensive line to simply open things up and overpower the Minutemen en route to a multi-score victory.
But if you remember, the key to wearing down a defense is to sustain a drive and immediately get them back on the field. As strongly as Wake Forest played defensively in the first quarter, they were torched by the end of the FSU game. UMass essentially gave up defensively because BC dominated the ground. BC didn't so much beat UMass as they did beat them up. Same for the Noles against the Deacs. Blogger So Dear referred to this Wake Forest offense as the worst in the FBS this year. Statistically, they can't pass or run. They have a freshman quarterback playing behind a porous offensive line that can't open up holes for a running game. That translates to a lot of drives ending quickly. By the end of the game, any type of strong defense is wasted and gassed.
So when we're looking at BC, we don't have to worry so much about the Boston College offense against the Wake Forest defense; we know what that matchup is going to be capable of. What we need to focus on instead is the Boston College defense against the Wake Forest offense. A bad defense can make any offense look good, and if BC isn't able to exploit the poor offensive line and relatively youth and inexperience of the signal caller, it doesn't matter
Before flipping his commitment to Wake Forest, John Wolford was ready to go to East Carolina. At just 6-foot-2, he lacks the size of a traditional pocket passer, but he's thick enough to be able to stand in and take hits. If he starts moving, he has the strength to break tackles. He has below average speed because he's a stocky guy, but he has above average mobility and agility. He's a heady competitor, a guy who runs with his head up looking to make a play. He's got one of those old time releases, but he's able to throw the ball downfield. He's not afraid to target a receiver on an intermediate route or make a check down on the move if he can.
Why would any of this be a concern? Well, for starters, BC doesn't have the best track record of pass coverage. The secondary is iffy at best, and they've given up big plays or made mental mistakes in nearly every single game they've played. If Don Brown decides to send the house and one lane even opens up for a little bit, Wolford has the potential to find that hole, step up, and deliver a pass. When the quarterback steps up, if he gets free even a little bit, the second level guys--safeties, coverage linebackers, even a slot cornerback--look to make the tackle. That's going to open up a tight end of intermediate pass catcher. Against Florida State, that's no big deal; he's probably killed by then anyways. Against BC, who's been burned by the pass, that's something they have to lock down.
Statistics say this should be easy, but BC has to be able to make Wolford desperate and make the offense 100% unbalanced. Even with a poor running game, the Demon Deacons can substitute short slants and curls in place of a hand off, especially if it's successful. If BC can sustain offensive drives and open up a multiple score lead at any point, though, Wake is more likely to throw the ball downfield. That's slightly easier to predict and, therefore, defend. But it starts with gassing the defense, sustaining long scoring drives, then following it up by not making mistakes against the Deacs' offense. BC has to be able to use their offense to get Wake Forest into that cycle. Succeed, and this game's over by the fourth quarter.
Statistics and past performance say this probably shouldn't be a problem, but that doesn't mean anything. On any given day, anybody can beat anybody. Wake Forest is a bad football team, and Boston College can impose their will with their talent. That said, the talent has to step in and do what they do best. We know the offense will score points. If the defense can hold, though, and exploit the massive weaknesses in the Wake Forest makeup, expect BC to cover the spread and cruise to within one win of bowl eligibility.