Boston College v. Clemson – Game Preview

Folks my jimmies are rustled.

I originally called Miami @ BC the biggest football game BC has had in years.  Sitting at 5-2, facing a traditional power at home on Red Bandana night, everything seemed aligned.  And then the Eagles won in their first truly complete game of the year.

BC @ VT was also a huge game.  Ranked again, lots on the line, BC came back and blemished VT’s 20-0 record when leading at halftime under Fuente.  The Eagles took care of business.

Those were good wins.  Acceptable wins.  Big-Program wins.  But….












Ruminations and Considerations

This is an era-defining game for Boston College, and I don’t say that lightly.  It’s also true no matter the outcome. A win is obviously huge (duh), but even a close loss puts Addazio and BC on the map.  Alumni under the lights, the panoramic views of campus, the maroon and gold streaking across the feel. Big time programs need big time games.  It’s time to show what we’ve got.

A blowout loss would hurt on the national stage.  I’m not saying it puts us back into the stone (Spaz) age, but it just brings into question everything that has happened so far this year.  

Yes, I know that Clemson has crushed ACC opponents since Syracuse. Yes, I know they’re No. 2 in the country. But I believe in this team to put up a fight.  Let’s see how they can do it.

All stats provided by Sports-Reference or Bill Connelly’s awesome statistical profiles.

Game Preview

When the Eagles have the Ball

BC’s Offense

In a post next week, I’ll describe how this BC offense isn’t the same ground and pound as in years past. The running game is still the straw that stirs the drink, but it will be the passing game that will dictate whether the Eagles can stay competitive. They are middle of the road when it comes to every-down success and their ability to keep the chains moving, whether that’s throwing the ball or running the ball. BC will make its bones by staying on target, and striking when the opportunity presents itself.

The Clemson Tigers defense is one of the best in the country.

Clemson’s D

It’s tough to describe how good this Clemson defense is.  They are elite in almost every possible way. Their defensive line contains several future pros, highlighted by SR Christian Wilkins (8.5 TFLs, 2.5 Sacks, 14.5 Run Stuffs), JR DE Clelin Ferrell (12.5 TFLs, 7.5 Sacks, 14.5 Run Stuffs), and SR DE Austin Bryant (7 TFLs, 4 Sacks, 7 Run Stuffs), not to mention JR behemoth Dexter Lawrence. Their defense also has rangy linebackers in Tre Lamar and Kendall Joseph, and starting DBs all over 6 feet tall.  The advanced metrics show a team that doesn’t do quite as well when backed up inside their own 20. Inside the red zone, their defensive efficiency statistics fall considerably. The field position game will come into play here, as well as the BC defense’s ability to get stops and cause turnovers.  Essentially, they are nightmare fuel.

The Gameplan


That all leads to the BC offensive gameplan for this Saturday.  While AJ Dillon is an unbelievable player, we still need to find rushing success whether or not he plays.  Ben Glines, David Bailey, and Travis Levy have all had big games this year. They, and the offensive line especially, will need to be at their best.  Get solid push. Run North-South. BC needs 2nd-and-5 and 3rd-and-shorts to survive. Because when we get them?

BOOM BABY!  STEVEY BIG PLAY LETS THE BOYS LOOSE!  Rollouts from Anthony Brown shifting the pocket away from Clemson’s Defensive Line will be key.  Counter plays, Jet Sweeps, and Jeff Smith trickery will all be necessary to make this gameplan work.  BC excels when its able to truly sell the play action pass. The effectiveness of the running game allows that to happen.  If the Clemson D-line is allowed to pin their ears back and play in the backfield, it’s going to be a long night. But if we can keep them off balance, we will give AB a chance to make some plays.  

When Clemson has the ball

Clemson’s Offense

Despite being elite defensively, the Clemson offense seems to get a few more press clippings. Due to their tall, long-haired, dreamy-ey, I MEAN…their Freshman QB sensation Trevor Lawrence, some of those accolades have been justified.  Despite his obvious skills, he is also the BC Defense’s best chance at stopping this offense. Lawrence has a solid 65%/18/3 line, but hasn’t been quite tested.  Additionally, the advanced metrics show that the Clemson passing game, though strong, isn’t its best unit – they sit 39th in the country overall in Passing S&P+. They are prone to giving up sacks on blitzing downs, and don’t have the explosive passing game most would expect (48th in the country in Passing Marginal Explosiveness).

Clemson RB Travis Etienne is the key to the Tigers offense

Any concerns of offensive mediocrity, however, should be put to rest, because Clemson can run the damn ball.  Travis Etienne has the potential to be BC’s Bogeyman for years to come. Averaging 8.6 YPC and already with 15 TDs on the season, he is a STUD.  None of this comes close to describing his overall impact on the game, where he returns kicks and honestly demoralizes defenses with his running style.

Etienne is particularly scary for this BC defense which has been middle-of-the road against the rush.  Though we don’t typically give up a big play running the ball (an important caveat since Etienne is a big-play back), we have been prone to big running games getting put up against us.

BC’s Defense

It’s safe to say, however, that the BC defense against the likes of Wake Forest has taken a back seat.  This squad has looked different since the Louisville game, and are downright world-beaters in the second half of games.  The Eagles have only given up 14 points in their last 8 second-half quarters. That is damn good.

By now, you know the stars of this defense.  The Sack Brothers, Zach Allen (12.5/5.5/13.5) and Wyatt “Sack King Cole” Ray (10.5/9.0/12.0), will wreak havoc if given the chance.  Conor Strachan (53.0/6.0/3.0/6.0) has returned to his old nose-for-the-ball ways, and has been consistently flanked by the latest up-and-coming linebacker for BC, Isaiah McDuffie (42.0/4.5/2.5/9.0).  Just as McDuffie has emerged in the LB unit, Brandon Sebastian has really turned it on in recent weeks, adding height to an already strong DB unit that is one of the top units in the nation (22nd in Passing S&P+). Sebastian will be particularly important because Clemson has a number of tall, strong receivers, which BC has struggled with this year.

The Gameplan


Stop the run and hit Lawrence.  Then hit him again. Make him remember how cold it is in Chestnut Hill.  He’s never even been north of Virginia IN HIS LIFE. This is the first cold-weather game BC has had at home against Clemson in years.  Put the pressure on the young QB to beat you. I don’t know if BC will be able to stop this rushing attack, but if it is able to incorporate some run-blitz looks that keep the score low in the first half, I am confident in the team’s ability to close out the second half.  All eyes will be on Lawrence, his WRs, and BC’s No Fly Zone to close this game out.

Final Thoughts

Though I will in the future, I’m not going to give a prediction for this game.  BC has come so far to be in this position. I’m not going to sully the product on the field by putting a number on it.  Clemson is really damn good. They are the big shots in the ACC. They can run. They can pass. They can defend. They play complimentary football, and aren’t afraid to kick you, insult you, and then take your girlfriend.  

But every once in awhile … every once in a blue moon… David can pop a shot right in Goliath’s teeth. It’s going to be a cold one in Chestnut Hill. I’ll see you all there.